By George Cuhaj
The scouting experience for a boy in the United States is at one time very unique and personal, but on another level, the same in every cub pack, scout troop and venture crew.
We all have access to the same uniform, books, advancement requirements, program ideas, camps and national opportunities. It is how the local unit makes use of those resources that makes the scouting program exciting for the youth of the community.
The Cub Pack, Scout Troop, Explorer Post, Sea Scout Ship or Venture Crew often takes on the personality of the unit leader. The unit calendar, which should be planned by the youth members and supported by the committee, is often as expansive by the enthusiasm and experience of the unit leader, or limited by the lack of it. Young men are naturally inquisitive and want to be challenged. Thus it is usually the adults who make a boy’s experience great, or makes a unit fail.
Character – Citizenship – Fitness are often cited as three building blocks of the scouting program. The public has the image of the Boy Scout as one who goes a good turn – participates in civic good turns, marches in parades. Boys join scouting to get into the outdoors and be challenged.
The Foundation years, 1910-1940
The founding story of any great movement is often clouded in lore, and that of the founding of the Boy Scouts of America is no exception.
It has at its beginning in three parts. The first was Robert Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys as published in England while he was besieged at Mafeking in 1900-1901 during the Boar War. The second is Ernest Thompson Seton’s Woodcraft Indians, and the third was Daniel Carter Beard’s Sons of Daniel Boone. The first takes hold in England, and by 1907 a test camp solidifies the program interest and it gains momentum. The latter two are based in the United States and take hold of young people’s imagination of the frontier West. All three are intertwined with taking youth of the inner city’s lower classes and getting them exposed to the outdoors in a wholesome setting.
Add to this mix the entrepreneurial Chicago publisher William Boyce who has a chance meeting with a boy scout during a business trip to London, and then an arranged meeting with Baden-Powell, he decided that the boy scout scheme would be of some use in the United States, so it takes it upon himself to register and incorporate the name Boy Scouts of America in Washington D.C. in February of 1910. By June of that year, Boyce realized that he was not going to be able to have much time to have actual operation of the program, so he was persuaded to lend financial support, and the name him incorporated and to lend financial support to the new group. Edgar Robinson of the International Committee of the Y.M.C.A. was able to join forces with Seton and Beard in New York City arranged a meeting at which the name of the group was to get more support and a vision.
Others at this meeting were Lincoln Steffens, Jacob Riis, Colin Livingston, George Pratt, William Mitchell of the Y.M.H.A, and Ernest Bicknell of the American Red Cross. The Boy Scouts were up against not only the Woodcraft Indians and the Sons of Daniel Boone, but also the National Scouts of America, the Rhode Island Boy Scouts, the Peace Scouts, the United States Boy Scouts and the American Boy Scout organizations. The Y.M.C.A. was already providing summer camp opportunities for city kids. Before the June meeting Robinson was able to have Boyce fund the organization for the first year at $1,000 per month. Offices were at first rented at 124 E. 28 Street, with Robinson, John Alexander and Preston Orwig as the first employees. At the June meeting both Beard and Seton agreed to bring their groups into the new organization. Seton would soon be charged to write a manual.
In August of 1910 Seton ran an experimental camp at Silver Bay on Lake George in the Adirondacks in upstate New York. In change of the camp was William D. Murray, who for many years would also become the editor of many BSA publications. The activities for the boys stressed fun, teamwork and individual advancement. During the spring or early summer, most of the rival groups were in decline or expressed an interest of folding into the BSA program. Exceptions were the American Boy Scouts and the United States Boy Scouts. These were backed by William Randolph Hearst. Although he personally lost interest in the leadership of the groups, Hearst back out by December of 1910; the groups however, remained, and caused membership and fundraising confusion problems for the BSA until well past 1916.
A national council of officers was established in the fall of 1910. The listing was to include: Colin Livingston as president, Seton as chief scout, Beard as national scout commissioner. Also approved were Honorary president, William H. Taft, and Honorary Vice-President, Theodore Roosevelt. In November an executive secretary was hired on; his name was James E. West and he would continue to lead the organization for the next 33 years.
By February of 1911 there were two thousand registered Scoutmasters and an additional two thousand adult leaders associated with the program and the number of active youth topped 30,000. In July 1911 the first official Handbook for Boys was published, replacing Seton’s earlier work. In it the Americanized version of the scout oath and law are enumerated as are the requirements for rank advancement and skill knowledge. The Oath and Law are affirmative in nature, and not a listing of "do nots." In September of 1911 Baden-Powell comes to New York to learn about the new organization and is honored at a dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Sept. 23. A special red-leather gilt-embossed covered handbook was issued for this event (many of these can be found with autographs of Baden-Powell, Seton, Beard and others).
Those first five years were one of unparalleled opportunity for recognition and growth. The founders were all men of great personal pride and ideas, and after several disagreements of mission and direction, it was Seton who was to resign from the group in 1915.
The structure of the organization soon gelled. Authority would be held by the National Council. Local councils were charted to serve particular areas. Troop Committees were to be formed under a sponsoring institution which would petition to operate a scout troop. They would select a scoutmaster, and all would be approved by the National Council upon the recommendation of the Local Council. Annual one-year registrations would begin in 1913. That year it was 25 cents for boys!
Sponsoring institutions were to operate troops under the Guidance of the Local Council. The troop committee set goals, budgets were met through contributions form the troop members, sponsor and approved fundraising. Local Councils had fundraising campaigns for local operations and camp program needs. National Headquarters would meet most of its costs from the sale of books, supplies, uniforms, insignia and contributions.
Sea Scout units, called ships meet with approval in late 1912.
One of these folding in items was done in July 1913 with the purchase of Boy’s Life from its publisher, Joe Lane of Providence, R.I. Soon thereafter, Norman Rockwell became a staff illustrator, thus started a 60-year association with the program.
Good turns were developed. One of the first and largest was at the 1913 veterans’ reunion at Gettysburg. Scouts were escorts, messengers and first aid responders.
Within five years the membership was listed as 250,000 in every state and territory in the nation. It was to receive a federal charter from Congress on June 16, 1916.
During World War I the Boy Scouts were asked to assist with the selling of war bonds and liberty loan stamps. Scouts sold bonds in each of the four Liberty Loans, and the Victory Loan drive. If a scout sold 10 subscriptions he would receive a round medal on a blue ribbon for the first drive he participated in. In subsequent drives a bar was awarded, replacing the ribbon, for each additional drive in which subscriptions were sold. A special poster was made for the Third Liberty Loan honoring the Boy Scout participation. War saving stamps were also sold during this period. For that effort, an oval medal featuring the torch of the Statue of Liberty was awarded, with bronze, silver and gold palm leaves awarded for greater amounts of stamps sold. More than $320 million worth of bonds and stamps were sold to the credit of the Boy Scouts. To keep track of this in addition to the regular registrations, the National office at 200 Fifth Avenue employed over 300 people.
Other war efforts included a census of black walnut trees were done for identification of timber to be used in the manufacture of gun stocks and airplane propellers. By war’s end more than 20.75 million board feet of black walnut was identified. Victory gardens were tended (with the assistance of a boy scout plow!) to grow crops. During the influenza epidemic, the scouts were messengers and in some case worked in hospitals as orderlies and on ambulances. In recognition of the efforts by the movement at the nation’s time of need, the President set aside the first week of February 1919 as the first Boy Scout Week.
1921, boy membership is raised to 50 cents per year.
In 1927, Commander Richard Byrd was open the suggestion of taking an Eagle Scout on his next expedition to the Antarctic. From the thousands of applications, a selection of 88 was made and then a cut down to six. These six were invited to New York City for 10 days of interviews and meetings. The scout selected was Paul Siple, then of Elmira, N.Y. Siple had earned more than 60 merit badges, and participated in both the Boy Scout and Sea Scout programs. Byrd would report that Siple was a “man among men,” regular deck watches on ship, handling the training of the sled dogs, collecting bird specimens. Siple would spend 14 months on the expedition. He would continue the rest of his life with work on the Antarctic as a biologist.
The program for younger boys Cub Scouts was already nearly 11 years old in England. In 1927 a few test packs were allowed with an Americanized version of the program. This of course was an outstanding success, and by 1930 it was ready to go national.
1929 adult membership registration is started at $1 per year.
In 1931 the National Council authorized the creation of four divisions – Program, Personnel, Relationships and Supply. The Program division included the Cub Scout, Boy Scout and Explorer programs, develop literature to implement the programs, train volunteers in the program. The Personnel division maintains standards for professional scouters, conducts training for professionals and volunteers, and maintains charters and registrations. Relationship division maintains close associations with the sponsoring institutions and religious groups. Supply Service is responsible for uniforms and equipment.
Also in 1931, one of the men who was at the organizational meeting sin 1910 was elected president of the Boy Scouts of America. He was Mortimer L. Schiff, a banker in New York City. Sadly, he died unexpectedly in June. In his honor, his mother and young son gave the 480 acre Mortimer L. Schiff Scout Reservation to the movement for training of professionals and volunteers. For nearly 50 years the property was “the” place to take training. Its Manor house, hiking trails, lake and woods provided a wonderful scouting experience.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the program, a National Scout jamboree was planed for Washington D.C. in the summer of 1935. With all the plans done, and some scouts on their way east by train, the jamboree had to be cancelled due to a polio outbreak in the area. Local evens were quickly arranged, and the event was rescheduled for the summer of 1937, when more than 25,000 scouts camped on the mall and in nearby parkland. Several troops of scouts continued on to the World Scout Jamboree held in the Netherlands right after the Washington event.
Kate Smith is a name which one would not usually associate with a scouting history book, however, when she turned to Irving Berlin in 1938 or so for a patriotic song, Mr. Berlin retrieved out of his files a song he has written during World War I. God Bless America was the tune and Mrs. Smith made it a hit leading up towards another world war. Reluctant to take profits from a song so moving, the Irving Berlin God Bless America Fund was to get the song’s royalties and distribute them to the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Camp Fire Girls.
At William H. Pouch Scout Camp on Staten Island, a cabin is named in his honor for this gesture. To honor Berlin in later life, a group of Boy Scouts sang the song on the Ed Sullivan show for his birthday.
The Explorers begin safety training and adopt the Emergency Service Corp program. Distinctive patches and armbands become available.
In 1941 Daniel Carter (Uncle Dan) Beard dies at the age of 91. Scouts from Troop 1 Flushing, Queens, New York serve as an honor guard at the gravesite service in Suffern, N.Y. The Philturn Camp name is changed to Philmont Scout Ranch after Waite Philips donates more property, bringing the total to 127,000 acres. The Philtower Building in Tulsa, Okla., was also donated at this time, with the office rental income profits to be used for improvements and development of the camp property.
In 1942 P. W. Litchfield, president of the Goodyear Tire Company, persuaded the National Council to start a program of Air Scouts, and he was given permission to start a test group in Akron, Ohio. Soon the new program had a distinctive blue uniform and would get many young people interested in flying. Their distinctive top-rank advancement award, the Ace Medal is an eagle in flight on a compass, with the wingspan of a four-propeller plane below. This is the most elusive of the rank award medals with only 723 being earned between 1945 and 1954.
In 1943 upon the retirement of James C. West as Chief Scout Executive, Dr. Elbert K. Fretwell was appointed. He was involved in the movement as a volunteer since the early days, and in 1918 developed the bi-annual conferences of scouting professionals. The Silver Antelope award is first presented to adults for service to youth on a regional level. Long pants are approved for scout wear, as are field caps. These are the first major uniform changes since 1920.
During World War II, the scouts participated as air raid wardens, messengers, but also collected items for recycling, tin, keys and mostly newspapers. For the newspapers those collecting over 1000 pounds were awarded a medal in what was termed the Eisenhower Waste Paper Campaign; more than 300,000 were awarded during the course of the campaign.
More than 20,000 medals named for McArthur were also awarded by the National Garden Institute for victory garden cultivation. After the war, when Chester W. Nimitz spoke at the National Meeting in St. Louis he recalled that the training boys received in the Sea Scouting program greatly prepared them for the skills needed in the national emergency. He also went on to state that 40 percent of the men — over a million soldiers in the Pacific theater were scouts, they earned 60 percent of the awards for valor.
As the war progressed it was realized that to redevelop scouting in the war-torn areas funds would be needed, in 1944 the World Friendship fund is inaugurated with donations from leaders attending training courses with the funds gathered to assist restoration of scouting in war ravaged countries. A year later the scouts get involved with the “shirt off our back” program whereby uniforms were collected to get those programs restarted with gear.
Near the close of World War II, in 1945, an officially named Dwight D. Eisenhower waste paper campaign was held, and scouts attaining certain goals were awarded a medal.
After service for 15 years as president of the National Council, Walter W. Head retired in 1946. Membership in the programs top 2 million registered for the first time.
At the close of the war, it was decided to hold the Sixth World Jamboree in 1947 and the location was Moisson, France, 1,151 United States scouts participate. The advancement requirements were realigned in the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs. Eighth National Conference of professional scout leaders held in Bloomington, Ind.
Chief Scout Executive Fretwell served until 1948, when Dr. Arthur A. Schuck was chosen. Dr. Schuck was a lifelong scout professions joining the ranks in 1913 in Newark, New Jersey, and then in 1917 transferring to Lancaster, Pa. In 1923 became involved in field work, and in 1944 the scout executive of the Los Angeles Council. The Order of the Arrow was fully intergrated into the camping division of the program.
One of Dr. Schuck’s new interests was the implementation of multi-year drives to improve the program and increase membership. In 1949 the first of these, the two year program called “Crusade to Strengthen the Arm of Liberty” begun with emphasis of leadership, program and membership. This was very successful, and sparked future drives. The age levels for all parts of the program were lowered in May of 1949. Cub Scouts now served 8-10 year olds, Boy Scouts 11-13 year olds and Explorers were those 14 and upwards either choosing to remain in a Troop or transferring to an Explorer Post.
A year later, the 1950 National Scout Jamboree was held at Valley Forge, Pa.; 47,000 scouts and leaders attended. President Harry S Truman visited the event and toured the campsites in an open air limo. Although moving at a relative fast pace, many scouts remember being close and accessible to the president. Each troop took a local train from a station at the camp into Philadelphia for a day of visiting historic sites. The United States Post Office releases a 3-cent commemorative postage stamp honoring scouting’s 40th anniversary, it was designed by Norman Rockwell. The first adult training courses held at Philmont Scout Ranch.
The seventh World Jamboree held in 1951 at Bad Ischl, Austria; 700 scouts from the United States participate.
The new three-year program entitled “Forward on Liberty’s Team,” was begun. Distinctive brass neckerchief slides for Cubs, Scouts and Explorers exist touting the graphics of the program. The 20-millionth member is registered since 1910, with 3 million scouts and scouters active.
The Freedoms Foundation teamed up with the Boy Scouts for the 1952 Presidential elections with a “Get out the Vote” campaign. A million posters were distributed to libraries, Post Offices and community centers and the week before the election 30 million paper liberty bell shaped reminders were attached to door knobs. The participation in that election was higher than anticipated, and the efforts were repeated in future years.
In January, scouts serve as an honor guard at the inauguration of President Eisenhower. Scouts have participated ever since in that event. The Third National Jamboree was held in 1953 at the Irvine Ranch, California. It was attended by 45,000 scouts and leaders, many of whom traveled there by train. The location was chosen as a nod to the growth of Scouting in the west, and was the first venture out of the membership powerbase of the East Coast. A survey of the 543 councils showed that 831 camps were in cooperation with a total of over 288,545 acres. There were 2,877 professionals in the program serving in 3,500 districts.
After being located in Manhattan since 1910, a new National Office complex was built in North Brunswick, N.J., and opened in 1954. This housed not only the administrative offices, but also a National Supply distribution warehouse, Museum and Conservation area in the surrounding woods. The Mormon faith established their religious award for scouts which is related to the Aaronic Priesthood.
The World Jamboree was held in 1955 in Niagara, Canada. The Centennial of scouting was celebrated with a National Scout Jamboree held in 1957 at Valley Forge, Pa. 52,000 scouts and leaders attend. The Worldwide movement was celebrated at the Ninth World Jamboree held at Sutton Park, Birmingham, England. Following in the footsteps of Paul Siple, Richard Chappelle goes to Antarctica to participate in the International Geophysical Year explorations.
Modernization of the Explorer program was announced in 1959 with the area of Career interest Explorer Posts being adopted. Now specialty posts with interests in Law Enforcement or Emergency Medicine were encouraged. Membership tops the five million registered scouts and scouters. The tenth World Jamboree was held in the Philippines.
The Golden Jubilee was celebrated with a U.S. postage stamp designed by Norman Rockwell, and a Fiftieth Anniversary Achievement Award patch. Over 53,000 scouts and leaders attended the 5th National Scout Jamboree held near the grounds of the U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Johnston Historical Museum at the National Headquarters in North Brunswick, N.J., was dedicated.
Boy Scout Handbooks, 1910-1965
Since 1910 there have been over 175 printings of the various editions of the Handbook of the Boy Scouts of America. As a scout in the program, it is unusual to have been exposed to more than one of the major cover designs. However, as a collector, the changes in the cover design offer a nice challenge, which chronicles the development and changes not only in the scouting program, but in society itself.
Prior to the Boy Scouts of America’s organization in February of 1910, Ernest Thompson Seton had organized the Woodcraft Indians (1902) and Daniel Carter Beard the Society of the Sons of Daniel Boone – later to be called the Boy Pioneers (1905) were brought into the fold of the new American organization which had the support of Robert Baden-Powell, founder in 1907 of the Boy Scout program in England.
1910: nine printing varieties. 192 pages. Cloth or hard cover, one special printing in leather binding with gilt stamping. Scout standing on rock holding American Flag.
1911-1914: 13 printing varieties. Olive drab or Maroon paper cover with cloth backing. Scout standing in uniform with hand upheld, calling out. Cover art by Gordon Grant.
1914-1916: four printing varieties. Light gray paper cover with cloth backing. Two scouts, one sending, the other receiving signals. Morse flags (white square center in red field). Incorrect use of flag. Illustration by F. X. Leyendecker.
1916-1921: eight printing varieties. Red or green or pale green paper cover with cloth backing. Two scouts, one sending the other receiving signals. Proper semaphore flag (diagonally split red and white), but reversed stance for letter ‘L’
1922-1927: 13 printing varieties. Green or pale green paper cover with cloth backing. Two scouts, one sending the other receiving signals. Proper flags and stance for letter ‘L’
1927-1940: 33 printing varieties. Profile portrait of scout, with historical figures in background. The first five printings have the image of a Conquistador at far right or left. The other printings have the image of Lindberg at right. The first cover designed by Norman Rockwell.
1940-1946: six printing varieties. Half-length figures of Cub Scout, Boy Scout and Sea Scouting advancing left. Second cover design by Norman Rockwell. The image was also used on the membership cards of this era. The three printings prior to 1944 are a larger trim size than those of 1944-1946, due to war shortages of paper.
1948-1949 two printings. Patrol of five scouts hiking in the woods. Illustration by Don Ross.
1950-1958: nine printing varieties. Three scouts seated around campfire, Indian chief’s spirit in background. This is the same interior copy as the previous cover.
1959-1965: seven printing varieties. Scout striding right, camp scenes in background. Third cover design by Norman Rockwell. One special printing was done for the scouts of the Ryuku Islands and Okinawa.
The Scout Uniform
More than any one item, the uniform defines a movement. The Boy Scout uniform is the great equalizer, rich or poor, inner city or rural, anywhere in the country one would go, they would find members in the same uniform. Often expensive for its time, it also often gave a value – confidence and acceptance.
The pre-1920 uniform was very much based on the U.S. army uniform, with laced-up breeches (or buckled knickerbockers), shirt and copper troop numbers and BSA for the high collar jacket. The earliest removable shirt buttons have BS of A around an English scout fleur-de-lis. Very soon thereafter, in 1911, the button changes to BS of A around a First Class emblem (eagle and shield within a fleur-de-lis). A few years on the button simplifies yet again and depicts just a First Class emblem. As these were looped back removable buttons, often earlier designs appear with later shirts. Official shoes are marked, brown or black, and some have merit badge designs imprinted on the sole.
From 1910 through 1932 the official manufacturer of the uniform was the Sigmund Eisner Co. of Red Bank, N.J. In 1932 the contract as official manufacturer was bid out to the Sweet-Orr & Co. After 1937 the various uniform items were not limited to one manufacturer. Check the clothing for labels!
The Campaign (Smokey Bear) hats can also be dated by the inside markings. The earliest have the BSA HQ address as 124 E 28 St. NYC. In 1911 the office moves to 200 Fifth Avenue, NYC. About 1927 the national headquarters address changes again to Two Park Avenue, NYC (where it remained until 1953).
Neckerchiefs were introduced as a national supply item in 1916. They were full square in design, with a First Class emblem in two alternating corners. They varied in size from 28 to 32 inches square. During the early 1940s they were made into triangles and shortened in size.
By the mid-1940s scouts were allowed to wear long paints rather than breaches, and the latter were discontinued by 1950.
Boy Scout Ranks Patches, Pins
Tenderfoot – Second Class – First Class were developed as the first three ranks created at the start which included tests for skills learned, participation in troop events and tenure. The ranks of Star – Life and Eagle were originally awarded for additional time in the program and additional merit badges earned since becoming a First Class Scout. The Scout rank was first added in the 1980s.
In time, there were modifications to the advancement program, there were required merit badges enumerated in addition to elective merit badges from the listing of those available, and leadership in a service project was added.
Early badges of rank were sewn on square pieces of cloth. Prior to the 1930s there were combinations of rank badges and office positions. Thus you could have a Tenderfoot, Second Class or First Class scribe or bugler (gold badge and the bugle on same piece of cloth). You could also have a Tenderfoot, Second Class or First Class patrol leader (Silver badge).
These combination badges were worn on the left shirt sleeve rather than the shirt pocket, and fell out of use in the 1930s.
As material changed, so did the badges. They became available with a border, called “cut edge” by collectors. Then in the 1960s, the border changed to a more finished design called a rolled edge. The green backgrounds changed to color ovals in 1973, and the color ovals designs changed to the shirt color in 1985.
Eagle Scout Award Medals
The first medals have the hallmark of the T.H. Foley Co. in 1915 this company and all its die work was bought by Dieges and Clust. The same molds were used, but now with a new hallmark on the back of the “Be Prepared” bar. The Robbins Company becomes the manufacturer starting in 1920. The BSA remains on the front of the eagle until 1933, when it is removed. A flat back, rather than full feathered back version was produced from 1955-1959. The Stange company makes badges from 1968-1995. The BSA returns in 1971 and silver is removed from the standard issue badge in 1980, with a special sterling badge offered as an option. Since 1995 the eagle badge has been made by the firm of Custom Fine Jewelry, again with a base metal or sterling silver option.
For many years, troops awarded scouts a rank pin in addition to the pocket patch. The earliest of these pins are large and have a back stamp of the maker: T.H. Foley. After 1917 or so, the size is reduced and the back mark is just a simple “Pat. 1911.” These were made well into the 1940s, but many folks think they are earlier because of the static patent date. They come with different types of pin backs. During the metal shortage of WWII the badge was made of thinly embossed material. These are quite distinctive. Through the 1920s, silver plated badges were made as a combination of rank and position, just as with the patches, so one could be a Tenderfoot, Second Class or First Class Patrol Leader. Adult position of Scoutmaster, Assistant Scoutmaster, Committeeman had various color enamels added in the background fleur-de-lis to denote their position, and colored First Class patches exist, which match the colors.
Cub Scout Ranks
The Bobcat award has always been a pin, first with a horizontal catch and more recently with a butterfly clutch back. Only in the 1980s was a patch made for use on the pocket in addition to the pin.
The ranks of Wolf, Bear and Lion were first made on embroidered felt. During World War II this was changed to twill, and in the 1970s, the twill colors changed for each rank. The Lion award was replaced with a W for Webelo and eventually a tricolor shoulder pin was developed to hold the 12 nickel plated activity pins. In the 1980s, the activity pin program was expanded, and they are now colored.
The Cub Scout Arrow of Light Award is the only Cub Scout program award able to be work on a Boy Scout uniform. It is a long green twill rectangle in a blue frame, with an arrow pointed to the right, with rays above. Since the mid-1980s the Arrow of Light award is also available as an enameled pin.
The Merit Badge
Prior to the introduction of the over-the-shoulder merit badge sash, the merit badges were either sewn onto the right sleeve, or a “false sleeve” was available in the equipment catalog as a button-on addition. However, even with a sash, they were available in a width to accommodate either two or three across, although the latter is certainly the most common. There is photographic documentation of a four-wide handmade sash; however, most scouts who earn many badges just attach them to the back.
The embroidered merit badge begins as an image within a green circle. They were sold cut from larger fabric rolls. Thus the size can vary greatly on mint badges. Even when sewn onto a sash, they often appear uneven. These were available from 1911-1933. The mother was often in a quandary, whether to sew the patch on the sleeve or sash in a square format or to trim it a bit and fold under the edges to the edge of the embroidered circle. I think it often came down to a local unit preference.
From 1934-1946 tan twill crimped border badges were available. The earlier style uses a coarse twill fabric base with a wide 1/4-inch crimp circle around the edge of the embroidered circle. From 1936 the crimp was decreased to 1/8 inch. From 1942 through 1946 a finer twill material was used as the fabric base, and these are probably the hardest variety to find.
The fabric changes to a khaki green twill, with a narrow border crimp circle. These were used from 1947-1960 and are fairly common.
A more finished look to the merit badge and all scouting patches were incorporated in the early 1960s with the introduction of the rolled edge. From 1961 to 1968 these merit badges incorporate re-enforcing gauze back to the partially embroidered patches. In the mid 1960s badges required for Eagle Scout began to be issued with a white (silver) border to the merit badge, whereas the non-required badges remained with a green border. So, badges like First Aid, Cooking and Citizenship in the Nation appear in both green border and white border varieties of this type.
For a brief period from 1993-1996 a selection of about 22 badges were run using a computer generated design, and sold in individual plastic packets. They were not well received and have been discontinued.
Merit badges have a mixed following. Collectors approach the topic in a variety of ways. Some of these include collecting only full-square or wide-crimped or rolled edge. Others collect all the varieties of one topic such as Swimming or First Aid. Sometimes, full square merit badges have been cut to round, and this decreases their value. ?
A rare and important archive of material relative to the African-American Boy Scouts of America sold for $4,080, on a $3,000 to $5,000 estimate at Swann Auction Galleries’ in New York on Feb. 25, 2010.
The archive included five 8-by-10 photographs of boy scout and cub scout troops; uniform scarves, official manuscript troop record books, letterheads, award certificates and charters.
The first Negro Boy Scout troop in America was formed in Elizabeth City, N.C., in 1911, not without protest from local whites. However, despite opposition, the movement grew nationally and the first official Boy Scout Council approved Negro Troop, Number 75, in Louisville, Ky., in 1916.
In 10 years the number of troops grew to 248, with 4,932 black Scouts, and by 1936 only one Council in the South still refused to accept any black troops. However, things were not easy for black scouts. By the 1950s the Boy Scouts of America had an annual endowment of $2.6 billion, but local black councils struggled to provide funds for their troops.
The cornerstone of this archive is Curtis Jackson’s “My Scouting History,” an autobiographical scrapbook, with typed and handwritten entries, enhanced with photographs, merit badges, certificates and other ephemera chronicling the history of a black Boy Scout troop. Jackson joined Troop 42 of Camden, N.J., in 1937. He not only kept a careful history of his own Boy Scout experience, he kept a careful account of his troop’s meetings, etc. The last part of “My Scouting History” consists of “Records of My Correspondence,” including letters from such diverse organizations as the Campbell’s Soup Company, the Department of Public Safety, Department of Agriculture, numerous letters from the state Boy Scout Council and a final page, signed by all members of his troop.
Jackson earned just about every possible merit badge, including the difficult Explorer and Eagle Scout.
George Cuhaj has been active in the scouting program for more than 35 years, collecting items since 1976 when he earned the Eagle Scout award. He was awarded the Silver Beaver award in 1993 and named a James E. West Fellow in 1998.
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