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Scouting History

Summer Reading Series, Book 4, The Scouting Party
July 26, 2011

For anyone who has ever wished that they could read the mail of the men who founded the BSA, The Scouting Party will be of great interest. This well-researched book uses the backdrop of America during the Progressive Movement in the early 1900’s to focus on the often strained relationships of men like Ernest Thompson Seton, Daniel Carter Beard, James E. West, and Lord Baden Powell.

Through personal accounts of hotel meetings and the actual text of letters sent back and forth between the parties, readers get a glimpse of the egos, attitudes, and principles of these distinguished leaders.

The main conflicts are between Seton and West with Beard often being called into the argument to take sides against Seton or to mediate. Here are some quotes from an argument that arose over the look of patrol emblems.

“I know something about heraldry and I know a great deal about patrol emblems,” Seton tells the editorial board including West.
“I think Mr. Seton is all wrong in this matter,” West responds.
“I think he is making a mountain out of a molehill,” Beard says in reaction to Seton’s advice on the emblem designs.


Arguments like this one over details, and others regarding who should get credit for founding what aspects of the BSA, escalate to the point where Seton formally resigns from the Boy Scouts of America in 1915. Throughout the book, events like this are always put into the larger context of President Roosevelt’s America. Roosevelt even becomes a key player at times, entreating the BSA (a peaceful organization) to stand with him as America rallies to join the war effort.

The book is careful to remain objective, by presenting facts and letting the reader form their own opinions.

Overall, The Scouting Party is an informative and descriptive book on the rise of the Boy Scouts of America in the early twentieth century that Scouting historians will love!

Want to check out the other books in our Scouting Summer Reading Series?

Book 1: The Other Side of the Road

Book 2: Spirit of Adventure

Book 3: To Do My Best

Summer Reading Series, Book 3, To Do My Best
July 13, 2011

If you’re looking for a book on the BSA’s history that really give some insight on why the Scouting movement is organized the way it is, check out To Do My Best James E. West and the History of the Boy Scouts of America.



BSA’s founder was a complicated and highly principled leader. The author of this book, Dr. Rowan, uses an easy-to-follow chronological structure to highlight key moments in the BSA’s history that grew the organization. He also reveals the character and personality of Mr. West, the first “Chief Scout Executive.”

The book raises many intriguing questions and offers several interesting stories for example:

Early in his legal career, West had his car stolen. West had left his two-seater parked while he visited a settlement house. He returned to find it gone. The police picked up the boy who stole it and West was asked to testify in court. When he learned that the boy had no lawyer, West volunteered to defend him.


The story goes on to tell how West saved the boy from prison by getting him off on a technicality. This action led to West helping to organize a Citizens Committee for Juvenile Court and saw the bill passed into law by Congress on March 12, 1906. West was of a firm belief that children should not be tried as adults and that there hearings should take place in a different setting by people who had experience working with young people.

Stories such as this one make this book a fascinating read.

At times throughout the book, James E. West  seems like a study in contradictions. He was a physically ill man from birth who never camped, yet he became the leader of the BSA. He was accused of being chauvinist when he went after the Girl Scouts for name infringement, but at the same time, had sent both of his daughters to respected colleges and always encouraged their career advancements.

West established The President of the United States as the honorary President of the BSA and this wise move did a lot of good for promoting the organization. The book highlights each President’s actions during this appointment for the years that West was in charge of the BSA.

Anybody in a leadership position in Scouting should add To Do My Best James E. West and the History of the Boy Scouts of America to their reading list.

Subscribe to the RSS feed of this blog to catch our next book review on The Scouting Party by David C. Scott and Brendan Murphy!

Check out the other books in our Scouting Summer Reading Series!

Book 1: The Other Side of the Road

Book 2: Spirit of Adventure

Summer Reading Series, Book 2, Spirit of Adventure.
July 1, 2011

Pull out the trusty beach chair, adjust the sun-brella, pour your favorite beverage over ice, and dive into our Summer Reading Series!

In some cases, it really does take one to know one and Alvin Townley author of Spirit of Adventure a book about the legacy of Eagle Scouts in America, is an Eagle Scout who travelled thousands of miles over this great country of ours to find out exactly what the future holds for Eagle Scouts–and to encounter past stories of honor and adventure.

The book introduces Eagle Scouts living in as far away places as Afghanistan and Australia. Townley finds Eagles who have competed in the Super Bowl and at the Olympics. He also meets teachers, servicemen, entrepreneurs, and activists along the way.

Townley’s writing is well-paced and descriptive. He sheds light on the motivations of the Eagle Scouts he visits by describing their actions, pastimes, and way of life. It always helps to hear someone tell a story in their own voice, and Townley is careful to include plenty of quotes from the subjects themselves regarding their various adventures.

Here’s an excerpt from the chapter entitled “Survivors.”

The race continued over the coming days, with the team slashing and trekking their way through jungles and up mountains. Mud, suffocating humidity, and brutal heat were constant companions. Bruises and lacerations received while plowing through dense foliage added to the difficulty. Unhealed cuts grew increasingly painful as the race continued. Days of sweating in the same clothes left Burton with a painful heat rash, but he kept going…

The stories found in this book should inspire and thrill Eagle Scouts of all ages, as well as, those working toward the highest achievement in Scouting.

This would make a great Eagle ceremony gift, or even a great book to give someone who is considering getting their child involved in Scouting.

The follow up to Townley’s acclaimed book, Legacy of Honor, it’s time to strap on the boots, fill up the CamelBak®, and set off with The Spirit of Adventure.

Check back soon to discover the next exciting Scouting book in our Summer Reading Series!

Check out the first book in our Scouting Summer Reading Series!

Book 1: The Other Side of the Road



Summer Reading Series, Book 1, The Other Side of The Road
June 23, 2011

Pull out the trusty beach chair, adjust the sun-brella, pour your favorite beverage over ice, and dive into our Summer Reading Series!

Our first book tells the long overdue story of America’s best trained Scout leaders “…every Scout and every leader in the Boy Scouts of America today has been influenced by someone who has had a Philmont Training Center experience,” says Mark Griffin, author of the first book we’d like to recommend, The Other Side Of The Road.

$12 per copy with discounts available for multiple purchases. Contact the PSA Office (575-376-1138) or click on the image to place your order now.

This book tells the amazing story of the Philmont Training Center by a man who grew up with PTC as a part of his life. Mark Griffin has been going to PTC since he was a small child and served as the Director of the training center from 1995 to 2000. He is currently the Scout Executive of the Blue Mountain Council.

While the slim book is a fast read, it is sure to include some facts or stories about Philmont that even someone who has attended or worked at PTC may not be aware of. For a Scouter who hasn’t been to Philmont yet, it will certainly make them want to go!

In the chapter entitled ” The Training Center in Scouting,” Griffin includes several of the articles that have been written about Philmont and have appeared in Scouting magazines over the years.

Here is an excerpt from one such article dated April 1953:

Like a Vacation?

Philmont is an ideal vacation land, and it’s all yours! Its trout filled streams, its breathtaking scenery, its cool and grassy meadows are waiting for you this summer. Famous Philmont training awaits you too. There will be conferences for Finance committee members, Commissioners and District and Counsel operating committees…

After detailing the conference schedule for that year the article goes on to say:

While Dad participates in the Training Conference with Scouters from all over the country, Mom and the children can have the time of their lives! “Kit Carson slept here.” Only fifteen minutes from the Training Center  Tent City is Kit Carson’s home. Along the roadside to Carson-Maxwell Base Camp the deep ruts cut by the covered wagons of early settlers and traders still crease the soil.

Philmont Training Center is certainly a unique place that combines outdoor adventure with unparalleled leadership and training opportunities. It’s no wonder that PTC is attended by over 6,000 Scouts and their families every year.

For the next couple of weeks we will be recommending a few Scouting-themed books for you to check out. We’re calling them our Summer reading series. The next book in the series is Spirit of Adventure, by Alvin Townley.

Happy Birthday Baden-Powell!
February 22, 2011

Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell was born on February 22nd, 1857. In addition to founding the International Scouting Movement, Powell was a Lieutenant-General with the British Army and later authored several books on military reconnaissance and training before completing Scouting for Boys in 1908.

via Wikipedia Commons

He tested some of his Scouting principles by taking a Boy’s Brigade to Brownsea Island in 1907. Baden-Powell married Olave St. Clair in January 1912. They met on the RMSP Arcadian ocean liner  while Baden-Powell was on his way to New York to kick off a Scouting World Tour. At the time of their marriage, St. Clair was 23 and Baden-Powell was 55. Though born many years apart, they shared the same birthday. This day is now known as Founder’s Day to Scouts.

Baden-Powell served the British Army in campaigns in India and South Africa. It was on one of these military campaigns that he saw a large string of wooden beads around the neck Dinizulu, king of the Zulus. Years later, this encounter would inspire the Wood Badge leadership training within the Scouting movement.

Baden-Powell was almost always photographed in his signature Stetson Calvary Hat.

He was a talented artist and liked to draw and paint as hobbies.

Great Britain awarded Baden-Powell the Order of Merit in 1937. He retired from making public appearances for Scouting at the 5th World Scout Jamboree that same year.

Powell died on January  8th 1941. His grave can be found in St. Peter’s Cemetery. His last public words to the Scouts contained the message, “‘Be Prepared’ in this way, to live happy and to die happy — stick to your Scout Promise always — even after you have ceased to be a boy — and God help you to do it.”

History of the Scout’s Uniform
February 17, 2011

Is anyone more recognizable than a Scout in uniform? Probably everyone in America, at one time or another, has seen someone in the iconic khaki shirt, neckerchief, and olive shorts or pants.

The first version of the Scout uniform was inspired from the very thing Baden-Powell wore in the British Army. It featured a shirt, shorts, scarf, and wide-brimmed hat. The shirt sleeves were long, but the sleeves were often worn rolled up.

The BSA formed a committee on Badges, Awards, and Equipment and commissioned them to design their original Boy Scout uniform. The committee decided on a khaki campaign hat, choke-collar tunic, knee breeches, and canvas leggings. This lasted until 1917 when the neckerchief replaced the less comfortable, more military-looking tunic.

Shorts made perfect sense when taking into account a Scout’s lifestyle of camping and being outdoors, however, in the conservative 1920’s many Scouts still wore long pants when not in camp to fit in more with the fashion of the day.

A Scout uniform circa 1910 (via Wikipedia Commons).



During the second World War, Scouts adopted “Overseas caps” to show solidarity with the troops and this addition to the uniform lasted for over 60 years.

Boy Scout War Service Uniform (via Wikipedia Commons).



During the Sixties, the itchy wool and rough cotton fabrics were changed to lighter, breathable permanent press fabrics to allow for greater comfort and ease of care when camping.

In 1980, the BSA decided it was time for an update and asked famed fashion designer Oscar de la Renta to redesign the uniforms of the Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Explorers, and adult leaders. He worked on the project without pay for two years and came up with a Boy Scout uniform that consisted of long or short-sleeved khaki shirts with crimson epaulets. These were paired with olive green shorts or pants with added utility pockets for practical purposes. The neckerchief became an optional part of the uniform.

Oscar De La Renta redesigns BSA® uniforms (Used by Permission Scouting.org).



A Scout’s uniform is often decorated with merit, patrol, troop, and other custom patches used to signify achievement, rank, and experience.

The uniform has become much more than articles of clothing. It has come to stand for pride in Country, an individual’s troop, and the values instilled by being part of the Scouting movement.

Boy Scout circa 1970 (via Wikipedia Commons)



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The Birth of Cub Scouting®
February 11, 2011

1930 brought on a significant addition to Scouting with the development of Cub Scouting for younger boys.

Used by permission. Boy Scouts of America® All Rights Reserved.



In the early years of the BSA, leaders recognized what they called a “younger boy problem,” meaning that boys below the age of 12 were watching their older brothers or relatives enjoy all Scouting had to offer and wanted to join in the fun. The problem was, until Cub Scouting became official, Boy Scout troops were either allowing younger boys to participate in the older boy’s program or throwing their support behind a junior program Baden Powell established in Britain called “Wolf Cubbing.” Powell had even written a handbook for younger boys entitled, The Wolf Cub’s Handbook.

Due to the popularity of Powell’s overseas program with some BSA Councils in America, the National organization decided they needed a program that would be separate from Scouting, but still do a thorough job of preparing boys for becoming Scouts.

After several studies conducted by the National Council and the formation of a few demonstration Cubbing units in 1929, Cubbing was officially born on April 1, 1930 when the BSA allowed Cub “Packs” to register. It is interesting to note that the term “Cub Scouting” didn’t take root until 1945. The Packs were further broken down into “dens” of six to ten boys who were led by a den chief, usually a Boy Scout from a local troop. However, because parental supervision was even more important with boys of this age, assigning one of the boy’s mothers as the “den mother” became regular practice by 1932.  The BSA officially recognized Den Mothers in 1936 and published The Den Mother’s Handbook one year later.

via Wikipedia Commons



By the 1940’s there were already 286,402 boys enrolled in Cubbing and the BSA could not deny it had been an excellent addition. The organizational structure of Cubbing was this: a boy entered as a

Bobcat at the age of nine and earned advancements to Wolf, Bear, and finally Lion ranks. In 1941,

Webelos or “We’ll Be Loyal Scouts” were added. These were eleven-and-a-half year old boys who had already earned a Lion badge, along with certain requirements for becoming a Tenderfoot in the Scouts.

The uniform a Cub Scout wore showed their distinction of being a separate group from the older Boy Scouts. A Cub wore a blue cotton uniform instead of the Scout’s olive green pants and tan shirt. Cubs always wore shorts, while Scouts wore pants with shorts being optional.

The popularity of Cub Scouting and the mentoring that takes place within its ranks ensures that a fresh crop of boys will be eager to accept the honor and responsibility of being a Boy Scout every year.

Are you involved in Cub Scouting? If so, give a shout out to your Pack in the comments! Also, follow @ClassBPacks on twitter for Cub Scout news and weekly t-shirt giveaways :)

William Boyce, A Good Turn, and the Birth of the BSA®
February 9, 2011

To honor our loyal Scouting supporters, customers and volunteers, we’d like to use the month of February to focus this blog on events related to Scouting’s history. The first post having to do with the birthday of the BSA.

The BSA was founded on February 8th, 1910, but its origins can be traced back a little earlier, to a fateful day in London. Scouts and historians will debate how much, if any, fog there was that day, or what was or wasn’t discussed between William Boyce and the Boy Scout he encountered on the streets of London in 1909, but this is what is known.

William Boyce was traveling through London on his way to British East Africa when he lost his way and a Scout came to his aid. When Boyce offered to tip the boy, he refused explaining that he was just performing his daily good turn. This simple act has been immortalized as the legend of the Unknown Scout.

Used by permission. Boy Scouts of America® All Rights Reserved.



This exchange between the Scout and Boyce must have left a strong impression on the businessman, since Boyce went on to found the BSA a few months later.

It has been recorded by numerous sources that the Scout did tell Boyce the location of the Scout headquarters where Boyce acquired the manual and literature he used as a guide to establish Scouting in America.

This story is inspiring for many reasons.

First, it demonstrates how a simple act of kindness can have a lasting effect on a person. I’m sure William Boyce never forgot the Scout who so willingly and self-lessly assisted him that day.

Second, it reinforces that inspiration can strike at the least expected times, if a person remains open-minded and non-judgemental. Boyce was not at a business conference or dining with some wealthy dignitary when he had the meeting that would forever alter the course of his life. He was lost, standing in the street, unsure of where to go next, until he spoke to a Scout.

Finally, the story of how Boyce founded the BSA is another example of how one man can change the world by executing an idea and seeing a plan through. Boyce educated himself on Baden Powell‘s Scouting movement, made a conscience decision to start the BSA, and the youth organization he started has gone on for over 100 years and over 110 million participants.

Are you currently involved in Scouting? If so, what good turn that you performed had positive effects beyond what you expected?