Happy 100th Birthday to the Boy Scouts

100 Years of Scouting Cartoon by Dave Granlund from Daryl Cagle's Poltical Cartoonists Archive

The Boy Scouts of America celebrate the 100th anniversary of their founding on Monday February 8, 2010.

Robert Baden-Powell founded the Boy Scouts in England as an organization in 1908 from an idea from his experiences with the British Army in South Africa.  Entrepreneur, publisher and adventurer William  Boyce brought the scouting program to the US and incorporated the Boy Scouts of America on February 8, 1910.  You can learn more about the history of scouting in America from this timeline on the Scouting.org website.

While scouting has declined from its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, there are still more than 2.5 million boys and adults involved in all of the various scouting programs.  Plus, more than 100 million boys and leaders have been involved in scouting over the last 100 years.  What could be more All-American than an image of a Boy Scout doing his duty and many of these scenes have been captured by Norman Rockwell over the years.  Many leading figures and more than 2 million boys have gone on to attain the rank of Eagle Scout which is scouting’s highest achievement.  There is even a Wikipedia page compiled with notable Eagle Scouts which includes many politicians, judges, astronauts and other well-known figures.

I’m proud to say that I have been a Cub Scout, a Boy Scout, an Eagle Scout and now a Cub Scout Leader for my son.  Plus, I have participated in many fine experiences and built lifelong memories because of scouting – camping on weekends and at summer camp, building fires, whittling, playing outdoor games, hiking, getting dirty, building confidence and participating in two high adventure activities through backpacking at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico and canoeing in the Boundary Waters National Park in Northern Minnesota and Canada.

The 12 Boy Scout Laws are ideals for all to strive for and can probably still be recited by any boy who spent even a year or two in scouting – a Boy Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

Thank you William Boyce for bringing scouting to the United States, and thank you to all of the men and women who have provided guidance and leadership to millions of boys through the years.  The tagline from the Scouting 100th Anniversary website sums up the future of scouting in this 100th year of existence:

Celebrating the Adventure…Continuing the Journey

"Happy Birthday Merit Badge" from Scouting.org

What are your memories of scouting?  I look forward to seeing your memories in the comments below.  Thank you.


5 thoughts on “Happy 100th Birthday to the Boy Scouts

  1. Hey Tom,

    I am just starting my memories. I was never a Boy Scout as a child, but my son Evan, 7, joined a den this year. I am enjoying the time with him and loving this time as I watch boys being boys.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. I was a boy scout, and even made it to the Weblow level. While my parents didn’t let me go on the camping trips, I have fond memories of earning merit badges, and the camaraderie of the troop.

    Which is why is saddens me so much that the Scouts are so adamantly anti-gay. The fact that they would never allow me to be a scout leader, nor so many other men who I know to be excellent role models, is deeply disappointing to me.

    The values that their decisions reflect is not with what my scout leaders taught me about respect and morality.

    I hope that they come to their senses in their second century, so that I can once again be proud to have been a scout.

  3. Alex – thanks for your comment and I agree with you that the policies at the national level are wrong and need to be changed – which I am sure will occur eventually. The primary issue holding the effort back is that more than 60% of the Scout Packs and Troops are sponsored by religious organizations.

    In any case, I would not want to deny my sons the learning opportunity of being involved with scouting because there are so many positive benefits that outweigh decisions which I cannot control.


  4. I agree with Alex on this. As an Eagle Scout, it saddens me that over the last 10 years or so, Scouting has been about defining what it is not rather than saying what it is. I’d say it’s not just because the troops are supported by religious orgs, but the national office is overrun by zealots too.

    BTW, there are plenty of religious individuals and even religious groups who respect and support all kinds of people. Being reverent of others’ beliefs, you’d think Scouting could embrace this.

    Tom, I also find it interesting that you point out Norman Rockwell’s painting as an example of Scouting at its height, which has now declined. His paintings were a type of pop art and more of a hyperbole of life around him (that’s what pop art is from gangsta rap to Andy Warhol). It’s not indicative of reality. It idealizes a particular viewpoint.

    Should we latch onto a historically inaccurate portrayal of the past to find leadership into the future? Or is being prepared more about accessing your current surroundings, tools around you, and adapting to survive and thrive?

    So I’m glad Scouting is 100. But the vocal majority keeping the minority down isn’t a principle of Scouting I ever learned.

  5. Tom,

    I share your fond memories of scouting. I was in a great (little) troop with a young Scoutmaster. We would camp year-round. The whole experience trained me to be an individual, strong, and proud of my accomplishments. Our troop was not about rank and merit badges, but about skills and fun.

    I have early Klindike Derby memories in freezing temperatures and gold-painted rocks. I read the Field Guide from front to back and can still name many of the plants in there. I dutifully practices my firebuilding skills (probably more than I should have.)

    During summer camp – I earned a lot of the first aid and safety merit badges and loved it. I later joined the volunteer ambulance squad in college and then became an EMT for four years. And eventually Chief of Operations for my college’s Ambulance Corps.

    Sadly, I never got involved with my Son because of the anti-gay reasons stated above. I had a conversation with a local Scoutmaster when my son was younger. And while he assured me that his troop was very open,the leadership’s position has been stated. And I can’t support this organization until their policies change.

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