Boy Scouts Movement Begins

U.S. #995 was issued on the opening day of the 1950 Boy Scout Jamboree in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

On January 24, 1908, Robert Baden-Powell published the first installment of Scouting for Boys, marking the start of the Boy Scouts.

In the 1880s and 1890s, Lieutenant General of the British Army Robert Baden-Powell was stationed in India and Africa. Much of what he taught his soldiers was based on his fondness of woodcraft and military scouting, which was intended to help them survive in the wilderness. Realizing that the troops needed to be more independent, and not just blindly follow their officer’s orders, Powell wrote, Aids to Scouting.

Monaco #1341 pictures Robert Baden-Powell.

During the siege of Mafeking in South Africa during the Second Boer War, Baden-Powell encountered a group of boys aged 12-15 called the Mafeking Cadets. Given jobs during the siege to free up soldiers for combat, and dressed in military-like khaki uniforms, Cadets worked as lookouts, bicycle messengers, and postmen. They even escorted enemy Boers to jail.

By the time he returned to England, Powell discovered a large number of boys, teachers, and youth organizations were utilizing his book. The Mafeking Cadets also inspired him, had an idea for a new youth organization. In 1907, he wrote a book called Boy Patrols and gathered a group of 21 boys to go on a weeklong camping trip to Brownsea Island, England to test his ideas from the book.

U.S. #1145 features artwork by renowned artist Norman Rockwell.

Using many of the lessons learned in South Africa, Baden-Powell taught the boys about woodcraft, camping, exercise, and chivalry – all designed to guide boys into being good citizens. The boys built their own refuge and learned skills necessary to survive in the outdoors.

U.S. #4472 was issued for the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America.

Around the same time, Baden-Powell went on a speaking tour, sharing his ideas and promoting his new book, Scouting for Boys, which was first published on January 24, 1908. The book contained, among other things, the scouting method. The scouting method is what scouting units are based on. It describes scouting as “a voluntary nonpolitical educational movement for young people open to all… in accordance with the purpose, principles, and method conceived by the Founder.”

U.S. #3183j honors the start of Boy and Girl scouting in America.

Between the Brownsea camping experience and the book, Scouting was born. Boys began to form Scout patrols, first in England, but then quickly spreading to Gibraltar and Malta. The first Scout rally, held in 1909 at The Crystal Palace in London, welcomed 10,000 boys and a number of girls. Just one year after Scouting for Boys was published, there were 50,000 Scouts in England. Soon, the idea spread across the oceans. The Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1910 and the Girl Guides in 1911.

Item #M3857 – Collection of 100 worldwide scouting stamps.

Since those early days on Brownsea Island, the Scouting Movement has grown to include 41 million active Scouts and Guides around the world, from over 200 countries. Scouts gather in weekly meetings and events, where they learn about camping and good citizenship. They advance in rank by earning merit badges, in which they have to demonstrate proficiency in various subjects. Robert Baden-Powell’s idea has turned into one of the most helpful organizations in the world.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill later named Baden-Powell as one of the “Three most famous generals I have known in my life (but who) won no great battles over the foreign foe.” On Baden-Powell’s gravestone is a tracking sign of a dot inside a circle – it means “Gone home.”

Click here to read Scouting for Boys.

Click here for more scouting stamps.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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  1. Scouts in the UK is generally considered to have started in 1907 with the first camp on Brownsea Island. Good article.

  2. Boy Scouts made America strong. I join the Scouts in 1936 and worked up to First Class. The
    Scout Master quit. My brother four year young join the scouts and work up to an eagle . But in
    1942 I was drafted into the Army to fight World War II. The way of scouting made me better
    soldier. Scouting had great force on us to be strong and be able to come to our Country aide and win.

  3. In BSA, Scouting is considered to be one movement with four main programs,
    1. Cub Scouting, 2. Boy Scouting, 3. Venturing, 4. Sea Scouting-focused on nautical activities.

    Varsity Scouting is a sub-division of Boy Scouting available to boys ages 14 to 18, it adds a program of high adventure and sporting activities. The Order of the Arrow is the Boy Scouting national honor society for experienced campers based on American Indian traditions and is dedicated to the ideals of brotherhood and cheerful service. Lone Scouting is a program designed to allow those who would otherwise not be able to become Boy Scouts or Cub Scouts usually due to residence in an overseas, isolated or unsafe community, to participate in the scouting experience. Stem Scouts is a pilot program of the BSA that focuses on STEM learning and career development for boys and girls in elementary, middle, and high school.

  4. Went to the National Boy Scout Jamboree in Valley Forge: not in 1950 , but around 55. It was the first experience of meeting other guys from all over he world. There were 50,000 scouts camped out there. We visited Gettysburg [ just a little way from valley forge] , competed in wilderness tests, and saw the biggest Fireworks I’ve ever seen.
    Scouting taught me so much- mostly citizenship and respect for our country and compassion for others. Too bad it seems out of date now with kids absorbed by media. I hope it endures and a new kid’s revolution – looking for some real natural experiences.
    Thanks Mystic

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