History of the Boy Scouts

US #995 was issued on the opening day of the 1950 Boy Scout Jamboree in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.  Click image to order. 

On January 24, 1908, Robert Baden-Powell published the first installment of Scouting for Boys, a pivotal event in the creation of the worldwide Boy Scouts organization.

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.  Click image to order. 

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, and he 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.

US #1145 features artwork by renowned artist Norman Rockwell.  Click image to order. 

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.

US #4472 was issued for the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America.  Click image to order. 

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.”

US #3183j honors the start of Boy and Girl Scouting in America.  Click image to order. 

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.  Click image to order. 

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.

Did you like this article? Click here to rate:
Share this Article


  1. I was a scout…no, not an Eagle Scout as many falsely program. The Boy Scouts used to be a great organization. Now, the Liberal progressives have turned them into a freak show. I would not allow my Son or Grandson to join the Boy Scouts. What has happened to our country?

    1. My son became an Eagle Scout five years ago. Scouting was a great experience for him. It certainly wasn’t a “freak show” at that time.

      1. It is still a great program and has now included all kinds of options: Cub scouts,, Sea Scouts, Venturing, Exploring, in addition to Boy Scouts–which now girls can participate in also. Those who say the program is off key, or a freak show, is living in the past and can not advance with changes in society and what research has taught us. Yes, scouting has changed, but for the inclusion of others who had been left out. That’s the opinion of one who is in his 68th year in Scouting.

        1. I disagree. I worked with the Boy Scouts for 15 years as an Assistant Scoutmaster and during that time also served as District Camping Chairman, District Roundtable Chairman, and in a number of other capacities. I served on the staff of two National Boy Scout Jamborees, and as Council Contingent Leader to Philmont Scout Reservation. My experiences as a adult Scout Leader confirm the value and importance of Scouting – which, as far as I am concerned – is (or was) to grow and help develop BOYS into MEN – men who understand their civic duties and responsibilities, their duty to their community, their State, and their Nation; and their duties and responsibilities to others; as expressed in the Scout Oath and the Scout Laws. Boys are NOT girls. Scouting is particularly suited for BOYS – because of its emphasis on outdoor activities (camping trips, high adventure trips, summer camp, etc.) America is in the process of “feminizing” boys and men. Men can, and should be, caring, compassionate, and gentle; but they are still men. Unfortunately, the Boy Scouts of America is being destroyed by “political correctness” run amok.

    1. Well said Mike. I was a Boy Scout, my Son was a Boy Scout (which I fully supported), but now, if I had a grandson…I don’t think I would encourage him to join the Boy Scouts. The progressive liberals have completely destroyed that once fine institution. It’s just disgusting.

  2. Thank you for this article highlighting a great organization. I do not know about today, but in the 1960s and 1970s it was great! Scouting provided me with self-reliance, leadership skills, and communication skills. These are areas that cannot be taught by looking at your cell phone or listening with earphones. I have no doubt that scouting played a large role in shaping me and my values.

  3. What has actually destroyed the scouts is the useless and spoiled children that are being raised these days! All these kids want to do is play video games and leach off their parents! God save us all from todays entitled youth!

  4. I was a cub scout and a Boy Scout. This was in the late 50’s and early 60’s. The times have sure changed and not for the better.
    The motto does not fit anymore as per the social media crowd as far as I can tell: Remember?
    On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
    God is taken out of everything and morally straight is now very crooked. Just my opinion.

  5. You can try to blame the left, or anyone else you would like, but what the Scouts are doing is all about survival. If Scouting stayed on its old path, it would die in 10 years, because the number of boys interested in Scouting has dropped dramatically. They are trying to diversify in order to stay alive.
    There were 2.3 million Boy Scouts in 2016. That is down from 4 million in 2000. In contrast, 2.6 million kids competed in little league baseball, 2.3 million kids between the ages of 6-12 years of age played youth soccer. 5.2 million kids played in organized football leagues; touch or tackle. 4.1 million kids played in organized basketball leagues. 560,000 kids played in organized hockey leagues (that’s up from 500,000 in 2010.) 750,000 children across the United States played lacrosse (junior league lacrosse growth rate has been 43% for boys and girls.)
    Kids are still active, still learning team work, still being mentored by adults, they’re just not doing it the way their grandfathers did it.

  6. Wow, who knew that an article about the Boy Scouts would bring out so much negativity? I agree with James V.– Dennis, Charles, Mike B., Dennis H., Mike S., and David B., are living in the past. Dennis says that the “Liberal progressives” have made the Scouts a “freak show.” That is just what I would expect from someone like him, start calling names. Some, like Charles, may call it “political correctness,” whatever that is supposed to mean, but as James pointed out, it means inclusion. What’s wrong with that? As David Li pointed out, young people have many more opportunities to participate in organized activities mentored by adults. My two grandsons participate in youth soccer and baseball and both activities have both boys and girls of the teams. I think that’s great.

    1. All of human history until recently is on my side. “Recently” is on your side, Conrad. We’ll see who has the longest run.

        1. Big government = Big Control. And it’s always the libs who squawk the loudest when tehir feathers get caught.

    2. Conrad – I think you may have misunderstood my comment. My son participated in Scouts fairly recently. He became an Eagle Scout 5 years ago. It was a great experience for him. I was defending the modern organization.

  7. My amazing Uncle was a Scoutmaster for decades up until his death in 1995 from cancer. He shared many stories over the years and took a lot of pride in his work with the Scouts. Dozens of young men that he led to be Eagle Scouts attended and spoke at his funeral about the values and leadership skills they learned from him all while having a great time. I sure miss him. I appreciate all your many informative and interesting articles.

  8. I was in Scouts in the 60’s and it was a wonderful experience. Having gone to parochial schools all my earlier life, it was really great to be exposed to guys from all religions and walks of life with a myriad of differing opinions about everything. Refreshing and educational! I don’t remember any fights about the others’ points of view, only good-natured back and forth arguments. It was a good formative model which has served me well as I have attempted to grow in to a tolerant, respectful adult. We live in interesting times, I sometimes wish it were “less interesting.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *