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The History Of Scouting



In 1910, newspapers featured Model T Fords chugging along rutted roads at 8 miles an hour; Detroit's center fielder, Ty Cobb, batting .385; and Tom Swift hitting the book market with a bang. Buried deep in one newspaper, it was reported: "William D. Boyce, a Chicago publisher, incorporated the Boy Scouts of America in Washington, D.C. on February 8." That was all it said.

We can't blame reporters for missing the biggest story of the day, because who could have guessed that from such a small beginning, Scouting would become the giant it is today? From about 2,000 Boy Scouts and leaders in 1910, Scouting in the United States has grown to nearly 6 million strong. Although changes have been made in Scouting over the years, the ideals and principles have remained the same since its beginning--service to others and duty to God and country.

Our Founder

Scouting's history really goes way back to the turn of the century with a British Army officer, Robert S. S. Baden-Powell. Baden-Powell, who was stationed in India at the time, found that his men did not know basic first aid or the elementary means of survival in the outdoors. They couldn't follow a trail or tell directions, read danger signs, or find food or water. Baden-Powell, who had earned a reputation as a courageous soldier and able army scout, felt a need to teach his men resourcefulness, adaptability, and the qualities of leadership demanded by frontier conditions, so he wrote a small military handbook called Aids to Scouting. While serving in South Africa in 1899, Baden-Powell became world famous during the Boer War by holding, for 217 days, the small town of Mafeking, which was being besieged by an enemy force 10 times greater than his own. He returned to London as a national hero, was promoted to major general, and was amused to find that his little handbook had caught the interest of English boys. They were using it to play the game of scouting. Baden-Powell had the vision to see some new possibilities and he decided to test his ideas on boys. In August 1907, he gathered together 20 boys from all parts of England. Some were from exclusive schools and others were from the slums, the shops, and the farms. He took them to Brownsea Island, in a sheltered bay off England's southern coast, and there along the shore they set up a makeshift campsite which would be their home for the next 12 history making days. The boys had a great time! they divided into patrols and played games, took hikes, learned stalking and pioneering. They learned to cook outdoors without utensils. And in the evenings, in the magic of the campfire, they were spellbound by Baden-Powell's stories of his army adventures. The next year Baden-Powell published his book Scouting for Boys which revealed a warm understanding of boys and what they liked to do. He didn't dream that this book would set in motion a movement that would affect the boyhood of the entire world. That same year, more than 10,000 Boy Scouts attended a rally held at the Crystal Palace. This was living proof of how quickly Scouting was establishing itself. Two years later, the membership had tripled.

American Origins

In 1909, a Chicago businessman and publisher, William D. Boyce, was lost in a London fog. As he groped his way through the fog, a boy appeared and offered to take him to his destination. When they arrived, the American reached in his pocket for a shilling tip. But the boy stopped him by courteously explaining that he was a Scout and could not accept payment for a Good Turn.

Intrigued, the publisher questioned the boy and learned more abut Scouting. The boy took him to Baden-Powell's office, and once there, disappeared into the fog. No one knows what happened to him. He was never heard from again, but he will never be forgotten. At the Scout Training Center at Gilwell Park, England, a statue of a buffalo was erected in honor of this "Unknown Scout." His good Turn is what brought Scouting to our country. And so, on February 8, 1910, Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America.

How the Cub Scout Program Started

Back in England, Boy Scout troops were being bombarded by younger boys who were eager to become Boy Scouts. In 1914, Baden-Powell began experimenting with a program for younger boys, based on Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book. In this story you will meet a little East Indian boy named Mowgli. While Shere Khan-the tiger was terrifying his village, Mowgli wandered away from his home and was saved by a family of wolves. Mowgli, the name the wolves gave him, means "little frog", for the boy's skin was smooth and hairless. To keep this man-cub, mother and father wolf had to get the approval of the wolf pack, and Akela, the leader of the pack. In addition, two others had to speak for Mowgli. The first to speak was Baloo, the serious old bear who taught the young wolves the law of the pack, and the second was Bagheera, the black panther who taught the skills of the pack. With their good works. Mowgli was accepted over the angry snarls of Shere Khan.

As Mowgli grew older, Baloo taught him the law of the pack and the secret master words that enabled him to talk to the other creatures of the jungle; all except the Bandar-log, the monkey people who did not observe the law of the pack. They were going to make their own law, but they would forget what it was they were doing and never did. So, the other creatures of the jungle paid no attention to them.

One day while Mowgli was sleeping, the Bandar-log swept down from their tree tops and carried him away to a deserted village where none of the jungle creatures lived except the cobras. While he was being carried aloft a hawk swooped down low enough for Mowgli to give the master word and ask for help. The hawk flew back to Baloo and Bagheera who raced to Kaa, the 30 foot python and dreaded enemy of the Bandar-log. Kaa was as much at home in the tree tops as the monkey people and often would be mistaken for a limb or branch by an unlucky monkey.

These three, the python, the panther, and the bear closed in on the village at nightfall. Bagheera and Baloo moved in first. Now, the Bandar-log are not brave, but fight only when the odds are 100 to one in their favor. Swarms of the monkey people jumped biting and scratching on the backs of Bagheera and Baloo. Meanwhile, Mowgli was carried away and dropped through the roof of an enclosure that had no escape and only cobras for company.

Then Kaa appeared. The Bandar-log froze in terror. Bagheera and Baloo shook themselves free of the monkey people. Kaa slithered toward the ancient building that held Mowgli prisoner, and using his head as a battering ram, knocked a hole in the lattice work large enough for Mowgli to climb through and join Baloo and Bagheera.

In the dim moonlight, Kaa began his hunger dance, fascinating all who watched, the Bandar-log, Baloo, and Bagheera. Mowgli shook his friends who were falling under the spell of Kaa and, just in time, the three made their escape back to their own part of the jungle.

Today, each young boy is like Mowgli. He needs a leader and a friend who can help him learn those things that will protect him. Parents and leaders are the Akelas, Bagheeras, and Baloos. Everywhere today's youth turns there are the monkey people who would lure him into trouble, urging him or daring him to join them. Our Wolf and Bear Cub Scouts must be armed against this danger, for when they join the Bandar-log they are swallowed by the python Kaa whose real name is laziness, boredom, and drugs.


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