Boy Scouts of America Historical Highlights

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The Boy Scouts of America Historical Highlights span the BSA's 100-year history.
History of the BSA

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Adapted from Boy Scouts of America Historical Highlights


  • The first edition of the Handbook for Boys is published. Some 300,000 copies are printed.
  • The National Council office is established at 200 Fifth Avenue in New York City on January 2, 1911, with seven employees.
  • The Scout Oath, Scout Law, badges, and fundamental policies are adopted.
  • The first awards for heroism are presented by the National Court of Honor.
  • By 1912, Scouts are enrolled in every state.
  • The first Eagle Scout Award is earned by Arthur Eldred in Troop 1 in Oceanside, New York. A few weeks after becoming the first Eagle Scout, Eldred helps save another Scout from drowning and is awarded the Honor Medal for his actions.
  • Sea Scouting for older Scouts starts.
  • Boys' Life is purchased to become an official BSA magazine.
  • Norman Rockwell is hired as an illustrator for Boys' Life magazine. He is soon promoted to art director.
  • Scouting, the official magazine for Scouters, is first published.
  • The Order of the Arrow (OA) is founded by Dr. E. Urner Goodman and Carroll A. Edson at the Treasure Island Camp of the Philadelphia Council.
  • Congress grants the Boy Scouts of America a federal charter on June 15, giving special protection to the name and insignia and limiting membership to American citizens.
  • World War I: From 1917 to 1918, Scouts sell 2,350,977 Liberty Loan bonds and war savings stamps and distribute over 300 million pieces of government literature.
  • The first gold Honor medals are awarded by the National Court of Honor for saving life at risk of the rescuers own.


  • The First World Jamboree is held in England; Boy Scouts from 32 of 52 countries are present. The Boy Scouts of America sends 301 members.
  • The Every Scout a Swimmer program is inaugurated.
  • The first achievement badges are earned by physically disabled Scouts.
  • The Lone Scouts of America merges with the Boy Scouts of America.
  • The first Silver Buffalo awards for distinguished service to boyhood are presented.
  • Eagle Palms are added to the list of awards.
  • The National Council office moves to 2 Park Avenue, New York City.
  • Sea Scout Paul A. Siple accompanies Commander Richard E. Byrd to the Antarctic.


  • The Cub Scout program is formally launched. There are 5,102 Cub Scouts at the end of 1930.
  • The first Silver Beaver awards are presented for distinguished service to boyhood within a council.
  • Membership in the Boy Scouts of America passes the 1 million mark.
  • The 5-millionth copy of the Handbook for Boys is published.
  • The First National Jamboree is held in Washington from June 30 to July 9, at the invitation of President Roosevelt, with an attendance of 27,232.
  • Waite Phillips donates Philturn Rockymountain Scoutcamp (later to become Philmont Scout Ranch--see 1941) consisting of 35,857 acres of land on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, near Cimarron, New Mexico.
  • Philturn Rockymountain Scoutcamp opens for advanced Scout camping.


  • With the declaration of war, the government requests Boy Scout service for the distribution of defense bonds and stamp posters; collection of aluminum and wastepaper; defense housing surveys; victory gardens; distribution of air-raid posters; cooperation with the American Red Cross; and, by joint agreement with the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization, services in three capacities--messengers, assisting emergency medical units, and firewatchers.
  • Waite Phillips makes another large gift--land, residence and ranch buildings, livestock, operating ranch equipment--contiguous to Philturn Rockymountain Scoutcamp, bringing total acreage to more than 127,000 acres. The area is renamed Philmont Scout Ranch.
  • Webelos rank created for 11-year-old boys with the Lion badge.
  • Scouts continue in war service. Twenty-eight projects are requested by the government, including the collection of 30 million pounds of rubber in a two-week drive; all-out salvage based on the government-issued pamphlet Scrap and How Scouts Collect It; distribution of pledge cards for war bonds and savings stamps; victory gardens; work on farms and in harvest camps; and government dispatch bearers.
  • The first Silver Antelope awards are presented for distinguished service to youth within a region.
  • Long trousers and the Scout cap become part of the official uniform.
  • The total Boy Scout war service includes 69 requests from the government during 1941 through 1945.
  • Twenty thousand Scouts earn the General Douglas MacArthur Medal for growing food.


  • The Second National Jamboree, held at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, June 30-July 6, brings 47,163 Scouts and leaders from around the nation and the world.
  • Philmont Scout Ranch begins offering training courses.
  • The U.S. Post Office Department issues the first Boy Scout stamp.
  • The Third National Jamboree is held at the Irvine Ranch in Southern California, July 17-23, with 45,401 Scouts and leaders from around the nation and the world participating.
  • First pinewood derby is held in Manhattan Beach, California.


  • Some 56,378 Scouts and leaders attend the Fifth National Jamboree, held at Colorado Springs, Colorado, July 22-28.
  • The U.S. Post Office Department issues a Boy Scout commemorative stamp in February for Scouting's Golden Jubilee.
  • The Boy Scouts of America hosts the 12th World Jamboree at Farragut State Park, Idaho.
  • Eagle Scout Roger B. Chaffee dies in the Apollo 1 fire.


  • Eagle Scout Jim Lovell safely returns the damaged Apollo 13 space ship to earth.
  • Project SOAR (Save Our American Resources) is initiated as an ongoing BSA service project. It is estimated that during the year, 60,000 BSA units take part in SOAR-related conservation projects.
  • Scouting Keep America Beautiful Day is held on June 5, and Scouts collect more than a million tons of litter.
  • September 1972 saw the launch of the Improved Scouting Program. The number of required merit badges for Eagle Scout was increased to 24.
  • Eagle Scout Sam Nunn] is elected as a US Senator from Georgia.
  • The National Eagle Scout Association (NESA) is launched.
  • The 1973 National Scout Jamboree is held at two sites--Moraine State Park in Pennsylvania and Farragut State Park in Idaho--with more than 64,000 participants.
  • Eagle Scout Gerald R. Ford becomes the 38th President of the United States.
  • Scouting Environment Day is held April 27.
  • The Cub Scout Safe Bicycle Driving program and Cub Scout Physical Fitness program are introduced.
  • New Scout merit badges are introduced for Orienteering and Wilderness Survival.
  • The national office is moved to Irving, Texas, after 25 years in New Jersey.
  • New editions of The Official Boy Scout Handbook and Wolf Cub Scout Book are published.


  • Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Explorers pass out fliers across the country urging participation in the 1980 National Census.
  • Cub Scouting celebrates its 50th anniversary and registers its 30 millionth Cub Scout since 1930.
  • Alexander M. Holsinger becomes the millionth Eagle Scout registered.
  • The Tiger Cubs BSA program is field tested and implemented.
  • The BSA Mourns the Loss the Space Shuttle Challenger including Eagle Scout Ellison S. Onizuka.
  • When Life Scout [2]'s Microsoft goes public, a reporter asked, "What is your biggest failure?", Gates is purported to have replied, "I am a Life Scout."
  • Webelos program expands to two years to include fourth-grade and fifth-grade boys.
  • Eagle Scout and Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis ruins for President.
  • The first annual Scouting for Food drive collects more than 65 million containers of food.


  • Eagle Scout and Academy Award winning direct Steven Spielberg helps the BSA develop Cinematography Merit Badge.
  • Pope John Paul II is presented with the BSA's Distinguished Citizen of the World Commendation.
  • The new 10th edition of the Boy Scout Handbook is published with total circulation since 1910 reaching 33,860,000.
  • Eagle Scout Ross Perot runs for President.
  • Scouts collect food and clothing, and offer a helping hand in the wake of Hurricane Andrew.
  • Nearly 26,000 youth attend the 1993 National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia.
  • The Scouting movement in the former Soviet Union turns to the BSA for help in producing the first Russian Scout handbook; 20,000 copies are distributed.
  • The 14th National Scout Jamboree, held at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, is attended by 35,000 Boy Scouts and leaders.
  • The 11th edition of the Boy Scout Handbook is published. Its first printing yields 750,000 copies, bringing the total circulation of the Handbook since 1910 to nearly 36 million.
  • August 1, 1998, Exploring becomes the the new Venturing Program. The name Exploring is now used for a Learning for Life program. Venturing quickly becomes the fastest growing Scouting program.
  • Scouts collect more than 41 million cans of food to help feed the hungry.


  • The Boy Scouts of America celebrates its 90th anniversary as the 100 millionth youth is registered.
  • Eagle Scout Steve Fossett becomes the first person to fly around the world alone, nonstop, in a balloon.
  • The National Scouting Museum reopens in a new 50,000-square-foot facility next door to the National Council office in Irving, Texas.
  • Leave No Trace Frontcountry Guidelines and Leave No Trace Award introduced.
  • The BSA launches Good Turn for America with the Salvation Army, American Red Cross, and Habitat for Humanity.
  • Follow Me, Boys!, the classic Disney Boy Scout movie, featuring Fred MacMurray and Kurt Russell, is released to DVD.

See also

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