A Short History of Scouts

The scouts movement was born in England, on the 24th of January 1908. It began with a publication of a famous little handbook by a man who at the time had already become very famous in England. The man’s name was Robert Baden-Powell and his book, Scouting for Boys, became an almost instant hit (hits weren’t as instant back then as they were now that we have the internet). The book quickly turned into a series and soon little scout groups were forming all over England.

Baden Powell became renowned all over Britain in 1900 as a result of his brave actions in the war between the Boers and the Brits in South Africa. Here he managed to hold defense over a little village, Mafeking, for 217 days against the Boer troops. He wrote a book thereafter titled Aids to Scouting. It was meant to be a military handbook but found a home in the hearts of the young instead. Boys particularly loved the tips on observation and survival as well as tracking and would organize games to emulate the things they had learnt. Baden-Powell, upon realizing this, decided to write something that would teach them these things with a sprinkling of advice on the importance of good morals and good deeds.

To test if his grand idea would work, Baden-Powell decided to perform an experiment. So on the 25th of July, 1907, he took 21 teenage boys to Brownsea Island and there they camped for 2 weeks. During the camp, he taught them a lot of different things like deduction, observation, tying of knots, tracking, lifesaving, patriotism, and bravery. The camp was a success.

Scouting for Boys was a great success and Baden-Powell took the cue and set up the headquarters of the Boy Scouts. There they would register new scouts. They also designed a uniform to distinguish boy scouts. By the end of that year, there were over 50,000 in Britain and many other groups forming around the world. The first meeting of the Boy Scouts was held in 1909 and was attended by many guests, among them a small group of girls who referred to themselves as the Girl Scouts. This made Baden-Powell realize the importance of including girls in the movement and in 1910 he formed the Girl Guides Association.

The Scouts Movement came to America as the result of a rather serendipitous event. William Boyce, a man from Chicago, was lost in the fog in London in 1909. He met a boy scout who guided him out of the fog. He wanted to tip the boy but the boy adamantly refused, saying boy scouts do not accept remuneration for committing a good deed. William Boyce was so taken aback by this gesture that upon his return, he organized the many disparate groups there into the Boy Scouts of America, and officially incorporated the movement on the 8th of February 1910. Soon after, the Girl Scouts of America was formed by Juliette Gordon Low in 1912 in Savannah Georgia.

The Scout movement grew from then on, with many major events taking place. One important one was the forming of the Wolf Cubs by Baden-Powell in 1916. Their counterparts were the Cub Scouts of America and it was meant for boys under the age of 11. The first International Jamboree of the Scouts Movement was held in London in 1920 and there Baden-Powell was named Chief Scout of the World. He continued to hold this position until his death in 1941.

The research for this article was sponsored by the folks at Pro Painters Colorado Springs.  Give them a call if you need painting.