15 vintage photos of Boy Scouts throughout their 111-year history

George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty ImagesA Boy Scout and a Girl Scout drinking their respective drinks at the soda fountain.
  • The Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1910, two years after the phenomenon had swept the UK.
  • Since then, thousands of boys have joined their ranks, earning badges, going to Scout camp, and helping their communities.
  • Here are some of the earliest photos of Boy Scouts throughout the years.

In 2019, the Boy Scouts of America officially changed their name to Scouts BSA in an effort to be more inclusive, and began accepting girls into their ranks.

To celebrate this historic change, we searched through the archives to find some of the oldest photos of the Scouts to see how much, if at all, they have changed since their inception.

Keep scrolling to check out their vintage photos.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) were founded on February 10, 1910, by William Boyce, a publisher from Chicago.

Paul Thompson/FPG/Getty ImagesA boy being thrown up into the air and caught on a blanket during a Boy Scouts initiation ceremony circa 1910.

The Boy Scouts movement actually started in England in 1908 by Robert Baden-Powell, a famed survivalist and soldier. His book “Scouting for Boys” started the movement.

Boyce was inspired to start an American version while he was abroad in London. He was lost in the fog, and a young Scout directed him towards his destination, but wouldn’t accept any payment for doing a good deed. This led Boyce to organise several smaller groups into the Boy Scouts of America.

The purpose of Boy Scouts is to “train youth in responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance,” through participation in outdoor activities and education.

Topical Press Agency/Getty ImagesA group of Boy Scouts on camp haul a log of wood circa 1908.

Though hauling wood might not be a big focus of the Scouts today, they do still focus on camping, hiking, swimming, and wilderness survival.

One of the most fun parts of joining a Boy Scouts troop is attending camp.

Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesTwo Boy Scouts on camp in Weymouth circa 1910.

The Boy Scouts of America operates 420 Scout camps across the country, along with other adventure activities.

What goes on at scout camp? Mainly the normal camp activities, like swimming …

Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty ImagesBoy Scouts in water at Camp Ranachqua circa 1919.

The bathing suits might look a bit different in 2019.

… practicing new skills …

General Photographic Agency/Getty ImagesThree Boy Scouts on a hike through the countryside blow a blast on their bugles circa 1925.

The Scouts organisation still prioritises learning how to play the bugle. One of the 135-plus badges is dedicated specifically to playing the bugle.

… and hiking.

Bettmann / ContributorA group of Boy Scouts hiking through the woods on a trail that is surrounded by trees circa 1940s.

There’s a hiking badge, too. To earn it, one must do a five-mile, 10-mile, and 15-mile hike, respectively – plus another 20-mile, full day hike.

While some may seem the Boy Scouts as an antiquated organisation, their values remain important in the 21st century.

Topical Press Agency/Getty ImagesJune 1919: Members of the Scout Association whistling.

The Scouts prioritise 12 key values in their Scout Law. Above all else, a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Who can argue with that?

The uniform hasn’t changed much, minus the hat.

Bettmann / ContributorA Boy Scout demonstrating official equipment. Here, he holds a hatchet.

While there’s no specific hatchet/axe-wielding badge, there are two dedicated to both rifle and shotgun shooting.

The Boy Scouts have become as American as apple pie and baseball — they even meet the president.

Bettmann / ContributorPresident Roosevelt extending greetings to the Boy Scouts of America on their 25th anniversary on February 9, 1935.

FDR was the first president to enter the White House as an active Scouts leader, according to Voice of Scouting. However, the first president to actually be a Scout himself was John F. Kennedy, who was a member from 1929 to 1931.

The first Eagle Scout – the highest level of scout – was Gerald Ford.

The highest level of scouting is the Eagle Scout, which is described as “not just an award; it is a state of being.” It involves designing and completing a “service project.”

Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis via Getty ImagesStudio portrait of an Eagle Scout in Oakland, California, circa 1962.

The process of becoming an Eagle Scout is long and hard – it requires rising through the ranks, holding a leadership position, earning a significant amount of badges, and completing a service project.

A service project can be anything that is “helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community,” but specifically not the Boy Scouts.

Bettmann / ContributorMembers of Boy Scout Troop 560 illustrate the proper way to pack clothing donated to the Victory Clothing Collection.

For instance, organising a clothing drive could be a suitable project.

But, most members are content to enjoy their time at camp, or in their troop, without the added pressure of becoming an Eagle Scout.

CORBIS/Corbis via Getty ImagesA Boy Scout camping in Green Mountain National Forest writes a letter to his mother on top of a milk jug in Vermont, 1951.

In 2014, only 6.01% of eligible Boy Scouts became Eagle Scouts. Since the award’s inception in 1912, only 2% of all eligible Scouts have earned the honour altogether.

For a few years, the Scouts were only for boys, and only for those aged 11 to 15.

Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis via Getty ImagesGroup of Boy Scouts plant trees in Washington state circa 1955.

This quickly changed. First, the Cub Scouts were created in 1916 for those even younger, starting with kindergarten. The upper age bracket was raised to 17 years old.

The Girl Scouts was also created after a few years, but the two organisations have not been getting along recently.

A. Y. Owen/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty ImagesBoy Scouts at survival camp exhibiting their equipment taken on a three-day expedition.

Girl Scouts are a completely different organisation that was founded in 1912. In fact, the two have had a rather tense relationship in recent history.

That’s because in 2018, the Boy Scouts announced that they would begin letting girls into the program in 2019.

George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty ImagesA boy and a girl, both Scouts (Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts), drinking their respective drinks at a soda fountain.

The Girl Scouts didn’t appreciate this – they accused the Boy Scouts of stealing their members. In fact, they sued the Boy Scouts for infringing on their brand.

The Boy Scouts have officially dropped “Boy” from their name, and now go by Scouts BSA, in an effort to be more inclusive.

Hopefully, the addition of more dedicated people to the organisation, whether male or female, will make the Scouts a better, more inviting place for children to learn and explore the world around them.


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