Scouting's history goes back to the turn of the 20th century to a British Army
officer, Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell. While stationed in India, he
discovered that his men did not know basic first aid or the elementary means
of survival in the outdoors. Baden-Powell realized he needed to teach his men
many frontier skills, so he wrote a small handbook called Aids to
Scouting, which emphasized resourcefulness, adaptability, and the qualities
of leadership that frontier conditions demanded.
After returning from the Boer War, where he became famous by protecting the
small town of Mafeking for 217 days, Baden-Powell was amazed 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 about 20 boys and took them
to Brownsea Island in a sheltered bay off England's southern coast. They set up
a makeshift camp that would be their home for the next 12 days.
The boys had a great time! They divided into patrols and played games, went
on hikes, and learned stalking and pioneering. They learned to cook outdoors
without utensils. Scouting began on that island and would sweep the globe in a
The next year, Baden-Powell published his book Scouting for Boys, and
Scouting continued to grow. That same year, more than 10,000 Boy Scouts attended
a rally held at the Crystal Palace; a mere two years later, membership in Boy
Scouts had tripled.
About this same time, the seeds of Scouting were growing in the United
States. On a farm in Connecticut, a naturalist and author named Ernest
Thompson Seton was organizing a group of boys called the Woodcraft Indians;
and Daniel Carter Beard, an artist and writer, organized the Sons of Daniel
Boone. In many ways, the two organizations were similar, but they were not
connected. The boys who belonged had never heard of Baden-Powell or of Boy
Scouts, and yet both groups were destined to become Boy Scouts one day
But first, an American businessman had to get lost in the fog in England.
Chicago businessman and publisher William D. Boyce was groping his way through
the fog when a boy appeared and offered to take him to his destination. When
they arrived, Boyce tried to tip the boy, but the boy refused and courteously
explained that he was a Scout and could not accept payment for a Good Turn.
Intrigued, the publisher questioned the boy and learned more about Scouting.
He visited with Baden-Powell as well and became captured by the idea of
Scouting. When Boyce boarded the transatlantic steamer for home, he had a
suitcase filled with information and ideas. And so, on February 8, 1910, Boyce
incorporated the Boy Scouts of America.
The "unknown Scout" who helped him in the fog was never heard from again,
but he will never be forgotten. His Good Turn is what brought Scouting to our
After the incorporation of the BSA, a group of public-spirited citizens
worked to set up the organization. Seton became the first Chief Scout of the
BSA, and Beard was made the national commissioner.
The first executive officer was James E. West, a young man from Washington
who had risen above a tragic boyhood and physical disability to become a
successful lawyer. He dedicated himself to helping all children to have a
better life and led the BSA for 32 years as the Chief Scout Executive.
Scouting has grown in the United States from 2,000 Boy Scouts and leaders
in 1910 to millions strong today. From a program for Boy Scouts only, it has
spread into a program including Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouts, Webelos Scouts, Boy
Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and Venturers.
Back in England, younger boys were eager to become Boy Scouts. In 1914,
Baden-Powell began implementing a program for younger boys that was based
on Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book. The Wolf Cub program began in 1916,
and since that time, Wolf Cubbing has spread to other European countries with
very little change.
In America, hundreds of Cub Scout-age boys and their families were clamoring
for a program of their own. As early as 1920, Scout executives at the first
national training conference discussed the needs of younger boys. The BSA,
however, felt it wise to postpone any action until there was more objective
In 1925, Dr. Huber W. Hurt, a research psychologist and veteran Scouter,
was authorized to study existing organizations for younger boys, such as Boy
Rangers, Boy Pioneers, American Eagles, and Boys' Clubs. He found that only
one boy in 50 participated regularly in any type of organized leisure-time
program. He also found that younger boys responded better to leadership and
program efforts than older boys. He worked closely with Ernest Thompson Seton.
Both men recommended that the BSA adopt a program for younger boys, with older
Boy Scouts as leaders, to tie into home, church, school, and Boy Scouting.
The National Executive Board authorized the Chief Scout Executive to
thoroughly investigate the matter. An advisory committee worked with the BSA
to develop a plan and produce the necessary literature. Advice was obtained
from leading psychologists, sociologists, teachers, school superintendents,
professors of education, college executives, and recreation and welfare
By 1929, the new Cubbing program (it wasn't called "Cub Scouting" until
several years later) was taking shape and was introduced as a demonstration
project in a limited number of communities. Its structure was similar to
today's Cub Scouting, except that dens were led by Boy Scout den chiefs.
The plan included a neighborhood mothers' committee to encourage Cubs and
In 1930, Cub Scouting was formally launched, with 5,102 boys registered
at the end of that first year. By 1933 the time had come to promote Cub
Scouting throughout the country as a part of Scouting. All experimental
restrictions were removed, and the first national director of Cub Scouting
Den mother registration was optional for the first few years. By June
1938, 1,100 den mothers had registered and soon became an important part
of Cub Scouting.
The first dens met weekly at a member's home, where boys played games
and enjoyed crafts and ceremonies. The pack met weekly or semimonthly for
games, den competitions, awards, stunts, and other activities. Cubs
advanced from Bobcat (for all new members) to Wolf (age 9), Bear (age 10),
and Lion (age 11) and joined a Boy Scout troop at age 12.
In 1949, the age requirement was lowered to between 8 and 10 for Cub
Scouts. In 1982, Tiger Cubs was started based on shared leadership of
boy-adult partner teams and the school year calendar. In 1986, Cub Scouts
could register as second-grade boys.
Cub Scouting in America is different from the younger-boy programs of
other countries because it is centered in the home and neighborhood. With
the encouragement of family and leaders, boys enjoy a program that covers
a wide variety of interesting things. It suggests activities that boys
enjoy doing on their own when adults are not supervising them. These
activities are particularly suited to boys of Cub Scout age and are
different from those they will encounter in Boy Scouting.
A strong influence from Kipling's Jungle Book remains today. The terms
"Law of the Pack," "Akela," "Wolf Cub," "grand howl," "den," and "pack"
all come from the Jungle Book. At the same time, the Gold and Silver Arrow
Points, Webelos emblem, and Arrow of Light emblem are taken from our American
Although Scouting has changed over the years, the ideals and aims have
remained the same: character growth, citizenship training, and personal
fitness. Scouting is updated periodically to keep pace with a changing
world. It isn't the same as it was on Brownsea Island in 1907, but the
ideals are still based on principles that Baden-Powell had been taught
as a boy.
Scouting's founder was never able to completely overcome his surprise at
Scouting's worldwide appeal. As it swept the globe, Scouting brought him new
adventures and responsibilities as Chief Scout of the World. He traveled
extensively and kept in touch with Scouting around the world.
Eventually, Baden-Powell's health began to fail. He set up a winter home
at Nyeri, Kenya, in 1938, where he spent his remaining years until his death
in 1941. Scouts of different races carried him to his final resting place in
the small cemetery at Nyeri. His grave is marked with a simple headstone that
bears his name and the Scout sign for "I have gone home." Today, in Westminster
Abbey, a tablet records his name, along with the names of some of the greatest
Britons of all time.
After Baden-Powell's death, a letter was found in his desk that he had
written to all Scouts. It included this passage: "Try and leave this world
a little better than you found it." These words are a fitting epitaph, for
as he won the respect of the great by his strength, he won the hearts of
youth by his example.
||Boy Scouts of America incorporated on February 8. Baden-Powell visits America to talk with leaders. President Taft becomes first honorary president of the BSA; Theodore Roosevelt first honorary vice-president. |
||Boys' Life magazine becomes official publication. |
||James E. West, Chief Scout Executive, secures the rights for the American printing of the British Wolf Cub's Handbook for sale to U.S. Wolf Cub packs. |
||The National Executive Board proposes "adoption of a younger boy program at the earliest date, should be kept entirely distinct from Scouting, should prepare for graduation into the Scout movement." |
||A portion of a Laura Spelman Rockefeller grant of $50,000 supports a research and development project on the younger boy program. Dr. Huber William Hurt named full-time executive for the committee. |
||The National Executive Board approves demonstration Cub units. |
||The National Executive Board approves the Cub program "controlled experiment" as of February 10. The board authorizes Cub packs to register with the BSA starting April 1. Uniforms for boys are issued ($6.05 complete) and 5,102 boys and 1,433 pack leaders in 243 packs are registered during the first year. |
||First Cubmaster's Pack Book and Den Chief's Den Book.|
||"Experimental" restrictions removed as of May 25th; Cubbing to be "aggressively promoted as a part of the Boy Scout program." |
||Registration of den mothers made "optional"; before this year, den mothers not permitted to register.|
||First Den Mother's Den Book. Cubmobile racer introduced. |
||Pow wows and roundtables begin in many councils. |
||Themes introduced into Cubbing. |
||Webelos rank created for 11-year-old boys with the Lion badge. |
||Boys allowed rank corresponding to age if late entry into the program (no need for catch-up). |
||In program literature, first reference by name to blue and gold banquet. Packs sell War Bonds and War Stamps. |
||Literature and uniform shortages due to wartime priorities. Packs collect grease, newspapers, and milkweed floss for the war effort. Many packs have Victory Garden programs. |
||"Cubbing" changed to "Cub Scouting." |
||Uniform revision: long trousers for boys. |
||All den mothers must register with the BSA (registration optional previously). |
||Age levels for Cub Scouting changed to 8, 9, and 10, with boys entering Boy Scouting at 11. At the end of the 20th year, for the first time Cub Scouting has more than a million boys registered at some time during the year, a 25 percent gain over the previous year. |
||Cub Scout Promise changed to add the line "to do my duty to God and my country." |
||First pinewood derby held in California. |
||Webelos den created for 10-year-old boys. |
||Pinewood derby becomes part of Cub Scout program. More than two million Cub Scouts are registered during the year for the first time. |
||Webelos day camp program introduced. First Cub Scouting books in Braille. |
||Increased emphasis on Cub Scouting for boys with disabilities. |
||Golden Jubilee of Scouting and 30th Anniversary of Cub Scouting in the United States.|
||National Summertime Pack Award created to encourage year-round Cub Scouting. Cub Scout Swim Plan introduced. |
||For the first time Cub Scouting breaks through the three-million mark for boys registered during the year. |
||Cub Scout advancement program overhauled. Lion rank discontinued in favor of new Webelos Scout program. |
||National Executive Board approves Cub Scout day camps. Membership fees increase to $2 for adults and $1 for boys. |
||Project SOAR (Save Our American Resources) launched throughout Scouting. |
||Cub Scout Promise drops "to be square"; adds "to help other people." |
||Cub Scouts account for 51 percent of BSA youth membership. |
||Cub Scout Bicycle Safety and Cub Scout Physical Fitness programs introduced. |
||Webelos-to-Scout transition program launched. |
||Women could now serve as Cubmasters and assistant Cubmasters.|
||Cub Scout program year changed to coincide with the school year. |
||Five ranks established in Cub Scouting: Bobcat, Wolf, Bear, Webelos, Arrow of Light Award. |
||Golden Jubilee of Cub Scouting in the United States. The 30 millionth Cub Scout since 1930 is registered. The first Cub Scout Action Books for boys in low-income, rural, and Hispanic areas. |
||The 75th Anniversary of World Scouting. Tiger Cubs BSA introduced at National Council meeting in Atlanta.|
||Extended camping approved for Webelos Scouts. |
||The 75th Anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. New Cub Scout Sports program. |
||Cub Scouting expands to serve all elementary school grades. Webelos program expands to two years to include fourth-grade and fifth-grade boys.|
||BSA Family program developed. |
||Webelos Woods introduced to aid in Webelos-to-Scout transition. Tiger Tracks introduced. |
||World Crest emblem approved for wear by all Scouts and Scouters. |
||Cub Scout Academics introduced. Ethics in Action program. It Happened to Me Youth Protection video. Guide to Safe Scouting created. |
||Pack charters extend to include Tiger Cubs. |
||National Den Award introduced. |
||Tiger Mania. Tiger Cub groups become dens. Boys' Life creates Cub Scout edition. |
||Cub Scout Academics and Sports program opens to Tiger Cubs. |
||Pack family camping approved. "Climb on Safely" introduced to allow Cub Scouts to climb and rappel in a controlled environment. |
||Character Connections and Core Values introduced. Wood Badge for the 21st Century for all leaders in Scouting. Tiger Cub rank introduced.|
||Age-appropriate guidelines adopted. Leave No Trace Frontcountry Guidelines and Leave No Trace Award introduced. |
||Character Connections activities included as part of Cub Scout advancement requirements.|
||National "Good Turn for America" launched. 75th Anniversary Award and Cub Scout Outdoor Activity Award introduced. A new Cub Scout Hispanic outreach initiative known as Soccer and Scouting is launched. |
||Cub Scouting celebrates its 75th Anniversary: "75 Years of Fun, Family, and Friends." |