Feb 8 is National Boy Scouts Day: I badge ya don’t know these 10 surprising things about scouts

Since February 8, 1910, millions of boys across the U.S. have learned ways to survive in the wild, techniques necessary to tie a whole plethora of knots and the importance of doing a good turn daily.

In their honor, here are some interesting facts about the Boys Scouts of America:


1. One good turn brought scouting to America.

William D. Boyce was completely lost in a thick London fog in 1909 when a boy came up to him and led him to where he wanted to go, according to Scouting magazine.

The boy refused a tip offered by Boyce, saying he was a Scout doing a good turn.

No thank you, sir. I am a Scout. I won’t take anything for helping.”

“A Scout? And what might that be?” asked the man.

The efforts of the boy, now known as the “Unknown Scout,” influenced Boyce to bring the British phenomenon of the Scouts to the U.S.

2. There was a rival boy scout movement – with guns

The American Boy Scouts (ABS) sprouted from the competitive spirit—or spite—of New York Journal publisher William Randolph Hearst. The newspaper baron founded the group in May 1910 only 3 months after William Dickson Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). 

The boys in both groups went on outdoor trips, volunteered in the community, and read Boys’ Life magazine. But their practices differed in at least one significant way: Hearst’s scouts carried guns.

This led to a tragedy.  An American boy scout, playing police, shot a nine-year-old in the stomach. His brother ran home and through gasps and tears told his mother, “Harry’s dead. A Boy Scout shot and killed him.”

3. The original boy scouts?

During the Boer War in South Africa, Baden-Powell called upon a troop of 12- to 15-year-old boys known as the Mafeking Cadet Corps. He used this tiny army to relay messages, help out in the hospital, and act as scouts and guards.

Decked out in khaki uniforms and wide-brim hats, the young cadets traveled around town on donkeys. (Later, when food became scarce during the siege, the donkeys were eaten, and the boys switched to bicycles.) Their duties kept the boys busy and gave them a sense of purpose. More importantly, the Cadet Corps left the outnumbered British soldiers free to fight, effectively quadrupling their manpower.

4. Amazing Discontinued Badges

Some discontinued Scout Merit Badges include nut culture, master at arms, masonry, consumer buying, pigeon raising, bookbinding, cement work, stalking, rabbit raising and taxidermy.

In 2010, in celebration of Scouting’s 100th anniversary, four historical merit badges were reintroduced for one year only—Carpentry, Pathfinding, Signaling and Tracking (formerly Stalking).

5. Scout uniform designed by Oscar de La Renta

According to Scouting Magazine, after 60 years of basically the same uniform, the Scouts wanted to change their look. To make their outfits seem less military-like, the Boy Scouts entrusted fashion designer Oscar de la Renta.

Supposedly, de la Renta spent 4 years volunteering on the project, pulled off the “vestiges of military flavor,” changed up the colors, added a baseball hat, and made neckerchief wear optional (amongst other things). The uniforms you see today are pretty much de la Renta designs, and Scouts have been wearing them ever since the early 80’s. 

6. The Eagle has landed

When Neil Armstrong said, “The Eagle has landed,” he wasn’t kidding.  The first man to walk on the moon was an Eagle Scout. 

Of the 27 men to travel to the moon on the Apollo 9 through Apollo 17 missions, 24 were Scouts, including 11 of the 12 men who physically walked on the moon’s surface.

181 NASA astronauts were involved in Scouting (57.4% of astronauts). 39 are Eagle Scouts.

7. Strangest Merit Badges

A boy scout earned every last one of the 135 merit badges awarded by the Boy Scouts of America.

This means that his pieces of sash flair include fingerprinting, dentistry, moviemaking, truck transportation, nuclear science, pulp and paper and American labor.

8. Presidential Scouts

Presidents John F. Kennedy, Gerald R. Ford, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama were Scouts as youths, and Jimmy Carter was a Scoutmaster.

President Kennedy was the first Scout to become president; Gerald Ford was the first (and to date, only) Eagle Scout president.

9. Into the Woods

Baden-Powell’s mother was determined to make men of her five sons, so she pushed them to vigorously explore the outdoors.In fact, she once challenged her boys to travel on their own from their house in London to a rented cottage in Wales. After the brothers paddled a boat up the Thames by themselves, they hiked the remaining distance.

During their camping and boating adventures, the boys took as little with them as possible. They slept under hedges and haystacks, and they caught and cooked their own meals.  Several days later, they arrived safely at the cottage, where their mother was waiting for them.

10. Gone Home

The gravestone of worldwide Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell is marked with a trail symbol of a circle with a dot in the center, which means “I have gone home.” It’s a tradition that many Scouters follow to this day.


Sources: Mental Floss, scouting.org, scoutingpages.org


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