FATHERS OF SCOUTING
three famous guys, say, Michael Jordan, Troy Aikman and
Kevin Costner, got together to form an organization for
boys. You would be curious about it, right?
Well, something like that happened 84
years ago. Three famous men of the day got together to
build the brand-new Boy Scouts of America. Boys couldn't
wait to join. Those who did were rewarded with skills,
friendships, and knowledge of the outdoors.
One of the celebrities was a war hero
named Lieutenant General Robert S. S. Baden-Powell. The
other two, Ernest Thompson Seton and Daniel Carter Beard,
were famous artists and authors.
The trio's fame drew boys into
Scouting. A young lawyer, James E. West, made sure there
were troops for them to join.
These four men were the fathers of
Scouting. Let's look at each more closely.
Born Feb. 22, 1857, in
London, England; died Jan. 8, 194 1. Founder of Boy Scout
in England, British war hero author, artist. BSA adopted
his plan for Scouting but made some changes in it.
|He was born
in London, England, in 1857. As a boy, he loved outdoor
play and reading. He was also a good actor and gifted
artist. He Could draw well with either hand. Baden Powell
was only 19 when he joined the British Army as a
sub-lieutenant and sailed for India.
He Admired Zulu Warriors
For the next 34 years Baden-Powell was
a soldier. He campaigned in Afghanistan and fought
against the Zulu, Ashanti, and Matabele tribes in Africa,
where England had colonies.
Baden-Powell admired the Zulu warriors.
Later, he borrowed their left-hand handshake for his Boy
Baden-Powell became an expert spy and
wrote Army manuals on the subject. But he wasn't yet
famous. He was almost unknown outside his regiment when
war broke out in South Africa in 1899.
Baden-Powell, then a colonel, was
assigned to raise two regiments of English settlers in
South Africa to fight the Boers. These were Dutch
settlers who were resisting British rule.
The' Battle of Mafeking
Baden-Powell and about 1,000 new
soldiers were in a sleepy little town called Mafeking
when 9,000 Boers attacked.
He used tricks to make the Boers think
he had a much bigger force. He held Mafeking for 217
days. Another British force arrived to help, and England
heard the news of Baden Powell's resistance. 'Me nation
went wild with joy. Baden-Powell was an instant hero.
He returned to England in 1903. He was
surprised to learn that boys were using training
exercises from his "Aids to Scouting, " a
manual he wrote for soldiers.
Some people thought he should rewrite
the book for boys. So Baden-Powell began to study how
boys grow and develop and to think about how boys could
In the summer of 1907 he tried out his
ideas at a two-week camp for 22 teen-age boys. The camp
was held on Brownsea Island off England's southern coast.
The campers, who were the first Boy
Scouts, learned camping skills, first aid, lifesaving,
and nature lore. Much of their instruction was through
games and contests.
In 1908, Baden-Powell published the
first Scout handbook, called "Scouting for
Boys." He illustrated it himself. 'Me 182-page book
was crammed with "campfire yarns" and ideas for
skills that Scouts have used ever since.
The book was a best seller. Troops
sprang up all over England. Before long there were troops
in Canada and the United States too.
On Feb. 8, 1910, when the BSA was
officially born, there were probably 50 or more troops in
this country. The man who signed the papers setting up
the BSA was William D. Boyce, a Chicago newspaper
Boyce had first heard of Scouting in
August 1909 when he was in London, England. He was lost
in a fog, and a boy guided him to where he wanted to go.
'Me boy refused a tip because, he said, "Scouts do
not accept tips for courtesies or Good Turns."
Boyce was impressed. He learned as much
as he could about Scouting. After he got home, he
incorporated the BSA as an organization, but he had
little to do with the program.
A Modest Uncle
Baden-Powell is rightly considered the
founder of Scouting, but it was not his idea alone.
At a banquet in New York City in 1910,
Ernest Thompson Seton introduced Baden Powell as the
father of Scouting. Baden-Powell replied: "You are
mistaken, Mr. Seton .... I may say that you, or Dan
Beard, is the father - - there are many fathers. I am
only one of the uncles, I might say."
Baden-Powell was being modest, but
there was truth in what he said. Several of the training
games he described in "Scouting for Boys" were
taken from Seton's book, "The Birch-bark Roll of the
Woodcraft Indians." So was the idea of having boys
earn badges by meeting standards, not by competing
against other boys. Still, Baden-Powell is rightly
considered the founder of Scouting.
Born Aug. 14, 1860, in
England; died Oct. 23, 1946. Chief Scout of BSA, artist,
author, naturalist. Compiled, first American Boy Scout
handbook. Promoted wood craft and Indian lore.
|Seton was born in England
in 1860, three years after Baden-Powell. Seton lived in
Canada through most of his boyhood. He studied nature and
wildlife on a Canadian prairie farm. Like Baden-Powell,
he had a strong imagination and was an artist and
Seton became famous
in the United States as a wildlife artist and lecturer on
nature. He wrote and illustrated many books on animals
and American Indian life.
In 1898, he was living on an estate in
Cos Cob, Conn. The boys in the neighborhood decided to
test his temper by painting dirty words on his gate. But
instead of calling the cops, Seton invited the boys to
camp on his property.
The boys had a fine time camping and
learning about nature from the great outdoorsman. Out of
that camp-out came Seton's ideas for a group called the
Woodcraft Indians. He formed the first "tribe"
Seton based many of the symbols and
activities of the Woodcraft Indians on the cultures of
Native Americans. Woodcraft Indian "braves"
could be from 8 to 15 years old. Three to 10 braves made
up a band, and two or more bands were a tribe. 'Me only
adult leader was called a Medicine Man. Woodcraft Indians
could earn badges by learning various skills. The badges,
called wampum, were bits of shell.
Seton himself sent the wampum to boys
who wrote that they had done the tests. An old Woodcraft
Indian once recalled: "I completed the first four
tests and he mailed me four pieces of wampum .... I was
very proud of the fact that these four pieces of wampum
entitled me to wear four eagle feathers-turkey feathers,
of course-in my Indian headdress."
DANIEL CARTER BEARD
Born June 21, 1850, in
Cincinnati, Ohio; died June 11, 1941. National
Commissioner of BSA, illustrator, author. Brought his
Sons of Daniel Boone boys' organization into BSA.
Promoted wood craft, camping, and hiking.
|'Me third boys' hero who
fathered the BSA was Daniel Carter Beard, the oldest of
the three men. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1850,
the son of an artist.
had a fun-filled boyhood in the woods along the Ohio
River. His ideal men were the frontiersmen who blazed the
trails for settlers-men such as Daniel Boone, Davy
Crockett, Simon Kenton and Johnny Appleseed.
Writer and Editor
As a young man Dan Beard became a
surveyor and map maker. At age 28 he left that job to
illustrate and write for books and magazines.
Beard published his most popular book,
'The American Boys' Handy Book," in 1882. 'Me book
was full of ideas for things to do-swimming, camping
skills, boat building, fishing, making a snow fort.
In 1905, while he was editor of Recreation
magazine, Dan Beard started the Sons of Daniel Boone.
The purpose was to show boys how to have fun outdoors, to
teach good citizenship, and to promote conservation.
Beard explained the program in the
pages of Recreation magazine. There were no badges
to be earned and no adult leaders.
Beard suggested that the boys make
their own uniforms in frontiersman style.
The Sons of Daniel Boone (and Beard's
later organization, the Boy Pioneers) had
"stockades" of eight boys each. Four stockades
made up a "fort."
Neither Beard's Sons of Daniel Boone
nor Seton's Woodcraft Indians ever had a large
membership. Both men took on top volunteer positions soon
after the founding of the BSA. Seton became Chief Scout,
and Beard became the National Commissioner.
James E. West
Born May 16, 1876, in
Washington, D.C.; died May 15, 1948. First Chief Scout
Executive of BSA, Boys'Life editor, lawyer. Guided
BSA's early years; over saw growth and public acceptance
of Scouting movement
|The fourth of the fathers
of Scouting could not have been more different from
Baden-Powell, Seton, and Beard. He was James E. West, who
appealed to boys like two hours of homework.
But West was the right man at the right time. He
was a genius at organization, just what the BSA needed
when it started.
James West was much younger than the
other "fathers." He was 34 when the BSA began;
Beard was 60, Baden-Powell, 53, and Seton, 50.
A Orphan With
Both of James West's parents died
before he was 7 years old, so he was sent to live in an
orphanage in Washington, D.C.
Soon after, tuberculosis germs attacked
one of his hips and knees. He spent two years in the
hospital and was left with a permanent limp.
It was a hard life at the orphanage,
but it made James West tough. At times he served as
handyman, laundry operator, librarian, night watchman,
and chicken raiser.
Lawyer and Helper of
He earned a law degree as a young
man. In his spare time West took on volunteer jobs
for kids. He helped to set up Washington's first
juvenile court so that children would not have to be
tried in adult courts.
He had a big part in building the
city's playgrounds. He helped form the Child Rescue
League, which placed 2,000 children in foster homes. In
1910, when the leaders of the new BSA asked West to be
their chief executive, he did not want to take the job.
Finally he agreed to, serve for six months. The six
months stretched into 32 years.
West was a hard-driving executive and a
demanding boss. One minute he would be chewing out an
employee, the next, patting him on the back. From 1922
until his retirement in 1943, James West was editor of Boys'
Life as well as Chief Scout Executive.
Conflict Among the Fathers
James West's desire to run the BSA in a
businesslike manner did not always sit well with Ernest
Seton and Daniel Beard.
After clashing with James West several
times, Seton left the BSA in 1915. He blasted West as a
"man of great executive ability, but without
knowledge of the activities of boys; who has no point of
contact with boys, and who, I might say, has never seen
the blue sky in his life."
Dan Beard stayed in Scouting. Until his
death in 1941 at the age of 91, he was the revered
"Uncle Dan" to thousands of Scouts.
Shaping America's Youth
Each of the four men described here
shaped the Boy Scouts of America. In turn, the BSA has
shaped the lives of millions of young people. It
continues to do so today.
That is the legacy of the fathers of
---Robert W. Peterson