A Brief History of the Boy Scouts of America - 1927-1940
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The third edition of the Handbook for Boys with cover art by Norman Rockwell is published. This truly revised handbook was the first major rewriting of the Handbook and was a massive improvement over earlier editions; it could be called the first modern Handbook and does not differ too much in layout or content from recent editions, except for the lack of color printing.

Early printings are the only Handbooks ever to discuss and recommend military drill for Scouts (the Handbook for Scoutmasters of this era devotes an entire chapter to it and recommends drill according to the US Army Infantry Drill Regulations for "five or ten minutes ... each meeting ... to keep up the morale of the troop"). Scouts of this period were supposed to learn 17 individual commands and 25 patrol and troop movements, all of which were deemed essential to good order, not only during meetings and in parades, but even on hikes. Ironically, Baden-Powell, Scouting's founder and a retired army General, strongly recommended against military drill for Scouts.

Later printings of the 3rd Edition are the first to tell Scouts how to wear a neckerchief properly (neckerchiefs were optional until about the early 1920s). This edition, for some reason, does not discuss lost procedures (the 8th Edition also omits procedures for being lost in the woods). Both the 3rd and 4th Editions list only eight planets in our solar system; although Pluto was discovered in 1930, it took the BSA several printings and more than a decade to add it to the Handbook's planet table.

Handbook trivia: The cover, from a 1929 Brown & Bigelow Scout calendar painting, entitled "Spirit of America" (painted in 1927), depicts the profile of a Scout with various historical figures in the background. Charles Lindbergh, who had just completed his historic flight, replaced a conquistador between the initial sketching and final painting.

Along with changes to the Handbook, the Eagle requirements are again revised. To become an Eagle, a Scout must be active as a First Class Scout for at least 1 year and earn 21 merit badges, with 12 required; while the list only includes the 11 previous requirements, the Lifesaving merit badge now requires completion of the Swimming merit badge.


Membership during the year is 819,791.

Four Scouts participated in the Lincoln Highway covered-wagon tour from coast to coast. Sea Scout Paul A. Siple accompanies Commander Richard E. Byrd to the Antarctic.

The fifth National Training Conference for Scout Executives held at Cornell University generates intense interest in the younger boy program. Experimental Cub units were started in each of the 12 regions of the National Council. In all, 106 locations were sanctioned for experimental Cub units across the nation. The 18th annual meeting was held in San Francisco.
Sea Scout Paul A. Siple


Membership during the year is 833,897.

The Third World Jamboree, held at Birkenhead, England, where 1,300 Scouts and Scouters represented the Boy Scouts of America, was attended by 50,000 Scouts representing 73 lands. It was followed by the Fifth International Scout Conference.

The Cub Scout program was put into operation on an experimental basis. Registration of all Scouters was authorized.


Membership during the year is 847,051. The Cub Scout program was formally launched; Cub books were issued including: Wolf, Bear, Lion, Parents' Cub Book, and Cub Leader's Outline. Uniforms for boys were issued ($6.05 complete) and 5,102 boys and 1,433 pack leaders in 243 packs were registered during the first year.

Scouts participated in the Oregon Trail Memorial Centennial.

The Chief Scout Executive served as chairman of the committee on youth outside the home and school for President Hoover's White House Conference on Child Health and Protection.

Scout circuses, merit badge exhibits, expositions, rallies, and other gatherings increased in number and scope.


Membership during the year is 878,358.

At the 21st annual meeting held in Memphis, Tenn., Mortimer L. Schiff was elected president. Within a month of his election, Scout organizations throughout the world were saddened by his untimely death. Walter W. Head was elected to fill the unexpired term of Mr. Schiff. The divisional plan of organization was put into operation at the national office.

The Sixth International Scout Conference was held near Vienna.

The first Silver Beaver Awards were presented for distinguished service to boyhood within a council.


Membership during the year is 878,461. First Cubmaster's Pack Book and Den Chiefs Den Book. Cubbing policies were published. By the end of the third year, 44,083 boys and 8,060 pack leaders registered.

At the 22nd annual meeting, the National Council adopted the 10-year program of growth - a plan to enroll one of every four 12-year-old boys and keep them in Scouting for 4 years. To stimulate this effort, President Hoover presented awards to Scout units, councils, and regions reaching a specific standard for the year.

Mrs. Jacob H. Schiff presented the Mortimer L. Schiff Scout Reservation at Mendham, N.J., in memory of her son.

Work in emergency relief continued. There was strong development in troop camping under council-trained leadership.


Membership during the year is 904,240. "Experimental" restrictions were removed as of May 25th from Cubbing and is to be "aggressively promoted as a part of the Boy Scout program." Cub Leaders' Roundtable publications issued for pack leaders. Registration for the fourth year: 51,884 boys and 7,542 leaders.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt became honorary president and former President Hoover, honorary vice president.

The Mortimer L. Schiff Scout Reservation was formally opened and dedicated. 

The Fourth World Jamboree was held at Godollo, Hungary, with 21,000 Scouts from 46 countries and an American contingent of 406 Scouts and leaders.


Membership during the year is 973,589. Cubbing had 64,739 boys and 8,269 leaders registered during the fifth year..

In response to the request of President Roosevelt in a radio address delivered February 10, Boy Scouts performed a nationwide Good Turn, collecting 1,812,284 items of clothing, household furnishings, foodstuffs, and supplies for the distressed and needy. President Roosevelt announced a national jamboree would be held in Washington, D.C., in 1935.

A strong program of cooperation was developed with the Catholic Church.

Special emphasis was placed on the health program.

The Order of the Arrow program was approved.


Membership during the year is 1,027,833, the first time the number of members exceeds one million.

The entire Scout membership celebrated the Silver Jubilee of Scouting. Observed as part of the 25th anniversary celebration: Boys' Life anniversary in March, ceremonies incident to the publication of the 5-millionth copy of the Handbook for Boys in April, the Silver Anniversary Meeting of the National Council in October, and Christmas holiday camps.

The proposed national jamboree was canceled because of an infantile paralysis epidemic.


Membership during the year is 1,069,837. Registrations of Den Mothers was made "optional"; before this year, it was not permitted. Smocks available for den mothers. C. Walter Seamans named assistant director of Cubbing. Cubbing reached 10 percent of the total of all boys registered in the Scouting program. Registrations: 114,515 boys and 19,296 pack leaders.

In a broadcast on February 8, President Roosevelt again invited the Scout membership to a national jamboree to be held in Washington in July 1937.

The Sixth National Training Conference for Scout Executives was held at French Lick, Ind. The 26th annual meeting of the National Council took place at Atlantic City. An experimental BSA Wood Badge course is offered, although the official inauguration of the course will not take place until 1948.

In recognition of its health and safety programs, the American Children's Fund made a grant of $100,000 to the Boy Scouts of America.

The new, Third Edition of the Handbook for Scoutmasters was published.

Eagle requirements are revised to now include completion of the Star and Life ranks, as well as the addition of a new merit badge requirement, Safety.


Membership during the year is 1,129,841.

The Pack Financial Record Book was developed and the "Pack Thrift Plan" was introduced. Full year planning calendar was issued. First Den Mother's Den Book. Registrations: 147,418 boys and 23,232, pack leaders. Cubmobiles (Soap Box Derby) racers introduced.

The First National Jamboree was held in Washington from June 30 to July 9, at the invitation of President Roosevelt, with an attendance of 27,232 representing 536 councils. This was followed by the Fifth World Jamboree at Vogelenzang, Holland, (attendance in the American contingent: 814) and the Ninth International Scout Conference.

A retirement plan for professional leaders was adopted.


Membership during the year is 1,242,009.

First International Cub Leader's Conference at Gilwell Park, England. Bobcat pin introduced (for civilian wear). Den mother's badge approved. New Den Chief shoulder cord and Cub advancement record introduced. The How Book of Cubbing published. Registrations: 182,514 boys and 34,117 pack leaders.

The national program emphasized Americanism and a rededication to the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence.

A magnificent gift was made by Waite Phillips, a campsite known as Philturn Rockymountain Scoutcamp (later changed to Philmont Scout Ranch—see 1941) consisting of 35,857 acres of land on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountain Continental Divide, near Cimarron, N.M.

Scouts rendered unusual service in the New England hurricane and floods.

The first grants from the Frank Phillips Foundation were made in Oklahoma and part of Texas to extend Scouting.


Membership during the year is 1,357,993.

Cubbing Guidebook and new manual for den mother training were produced. A cub literature bulletin outlined all of the publications available to pack leaders. Donald C. Green appointed Assistant Director of Cubbing. Registrations: 234,953 boys and 42,009 pack leaders. Pow-wows and roundtables began in many councils.

Philturn Rockymountain Scoutcamp was opened for advanced Scout camping.

Scouts participated in the Golden Gate Exposition and at the New York World's Fair. A session of the 29th annual meeting was held at the New York World's Fair for a citizenship ceremony when a group of former Scouts who had just become 21 were formally received into citizenship by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts.

The 10th International Scout Conference was held in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Seventh National Training Conference for Scout Executives was held at Bretton Woods, N.H. The Boy Scouts of America was represented at the White House Conference on Youth in a Democracy by the Chief Scout Executive.

Special experimental work with Scouting in less-chance areas was carried on through the Irving Berlin Fund.


Membership during the year is 1,449,412.

John M. Bierer became the second chairman of the National Cubbing Committee, succeeding Dr. William D. Murray. Themes were introduced into the Cubbing program, with a "Summer Program" pamphlet issued, Cub Pow Wows were introduced as a training medium. "Your Boy" promotion along with the Cub "Goodwill" emphasis. Den chief training course launched. Gerald A. Speedy was named assistant director. Registrations: 286,402 boys and 49,161 pack leaders.

Boy Scouts served again at the New York World's Fair and at the Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco. A Boy Scout program for helping in national emergencies and government defense programs was adopted. Outstanding events included troop inventory and roll call, adoption of emergency service corps, and mobilization plans.

Royalties from Berlin's "God Bless America" finance urban Scouting.


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Page last updated July 01, 2006 (DMC)