** Camp Fire youth organization

Camp Fire

Figure 1.--This 1912 item from the "Ladies Home Journal explained what the Camp Fire Girls stood for. Notice the early uniforms looking like middy blouses.

HBU has obtained some conflicting information about Camp Fire and is not yet sure how to reconsile the different information reported. The Camp Fire Girls were founded in 1911. Camp Fire began operating almost immediately after the Boy Scouts. The founders included Julia Seton (Ernest Thompson Seton's wife), Lina Beard (Daniel Beard's sister), and James E. West, appointed the BSA's Chief Scout Executive in 1911. Another source reports that the Camp Fire Girls, is the outgrowth of a unique summer camping program developed by Dr. and Mrs. Luther Halsey Gulick. Camp Fire was for many years for girls only. The program is now coed, though its membership is still overwhelmingly made up of girls. Some younger boys participate, but they have generally had difficulty recruiting boys.


The Camp Fire Girls were founded in 1910. Camp Fire began operating almost immediately after the Boy Scouts. The Scouting founders included Grace Seton (Ernest Thompson Seton's first wife), Lina Beard (Daniel Beard's sister), and James E. West, appointed the BSA's Chief Scout Executive in 1911. Camp Fire was founded by the the Gullicks. The fact that the founders of Camp Fire wee the wives or sisters of men involved in youth movements speaks volumes about the role od women in the early 20th century.

Grace Gallatin Seaton

Ernest Thompson Seaton married for the first time in 1896, to Grace Gallatin, a wealthy socialite, who was also a pioneer traveler, founder of a women's writers club, a first rank suffragette, and a leading fund raiser for War Bonds during World War I. Grace Gallatin Seton was born in Sacramento California. Her father had a home built in Sacramento in 1877 he sold it to Joseph Steffens father of Lincoln Steffens in 1887. Steffens sold it to the State of California as a home for the Governors. Thirteen California governors have lived in the mansion. It is now a State Historic Park and landmark. Jane Gallatin the older sister of Grace married Frank Powers (a lawyer). After the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, Jane and Frank co-founded the art colony Carmel-by-the�Sea. Grace was the co-founder of the Pioneer Girls later known as the Campfire Girls. Grace Gallatin Seton was an author in her own right and traveled around the world writing stories about her travels. Their only child, a daughter, Ann, was born in 1904. Grace lived until 1959. Ann who wrote under the pen-name of Anya Seton, wrote historical novels that were very popular, several were made into movies in the 1940s and 50s. Anya passed away in 1990. [Lee}

Lina Beard

We do not yet have details on Lina Beard, other than she was Daniel Beard's sister. Daniel became president of the Camp Fire Club.

James E. West

James E. West was an attorney active with juvenile cases in Washington DC. He was recruited in 1911 as Executive Secretary, in part because Boyce wanted the BSA based in natioanal capital to demonstrate the organization's national character. West changed his title to Chief Scout Executive. He more than any other person created a well-organized national structure that was a key to the BSA's growth and reputation. He intended to make Scouting only a temporary diversion from his legal career, but that changed with the tremendous growth of the movement. West remained Chief Scout Executive from 1911 until he retired in 1943. Scouting founder Willam D. Boyce did not get along with West. Boyce saw Scouting has his own organization. As a result of the quarel and differences of opinion, West had Boyce's name virtually deleted from BSA records. West also had problems with Ernest Thompson Seaton another founder of the Scouting movement. Both Seaton and West were strong-willed individuals. They had conflicting ideas on how Scouting should develop. Seton was deeply committed to the ethos of Scouting saw West as a city lawyer and simple administrator/ He challenged West's authority to control the young program's development. West controlled the BSA organization and power base, and forced Seton out in 1916. Seaton's writing was removed from the Boy Scout Handbook. Drspite Seaton's departure, like Boyce, these men left an indelible impression on American Scouting. West for many years resisted the creation of a Cubbing program for younger boys. Parents

The Gullicks

Some souces report that Dr. and Mrs. Luther Halsey Gulick played a major role in founding Camp Fire.


One source reports that Camp Fire, Inc., formerly known as the Camp Fire Girls, is the outgrowth of a unique summer camping program developed by Dr. and Mrs. Luther Halsey Gulick. In large, full bloomers, white middies and blue ties, a group of girls spent two summers at Lake Sebago, Maine, in a program of fire building, cooking, sewing, bedmaking, singing, Indian lore, and folk dancing. The success of the program and the need for an ongoing year-round activity for girls attracted a group of unusual men and women who were destined to begin the first national, non-sectarian organization for girls in the United States.

Girl Pioneers

The Camp Fire Girls were first known as the Girl Pioneers, but we have few detils on this. A New York newspaper article indicated that Mrs. Ernest Thompson Seton (Grace Seaton) organized a national meeting where the Girl Pioneers were founded (1911). This followed the founding of the Boy Scouts (1908). At the time several similar groups were forming throughout America at the local level to provide a scouting experience for girls. They used various names such as Girl Aides, Guides,and Scouts. Seaton' Girl Pioneer organization was an effort to provide a national organization. [New York Sun] Eventually two competing organizations emerged. Seaton's organization became the Camp Fire Girls. The other major group was the Girl Scouts. This topic is a little confusing as a variety od smaller groups, often church based, chose the pioneer title. One example is the Pioneer Girls which was the sister organization of the Christian Service Brigade, an American Baptist Church group for boys. Pioneer Girls were 3rd-6th grade, older girls were Colonists and Explorers. Both clubs merged to become today's Pioneer Club.

Camp Fire Girls

The name, Camp Fire Girls, was chosen from among hundreds suggested. The word "Camp" symbolizes the outdoor spirit of the organization. "Fire" symbolizes the home, the place of comfort and cheer, and keeping the fire burning, whether in camp or in a home, was a necessary task. As early as 1913, small groups of girls in Oklahoma City were meeting together as Camp Fire Girls. Each group formulated its own program, based upon scanty information they received explaining the general purpose of Camp Fire Girls and the philosophy upon which it was built.


The junior division of Camo Fire was the Blue Birds.

Figure 2.--Camp Fire was originally the Camp Fire Girls which competed with the Girl Scouts. Like the Scouts, considerable attention was given to uniform.

Chrnological Trends

Camp Fire was founded at about the same time as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts (1910). The Boy Scouts had no serious competiuor. Camp Fire became a major compeitor for the Girl Scouts. The Oklahoma City School Board in 1926 realized the need for a program of extracurricular activities for girls which would further their education in areas beyond daily classroom offerings. Camp Fire Girls was requested to come to Oklahoma City to help the group of locally concerned adults set about the business of formal organization and structure. The Oklahoma City Council of Camp Fire Girls was in 1929 incorporated under the laws of the State of Oklahoma. Not a very prospitious year as it was the same year in which the Great Depression began. Wesee several moves, but Camp Fire gradually became a major American youth program and a cimpetitor for the Girl Scouts. Miss Mildred Clark became part-time secretary for the brand new council and office space was provided in a small corner of McEwen-Halliburton's Department Store (NE corner of Main and Hudson). Shortly thereafter, Miss Grace Hartnell (Mrs. Leslie Connor) became the executive secretary. The office by 1934 had moved to the Commerce Exchange building (SE corner of Robinson and Sheridan), and Lou B. Paine (Mrs. James Mooney) was employed as the executive director. The next move was to a suite of rooms in the YWCA (across from the County Court House) where Camp Fire Girls was officed until the fall of 1966. For two years rented space at 811 N Western served as the base of operations. In December of 1968, the Oklahoma City Council moved into its own beautiful home at 717 NE 21st, purchased through the girls' efforts in the annual candy sale. We do not yet have much chrionologucal information, but we are constantly adding images and information to the Youth Organizatiin sction. .

Inclusion of Boys

Camp Fire was for many years for girls only. The program is now coed. The Camp Fire Girls in 1975, as a part of the New Day Program, began registering boys as members. It is unclear as to what the boys thought of becoming Camp Fire Firls. In 1979 the problem was solved by officially renaming the national organization to Camp Fire, Inc. On June 1, 1986, the name of the Oklahoma City Council was officially changed to the Heart of Oklahoma Council of Camp Fire. This action was taken to better identify the various towns and communities within council jurisdiction. Came Fire's membership is still overwhelmingly made up of girls. Some younger boys participate, but they have generally had difficulty recruiting boys.


At a national board of directors meeting in November 1988, program levels by grade were changed to: Starflight for members in grades K-2; Adventure for grades 3-5; Discovery for grades 6-8; and Horizon for grades 9-12. In March of 1991, a vision of the future became a reality when the council moved into a new headquarters and training center on the grounds of Camp DaKaNi (3309 E Hefner Road).

Current Program

Camp Fire today provides coeducational programming for approximately 629,000 participants annually through 125 councils in 41 states and the District of Columbia. As a not-for-profit, youth development organization, Camp Fire provides programs for youth from birth to age 21. Boys were invited to join Camp Fire in 1975 and now make up 46 percent of the organization. Camp Fire helps boys and girls learn and play side by side in comfortable, informal settings. The Camp Fire coed programs allow parents to consolidate schedules for both their daughters and sons.

Figure 3.--Camp Fire now includes both boys and girls. The uniform is red, white, and blue, but in the 1990s considerably less attention is given to the uniform.

Recent Changes

Camp Fire changed its name in 2001 to Camp Fire USA and expanded the programs. [Pezzuto]


Early Camp Fire Girls uniforms looked rther like middy blouses (figure 1). The modern Camp Fire uniform had a patriotic red, white, and blue motif. The girls wore a blue benie, vest and skirt or shorts with blue knee socks, along with a white shirt and red kerchief. Boys who joined wore the same uniform, of course, with long or short pants. Camp Fire has not given the same attention to uniform, however, as the Boy Scouts.


Lee, Rodi. Interprter, California State Parks, E-mail message, July 31, 2007.

Pezzuto, Rosemary. e-Mail message, May 31, 2005.

New York Sun (newspaper) (June 11, 1911).


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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: 6:43 PM 1/23/2021