Boys' Historic Uniforms: The Sons of Daniel Boone/Boy Pioneers

Figure 1.--.

American Daniel Carter Beard founded the Sons of Daniel Boone in 1905. The name for this organization was obvious. More than any other man, Daniel Boone was responsible for the exploration and settlement of Kentucky--the western frontier of 18th century America. The Sons of Daniel Boone was in the 1900s, the largest boys organization in America. In many ways the movement was innstep with the future Boy Scout movement. The Soms of Daniel Boone in particular preached aptriotism, in sharp contrast with the other princial precursor group, Ernest Thompson Seaton's Woodcrafy Indians. Beard was a strong advovate of Scouting and joined his organizxation with the Boy Scouts of America.

Daniel Carter Beard

Daniel Carter Beard graduated from Wallace's Academy, as a civil engineer and surveyor. He made insurance maps until he visited New York on vacation and stayed to study art. His illustrations and articles graced the pages of St. Nicholas Magazine (where Jungle Book first appeared) and Youth's Companion. These magazines, especially St. Nicholas was a major publisher for American writers and illustrators in the late 19th century. Little Lord Fauntleroy was first published in the magazine and the illustrations by Reginald Birch had a phenomenal impact on boys' fashions. Beard was himself an accomplished illustrator. His articles and accompanying illustrations were later compiled into a series of books that had an enormous impact on American Scouting. Beard taught art from 1883 to 1890 at the Women's School of Applied Design. He was widely regognized as one of the leading American illustrators. "Uncle Dan" was chosen to illustrate Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court. Beard was extremely interested in American history and heritage as well as nature and wildlife. He received the only gold Eagle badge ever awarded and the Roosevelt gold medal for distinguished service. He was the president of the Society of Illustrators and of the Camp Fire Club. Near Mt. McKinley in Alaska is Mt. Beard that was named in his honor.


To keep alive the spirit of the pioneers, he formed "The Society of the Sons of Daniel Boone" (SDB). This group grew to become the largest boy's club in America. It developed into "The Boy Pioneers" in 1905. His writings on the group appeared in Recreation magazine for which he was an Editor. The boys were encouraged to keep an old unloaded gun as part of their fort. A fort was a branch of the club. The forts would keep records of their good deeds such as protecting forests and wildlife by cutting notches in their gun stocks. The boys chanted: "Cut a notch, cut a notch, cut a notch soon, For we are the Sons of Daniel Boone."


Beard in founding the SDB ientified himself and his group with a central symbol of American nationalism--the pioneer scout. Raised in Kentucky he chose Daniel Boone who was much more important in American fokelore until Walt Disney raised Davt Crockett to icvon status in the 1950s. Beard posed himself as modern America's last real link with the world of Daniel Boone and pioneer America. [Macleod, pp. 132-133.]


Beard unlike Seaton was not primarily concerned with establishing a youth movement. He was a respected illustrator and free-lance writer. He knew and excahnged ideas with Seaton. He began backwoods camping camping as an adult. He moved socially on the fringes of the fashionable world of outdoorsmen and big-game hunters, something which Seaton would have found distasreful. He founded the SDB in 1905 primarily as a circulation-building device for Recreation. [Macleod, pp. 132-133.]


Beard loved gadgets. As in so much him and Seaton were dimetrically opposite. Seaton founded an group set arond Native American lore, Beard 3 years later chose the pioneers. Seaton sought simplicity, Beard delighted in think up new gadgets. This began in the 1880s when he vegan writing how-to articles for boys. He expalined how to camp, how to fish, and the correct approach to many other outdoor activities. He published his American Boys' Handy Book (1882) which proved a great success and sold for years. His suggested approaches were not always very practical. One observer writes, "Beard had a weakness for the sort of design that required two trees spaced just right and forty straight poles; but he gushed enthusiasm, and boys daydreamed over his plans. The SDB was in this fanciful vein, since Beard's guidance consisted almost entirely of plans for gadgets and games such as simulated gander pulling on bicycle." [Macleod, pp. 132-133.]


Beard developed none of the compeling vision for the SDB that so motivated Seaton's Woodcraft Indians. Besides patriotism, Beard preached nativism and masculinity. He contrasted Seton's Indians with the ideal pioneer. He insisted that SDB's very "soul" was "essentially American" He expalined, "We play American games and learn to emulate our great American forebears in lofty aims and iron characters..." Beard also maintained that outdoor pursuits would toughen boys. "We want no Molly Coddles," he explained. [Macleod, pp. 132-133.]

Magazine Club

The SDB can only loosley be called a youth group. It was really a magazine club and its original purpose was to help sell the magazine. There were many such clubs that were offered in children's magazines at the time. In fact as he received less attention in Recreation Beard moved to the Woman's Home Companion in 1906 then had a disagreement with the editors there in 1908. The renamed the SDB the Boy Pioneers (BP). They were featured for a few years in the Pictorial Review. This even lasted after Beared joined the BSA into the the 1920's as an activity for boys not yet old enough for Scouting. Interesting that Beard opposed a Cubbing movement within the BSA for these younger boys. [Macleod, p. 133.]


There were many weaknesses to the SDB/BP. The magazine club appraoxh made the membership very unstavle. To make matters worse, Beard did not intially require adult control at new dorts. He did no want to limit any potential new recruits. Recruiting adult leadership was essential for the organization. Adults were needed to generate new ideas and incourage persistence. As it turned out, most SDB forts collapsed once the novelty of the group wore off. Beard never develop a full program or any meaninful central organization to promote the group and support existing forts. [Macleod, p. 133.]The SDB/BP membership roles did provide recruits for Scouting and some forts made the transition to Scout troops.


HBU at this time has no information on the uniform, if any worn by Sons of Daniel Boone/Boy Pioneers.


Beard was quick to embrace William D. Boyce's Boy Scout movement. His Sons of Daniel Boone/Boy Pioneers were merged into the BSA and he became the BSA's first National Commissioner and Chairman of the Court of Honor. It was his idea to Americanize the Boy Scout fleur-de-lis, worn by Scouts all over the world, by adding the highly nationalistic American eagle and shield. His design for the emblem was granted a design patent by the U.S. patent office on July 4, 1911. Beard unlike Seaton was able survive in Boy Scouting as a figurehead. Because he had no overarching vision for Scouting, there were no issues to cause difficulties with BSA Executive James West. Berd's emphasis on patriotism and camping techniques fit in very neatly with the evolving Boy Scout program. [Macleod, p. 133.]


Like James West, Beard was originally against a younger boy program for Scouting and felt the term "Cub" derogatory. Given his attachment to guns--this may have been a good isea. This was one reason that the BSA postponed for years the adoption of a Cub proram.

Books By Daniel Carter Beard

Daniel Carter Berard wrote an impressive number of books, some more successful tyhan others. His scouting books had a significant impact on American Scouting.

American Boy's Handy Book, 1882, 1903

The American Girl's Handy Book, 1887

The American Boy's Book of Sport, 1890

Moonlight and Six Feet of Romance, 1892

The Outdoor Handy Book , 1896

Jack of All Trades, 1900, 1904?

Field and Forest Handy Book, 1906

Animal Book and Campfire Stories, 1907

Boy Pioneers and Sons of Daniel Boone, 1909

Boat, Building, and Boating, 1912

Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties, 1914 ,

The American Boy's Book of Bugs, Butterflies and Beetles, 1916

The American Boy's Book of Sign's, Signals and Symbols, 1918

The American Boy's Book of Camp-Lore and Woodcraft, 1920

The American Boy's Book of Wild Animals, 1921

The Black Wolf-Pack , 1922,

American Boy's Book or Birds and Brownies of the Woods, 1923

Do It Yourself, 1925

Wisdom of the Woods, 1926, 1927?

Buckskin Book For Buckskin Men and Boys, 1929

Hardly A Man is Now Alive, 1939


Macleod, David I. Building Character in the American Boy: The Boy Scouts, YMCA, and Their Forerunners, 1870-1920 (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1983), 315p.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: June 24, 2000
Last updated: July 27, 2002