*** U.S. cub scout history

United States Cub Scout History

American Cub Scouts
Figure 1.--This photograph was taken in the 1930s, showing boy the Cuba and Scout uniform. American Scouts, unlike Scouts in other countries, wore knickers. Note that the early Cub uniforms did not have the yellow piping on the pants.

The Boy Scouts of America in 1930 created a new opportunity called Cub Scouting for boys younger than Boy Scout age. A Wolf Cub program had long been a part of English Scouting. The BSA dithered for some 15 years on a Cubbing program. The BSA was concerned about the impact on the Scouting program for the older boys.n Cubbing despite the BSA's reluctance was an immediate success in America. It greatly increased the size of the American Boy Scout movement. The BSA decided on a different uniform for the Cubs.


The origins of the Cub Scouts, or Cubbing as it was first called, date back to the very beginning of the Scout movement as it was first conceived in England by Lord Robert Baden-Powell. Organized youth programs in America preceded Scouting. The author and illustrator, Ernest Thompson Seton had created an organization called the Woodcraft Indians in 1902. It was designed for boys aged 12 to 15 years and was based on American Indian lore and outdoor life. In 1906 he added the Little Lodge of Woodcraft Indians for younger boys and girls. The Little Lodge was the first group for younger children--the first Cub-like organization. Seton met with Baden Powell in London during 1906 to discuss his ideas. Baden Powell incorporated some of Seton's ideas and later credited Seton with being one of the fathers of Boy Scouting and Cubbing. Baden Powell published Scouting for Boys in 1908, thus starting the English and in fact the world Scouting movement--although Cubbing did not begin for until the next decade. Scouting was a tremendous success with boys in London.

The story of Scouting and Cubbing in the United States begins in London only a year after the Scouts were founded. It was the famed "Unknown Scout" that helped bring the Scouting movement to the United States. One foggy day in London, England in 1909 an American businessman named William Boyce was lost in London's notorious fog. It was the typical "pea soup" for which London is famous. Out of nowhere, a boy approached and offered to help the lost Ameriacn. Boyce was concerned because large cities had street gangs of young boys who survived by robbing, and sometimes murdering, to obtain money. None the less, Boyce told him the address he was was looking for and the boy led him there. Once he arrived, Boyce offered him a shilling for his service and was quite surprised when the boy refused. The boy stated that he was a Scout and could not take anything for helping, that Scouts were obliged to do a good turn daily. Not knowing what a Scout was, Boyce asked the boy to explain. Boyce was so intrigued with the explanation that he had the boy take him to the Scouting office. There Boyce talked with Baden Powell about the program. The name of the boy, unfortunately, lost to history. Boyce was so impressed he took the ideas of Scouting back to America with him. On February 8, 1910, Boyce and a group of other businessmen founded the Boy Scouts of America.

The Younger Boys

Scouting from its foundation, both in England and in America, there was a "problem" with the younger boys below Scouting age. The younger brothers of Scouts were constantly tagging along with their older brothers. Boys without older brothers didn't want to miss out of the fun, either. Many Scout troops on their own started junior troops or mascot troops in order to meet this need.

Cubbing in England

Baden Powell gradually developed a program based on symbols and stories from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. He publishedf The Wolf Cub Handbook in 1916, making Wolf Cubbing, as the British called it, an official part of Scouting in England.

Interest in America

The Wolf Cub Handbook quickly made its way to America. Many Cubbing units were started without the official endorsement of the Boy Scouts of America. Surprisingly there was considerable opposition to Cubbing in America. James E. West, Boy Scouts of Americas Chief Executive, opposed the program because he feared it might take adult leadership away from a still young Boy Scout program. He also felt the older boys needed the program more so than the younger boys. Another man with a name familiar to many Scouts and Scouters today agreed with West. That man was Daniel Carter Beard, National Scout Commissioner. Even so, West succumbed to the pressure of the younger boy "problem" and in 1918, he took the American copyright of Baden Powell's The Wolf Cub Handbook. The National Supply Office carried the book for the next 10 years as a resource to Cub Pack Leaders, even though the BSA had no official program for the younger boys.

Cubbing Develops (The 1920s)

The growing interest in an official Cub program kept West working on a solution. In 1922 West reported that he was keeping up with "experiments" with programs for the younger boys. In 1924 at the National Scout Conference, the National Executive Board was asked to investigate and prepare a program for younger boys as soon as possible. A committee was formed in 1925 to perform a study of other youth programs and make recommendations. It recommended a program for younger boys be prepared which would link to home, church, school and Boy Scouting. More recommendations were made in 1926 to adopt a program called "The Cubs", essentially the same program as Cubbing in England. West agreed with these recommendations, but he was still concerned it would take leaders away from Boy Scouting. In 1928 a thorough study was started and led to American Cub Scouting (or Cubbing as it was called in the "old days"). Field testing began and by August 1929 demonstration units were authorized. The Boy's Cubbook Part 1 was sent to the printer in December, 1929. Finally, on February 10, 1930 the Executive Board heard the report on the "experiments" and authorized Cub Packs to register with BSA on April 1, 1930. After 20 years, Cubbing (not Cub Scouting) was formed!

Cubbing: The First Decade (The 1930s)

Cubbing in America grew slowly in its first few years. The National Committee on Cubbing closely supervised the new program. The Executive Board was pleased to find their fears that Cubbing would draw needed leaders from from Boy Scouts prove ill founded. Of the Cubbing Leaders, over 75 percent had never previously participated in Scouting. On May 25, 1933 the Executive Board removed the "experimental" label from Cubbing and aggressive marketing began. The operation of the original Cub packs and dens have many similarities to modern Cub Scouts, but there have been some major changes: Packs: The original Cub packs was quite similar to current packs. Cubbing was for the 9 to 11 year old boy. Th e ranks he earned were Wolf, Bear and Lion, (former Cubs through the 1950s might remember the Lion rank) and a boy had to pass Bobcat entrance tests before he could start working on his ranks. Dens: The original Cub den, however, was noteably different from modertn dens. As originally designed, the Cub Den was run by an older Boy Scout called the Den Chief (we still have those, they are helpers and not organizers). Although she had no official role in the den, the mother of the home where the den met frequently helped with the den. It soon became clear that dens with adult leadership did better than those with the Den Chief alone. Optional registration for Den Mothers (like the British Akela) was approved by the Executive Board on April 30, 1936. The first Den Mothers Handbook was published in March, 1937. Registration of Den Mothers was not required until 1948. Another major difference between then and now is the Den Chief or the Cubmaster signed off on the Cubs requirements, not the parents as they do now. The original Cub uniform was, like the modern uniform, blue. The boys wore knickers, there was no long pants in the original Cubbing. The uniform was fairly expensive, a considerable drawback in depression era America. (The stock market crashed in 1929 leading to the Great Depression.) The complete Cub uniform in 1930 sold for $6.05 (that is equivalent to about $57.00 today). The Den Mother's smock, first offered in 1937, sold for $3.50 (equivalent to about $38.00 today). The BSA in 1933 started a monthly publication called The Cub Leaders' Round Table offering ideas on pack and den activities. By 1939 many local councils were offering annual gatherings of Cub Leaders for training purposes. This continues to this day with annual training gatherings called Pow Wows. Cubbing ended 1930 with only about5,100 registered Cubs. In 1939 there were nearly 235,000 registered Cubs and 42,000 leaders--a considerable achievement considering the Depression. Cubs became entenched in many elementary schools.

The War and Post War Years (The 1940s)

American Cubbing continued to grow and develop during the 40's. The first monthly theme offered to Cub Leaders was presented in January of 1940. That theme was "Be Kind to Birds." Also in 1940, the Cubbing summertime activities were promoted nationally with the publication the Summer Program pamphlet. The first Den Chief training course was also launched in 1940.

The BSA made two major changes were made to the rank advancement system during the 1940s.
Weblows: The Webelos rank was added in 1941. It was initially for the 11-year old boy who had completed his Lion badge and had also completed certain requirements for the Boy Scout Rank of Tenderfoot. The Webelos badge at the time looked like the Arrow of Light patch we know today.
Promotion system: Initially a boy who joined Cubbing had to start with the Wolf rank, after completing his Bobcat requirements, and work his way up, regardless of his age. In 1942 this requirement was dropped so the boy could immediately start working on the rank that would go with his age, again after completing his Bobcat requirements. That meant that an 11 year old boy who joined did not have to complete the Wolf and Bear ranks before he started on the Lion Rank.
Uniform display: A boy could was allowed to wear all of his rank and arrow points on his uniform shirt. When Cubbing first started, he could only wear his current rank and arrow points.

The Japanese attack on Pear Harbor on December 7, 1941, changed America for ever. Scouting and the Cubs were ready to help. BSA immediately offered its resources to the war effort. In fact, Scouting started its effort early during the spring and summer of 1941 when it began a nationwide newspaper and aluminum collection effort. During the war, BSA collected nearly 5,900 tons of rubber, 17,400 tons of tin cans, 20,800 tons of other scrap metal and 591,000 tons of paper. Scouts even collected milkweed floss to replace kapok in lifejackets since kapok was in short supply. There is no way to recount all of the individual projects performed by individual units around the country, but there were many. It was not quite like the role Scouts played in the occupied countries, but it was a useful contribution to America's war effort.

The BSA decided to change the Cub uniform in 1946. This followed a change in the Scout uniform. Knickers were phased out and long pants were allowed. A similar change was made in the Cub uniform, phasing out lnickers. Cubs could wear either long or short pants, but most boys opted for the long pants uniform. This varied greatly from pack to pack and on the attitude of the Den mother (Akela) toward proper atire.

One important decision in the 1940s was to change the name of the Cubs. The BSA decided in 1945 to drop the term "Cubbing" in favor of "Cub Scouting," making the name used today official. Up to that time the boys were referred to as Cubs and the movement as Cubbing. The name Cub Scouts was reserved for Boys Scouts that had been Cubs.

Another fixture of Cub Scouting today was also born in the 40's--the Blue and Gold Banquet. While many units and districts were having annual dinners before this time, the term Blue and Gold Banquet appeared in official Cub Scouting literature in 1943. The biggest change to Cub Scouting in the 40's was probably the change in age requirements which were put into effect in 1949. The entry age was dropped from 9 years old to 8 and boys could continue through their 10th year. Boy Scouts made a similar change, dropping the entry age from 12 to 11 years old. At the end of 1949 there were 767,000 registered Cub Scouts and 216,000 adult leaders.

The Golden Age of Cub Scouting (The 1950s)

Cub Scouting grew tremendously in the 50's. Many refer to it as the Golden Age because so many boys particopated in the program. Incomes were rising in America. Most boys who wanted to could participate. Alternative programs for boys were still quite limited. The Cub program was heavily promoted in many elementary schools. As a result a greater propotion of boys participated in Cub Scouts during the 1950s than ever before or since.

The BSA implemented major changes during the 1950s in the BSA's continuing effort to improve Cub Scouting. The Pinewood Derby and Raingutter Regatta were introduced, as well as the creation of Webelos Dens. There were also several changes in requirements and the handbooks. The 50's were also filled with numerous Good Turns. Some people refer to to the 50's as the "Golden Age" of Cub Scouting.

The Pinewood Derby car first appeared in the October 1954 issue of Boys' Life. While the supply catalog had listed various car kits over the years, this was when the instructions for making the car and track first appeared. The Pinewood Derby is one of the most anticipated events in Cub Scouting today. The June 1955 theme was "Wheels, Wings, and Things." The Cub Scout Program Quarterly for that summer offered instructions for building the cars and track. The supply catalog offered kits for $2.75 (that is equivalent to $16.00 today). The kit had enough supplies for eight pinewood derby cars. The Raingutter Regatta kits first appeared in the supply catalog in 1958. The kit cost $2.95 and was enough for eight boats.

In the spring of 1954, after 2 years of study, major changes were made to the advancement program. The Webelos Den was created and was intended for 10 1/2 year old boys who had earned the Lion rank. The Webelos Den was meant to improve and smooth the transition into Boy Scouts. The leader of the den was to be a male registered as an Assistant Cubmaster. A new handbook, the Lion-Webelos Book, was published to address the changes. Many changes were also made to the titles of electives and achievements at the same time which reguired the publishing of new Wolf and Bear Cub Scout Books.

This was also a period of many national Good Turns by the Boy Scouts. In 1950 and 1951 Scouts collected two million pounds of clothing for overseas relief. For the 1952 presidential elections, 30 million "Liberty Bell" doorknob hangers and one million posters were distributed by 1.8 million Scouts. In 1954 Scouts planted 6.2 million trees, set out 55,000 bird nesting boxes and prepared 41,000 public displays for the Conservation Good Turn. In 1956, again for the presidential elections, Scouts distributed 36 million doorknob hangers and 1.35 million posters. In 1958 safety was the theme for the National Good Turn. Forty million emergency handbooks prepared by the Office of Civil Defense Mobilization were distributed by Scouts. In 1960 BSA conducted its third-get-out-and-vote campaign. At the end of 1959 there were 1.8 million registered Cub Scouts and 0.6 million registered adults.

Changes in the Program (The 1960s)

The 1960's was another decade of change for Cub Scouting. During 1960 there was a 30 percent drop out rate. We continue to see some boys wearing their Cub uniforms to school on Scout day, but this was declining along with the smaller number of boys doing Cub Scouts. A massive study was conducted with the results in 1964. This study led to major changes in the Cub Scout program. The most significant change was the creation of the Webelos Scouting program in 1967 resulting in the Lion rank being dropped. This was for the 10 year old Cub Scout and offered him a program with 15 activity badges in a variety of areas such as geology, engineering and sports. The Webelos program pointed the Webelos Scout toward the Arrow of Light, Cub Scouting's highest award. It also aimed at improving the graduation rate of Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. In addition, the 10 year old boy was referred to as a Webelos Scout, not a Cub Scout. A distinctively different uniform was also available for the Webelos Scout. He could wear the tan Boy Scout style shirt and had a different hat and neckerchief. Also, the Wolf and Bear rank requirements were completely reworked with different achievements and electives. A whole new purpose for Cub Scouting was also written as part of these major program revisions. The Boy and Cub Scouts from the beginning was a program for middle-class boys. The cost of the uniform alone was an impediment to many boys from disadvantaged families. The BSA in 1965 began the Inner-City/Rural program. This was an effort to bring Scouting to everyone. Many efforts were made to bring the program to poor, disadvantaged, minority and handicapped youth. The desire was to bring Scouting into core urban areas and to poor rural areas that were lacking Scouting units. BSA was trying to shedd the image that it was a program for middle-class white youth. BSA wanted to make sure Scouting was for every boy. With the advent of the space race, BSA added the Space Derby to its list of activites for the Cub Scouts in 1961. The National Summertime Award was created in 1964 to encourage year-round Cub Scouting. In 1968 Cub Scout Day Camp was approved by the National Board and became official. The first woman was appointed to the National Cub Scout Committee in 1969. Cub Scouting ended 1969 with 3,602,688 Cubs and 1,284,363 Leaders.

New Programs (The 1970s)

In the early 70's BSA continued its push to bring the program to the poor, disadvantaged, minority and handicapped youth of America. A special emphasis was put on bringing Scouting to the handicapped. More than 60,000 handicapped persons were enrolled in packs, troops and Explorer posts sponsored by community organizations and institutions while an estimated 150,000 others were members of mainstream units. Training materials were provided to leaders so they could better provide the Scouting program to the handicapped. The National Advisory Committee on Scouting for the Handicapped (NACOSH) was established in 1974 to provide long term guidance. Age restrictions were removed in 1978 for the severely handicapped so they could continue in Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting and Exploring beyond the normal age limits.

Handicapped awareness and the push to expand Scouting weren't the only changes for the 1970's.

The BSA in 1971 decided to change the Cub Scout Promise. The phrase "to be square" was dropped because it was felt that the word "square" was outdated. The phrase "to be square" originally meant that you were an honest and honorable person who could be countedon to do the right thing. By the 1970s to be square meant to the old fashion and uninteresting. As the Scouts were being accused of being square by their peers, the BSA decided a change was needed. The old version of the Cub Scout Promise read:

Old Cub Promise

I, (name), promise to do m best,
To do my duty to God and my country,
To help other people,
To be square, and
To obey the Law of the Pack.

New Cub Promise

I, (name), promise to do my best,
To do my duty to God and my country,
To help other people, and
To obey the Law of the Pack.

The BSA in 1974 the Safe Bicycle Driving Program was rolled out to teach Cub Scouts how to maintain their bicycles and how to ride them safely while having fun. Bicycle safety was a theme for one of the summer months for many years. Bicyle Rodeos and safety clinics are still a part of many pack programs today. The National Physical Fitness Championships were also started in 1974. Competitions were held at the pack level to determine the most fit 8, 9 and 10 year old boy. These three winners competed on a council level to determine the winner for each age. The scores were forwarded to the national level and a national winners were picked based on their scores. The Rocket Derby was also introduced in the 70's. The Rocket Derby used miniature rockets built from kits sold through the supply catalog. These kits were discontinued some years later.

Pack leadership saw many changes in leader training. A four-level plan was introduced for Cub Scout leaders with the highest training being Cub Scout Trainers' Wood Badge. While Wood Badge training had been available in England since 1919 for Boy Scout Leaders and since 1921 for Cub leaders, it was not available in the US until 1948 when the first Wood Badge Training for Boy Scout Leaders was held. The first Cub Scout Trainers' Wood Badge was offically approved in 1975. The first course was held in Alabama at Camp Corner in 1976. The peak membership for Cub Scouts was 3,763,202 in 1972 as the wave of baby boomers rolled through. Registration in 1979 was 2.7 million Cubs and 0.9 million leaders.

American Cub Expo
Figure 2.--These boys in the early 1980s show the new Cub uniform. The boy on the right is not wearing the regulation cap.

New Uniforms and the Advent of Tiger Cubs (The 1980's)

The BSA introduced the first major changes in the Cub uniform since the 1940s. The blie and gold motif was changed, but the traditional peaked cap was changed for a baseball-style and the solid-colored blue knee socks were canged for blue athletic kneesocks with yellow tops.

The BSA in the 1980s introduced many more major changes to the Cub Scouting program. It also brought the Golden Anniversary of Cub Scouting in 1980. The largest Blue & Gold Banquet ever held was in 1980, with more than 3,000 people attending. It was at BSA's Nation Council biennial meeting in New Orleans. 1980 also saw the registration of the 30 millionth Cub Scout. It was Tony Blakey who joined Pack 7 of Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Paul, MN. BSA also introduced new uniforms in 1980. Oscar del la Renta redesigned the uniforms for leaders and scouts alike. The major change for the Cub uniform was the introduction of the baseball syle cap with different insignia for the Wolf, Bear and Webelos years. The 1980 National Good Turn was the distribution of flyers encouraging people to participate in the 1980 national census. The national Cub Scout Committee formed a long range planning committee in 1980 to look into the future. One of the outcomes of the committees work was the Tiger Cub Program.

The Tiger Cubs program was introduced in 1982 and is a program for first graders (or 7-year olds) who register with an adult partner who is at least 18 years old. The goal of the program was to bring the boy and his parent closer together by providing a program to allow quality time with the boy while sharing his experiences with others in his Tiger Group. The boys did not attend regular pack meetings, but were invited to special activities such as the Blue & Gold Banquet and the graduation ceremonies in the spring, when they become Cub Scouts. It was a very flexible program, and at the time, the Tiger Group was only loosely associated with a sponsoring pack. When the Tiger Cub Program was introduced, so were 12 new achievements that Bear age Cubs could choose from. The new achievements covered a broad range of subjects such as religious faith, law enforcement, conservation, bicycling and cooking to mention a few.

The Cub Scout Summer Day Camp was expanded to improve the outdoor part of the program. The growth of the summer day camp meant almost every Cub had a quality camp sponsored by a local council within easy reach. Cub Scout resident camps were also being tried in this period. Cub Scouts enhanced their physical fitness program in January of 1985 with the introduction of the expanded Cub Scout Sports program. The enhanced sports program was seen as a way to improve fitness while instilling the values of honesty, fair play, teamwork, leadership and respect for others into the boys life.

The BSA in 1985 introduced the expanded program. Prior to this time, age had been the primary factor for determining a boy's eligibility to join. Starting in 1986, with a phase-in that lasted through 1991, grade became the primary factor, with age as a backup requirement. This phase-in added the second year to the Webelos program and meant that a Scouting program is offered to all boys of grades 1 through 12. These changes also made it easier for boys to remain with the same peer group all through scouting.

Modern Cub Scouts (The 1990s)


Navigate the Historic Boys' Uniform Chronology Pages:
[Return to the Main chronologies page]
[The 1900s] [The 1910s] [The 1920s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s] [The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1980s] [The 1990s] [The 2000s]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Uniform Web Site:
[Introduction] [Chronologies] [Organizations] [FAQs] [Bibliographies] [Contributions]
[Boys' Uniform Home]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Uniform Web organizatiion pages:
[Return to the Main U.S. Cub page]
[Return to the Main U.S. Scout page]
[Return to the National Scout page]
[Boys' Brigade] [Camp Fire] [Hitler Youth] [National] [Pioneers] [Royal Rangers] [Scout]

Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: 6:40 AM 11/19/2012