*** boy scouts Scouting

Boy Scouts

Boy Scouts
Figure 1.--The original scouting uniforms were all similar to the military-style adopted by Baden Powell when he founded English Scouting. National Scout uniforms have since evolved into colorful, diverse outfits reflecting the character and traditions of each country's Scouts.

Scouting is arguably the most important and influentional youth organization. It was not the first youth organization. The world Scouting movement traces its origins to England at the beginning of the 20th Century. The movement owes much to British General Robert Stephenson Smyth, better known as Lord Baden-Powell. He had written a booklet-called Aids to Scouting--about his methods of Army training. Scouting evolved into the most internationsl of all the various youth groups. It has influenced many other youth grous includung the NAZI Hitler Youth and Communist Young Pioners. Many totalitarian societies have banned Scouting, but the movement has proved successful in most countries around the world. The popularity of Scouting has varied over time, but Scouting has a way of evolving to keep up with the times.

Scoutings Foundation

The world Scouting movement traces its origins to England at the beginning of the 20th Century. The movement owes much to British General Robert Stephenson Smyth, better known as Lord Baden-Powell. He had written a booklet-called Aids to Scouting--about his methods of Army training. It was published in England during the siege of Mafeking, a South African town attacked by the Boers during the Boer War. When the General returned home to England from South Africa, he was surprised to find that a lot of boys had bought the booklet and had got together in small groups on their own to practice Scouting. They called themselves Boy Scouts.


Lord Baden Powell is generally credited with founding the couting movement. There were, however, important American and Scottish influences on the new Scouting movement. Powell in fact did ot initially plan to lauch a new movement. He planned to incorprating his ideas on Scouting to the existing Boys' Brigade and similar youth organizations. In addition, two Americans, Ernest Thompson Seton and Daniel Carter Beard, had founded organizations which emphasized Scouting and outdoor activies. Seaton's Woodcraft Indians and Beard's Sons of Daniel Boone preceeded the Boys Scouts. All of these groups had a major impact on the new Scouting movement.

Boys' Brigade

The Boy Scout movement grew out of a scouting program that Baden-Powell was developing in the Boys' Brigade. The annual Boys' Brigade display at the Royal Albert Hall in 1903 was of special significance - from it can be traced the very start of the Boy Scout movement! General Baden-Powell, back from his exploits in Mafeking, agreed to preside over the forthcoming display and began a sincere friendship with the Boys' Brigade founder. Baden-Powell saw the possibility of teaching the Boys the art of Scouting. The seeds of the Scout movement had been sown and were soon to spread like a prairie fire.

Brown Sea Island

Baden-Powell (or B.-P. as he was called in England) decided to re-write the book especially for boys. In 1907 he decided to try out his ideas of Scouting with a group of boys. He wanted a place where he would not be interrupted by newspapermen, who were always interested in what the hero of Mafeking was doing. Some friends owned Brownsea Island in Dorset, which provided an ideal location. At the end of July, 1907, B.-P. and some other helpers took 21 boys and his nephew to camp for a week on the island. Some of the boys were sons of B.-P.'s friends, and others came from the Bournemouth and Poole Boys' Brigade-another English youth group. The boys had quite an exciting time. They apparently had never known anything like it before, because in those days no one went camping for their holidays! The boys swam, signalled, tracked, cooked, hiked and played games. Every evening they sat round a camp fire and listened as B.-P. told them about his adventures in many parts of the world. The camp was a great success and the Scouting movement as we know it today was underway.

Scouting Grows

After the Brownsea Island camp, B.-P. finished his classic book Scouting for Boys and in 1908 it was published in eight fortnightly parts, each costing one penny. B.-P. had expected that Scouting for Boys would be used by youth organizations which were already in existence. However, all over the country, boys were forming themselves into Scout Troops and asking adults to lead them. B.-P. was still an officer in the Regular Army. He received hundreds of letters from boys telling him of their adventures and he had to open a small office. Before the end of 1908, boys had started Scouting in Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. Initially overseas Scouting was largely boys in British dominions overseas, especially those with British immigrant populations.


British Scouts (over 11,000 boys and 7 girls) from all parts of the country got together for a rally at the Crystal Palace in London. King Edward VII, who had attended the rally, summoned B.-P. to Balmoral Castle in October, 1909, and made him a Knight for his outstanding service as a soldier, and for giving the country Scouting. This gathering proved to be the beginning of the modern Jamboree.


Scouting appealed to more than just British boys and boys in British domininios around the world. Soon Scouting appeared in America and continental European countries. Europe in the early 20th century was a hot bed of nationalism which was to lead to two disastrous world wars. Baden Powell thus had to decide whether the Scouts should be a British national group or part of a wider world-wide movement. Also because Britain ruled many countries with non-British populations, Scouting appeared in countries like India as well as other Asian and African countries. This presented a fundamental challenge. There were in Britain, America, and much of Europe fundamental assumptions about white racial superority. These attitudes were especially strong in America, but as Britain led the spread of Scouting in the early years it is the British attitude that is most important. Britain did not have segregation laws, but foreigners especially non-white foreigners were looked down on. There were numerous private-restrictions. Blacks could not, for example, compete at Wimbeldon. Overseas in the Empire there were many more restrictions on indigenous people. As a result, Baden Powell and his new Boy Scout movement had to make fundamental decissions about internationalism. There was also a competing internatioanl Scout group.


The Scouting movement in many ways developed out of the difficulties Britain experienced in fighting the Boer War in southern Africa. Britain's disappointing performance in the early phase of the War caused concern about a possible deterioration of British manhood. Equally disheartening was the number of draftees which could not meet the medical and health standards. It was in the Boer War that Baden-Powell made his name and was widely known to Brish boys. Baden-Powell used as a powerful argument in selling the Scout movement the need to prepare the next generation for any possible future War. The Chief Scout in fact made no secret of this. He plainly states in Scouting for Boys, "Every boy ought to learn how to shoot and obey orders, else he is no more good when war breaks out than an old woman." There were, however, importanr elements in the Scouting movement both in Britain and America that had a very different concept of Boy Scouting.


About 6,000 other girls had already registered as 'Girl Scouts', and B.-P. thought the girls needed a special scheme of their own. His sister Agnes agreed to help and the Girl Guide movement was started. The British Guides and the American Girl Scouts which followed were organized as entirely separate organizaions. Other countries followed this approach. In many other countries the girls were organzied by initially Boy Scout associatioins with varying levels of integration. Some have developed into fully integrated coeducational organizatons while others have integrated only certain levels. Others like the Britih Guides and the American Girl Scouts continue as separate organizations.

Figure 2.--Some Canadian Cubs units place considerable emphasis on uniform. This was generally true in former British colonies.


After Scouting was founded, the first different level of Scouting that was formed were the Wolf Cubs as they were called in England. Yonger brothers kept showing up at Scout events, so the British founded the Wolf Cubs in 1916. Many other countries followed suit, although Americans did not create a Cub program until 1930. Eventually programs were created for older boys. They were called Rovers in Britain and Explorers in America. The latest level has been the Beavers created in Britain for boys below Cub age. Thid pre-Cub level also has different names in different countries.

Scouting in America

An American publisher, William D. Boyce of Chicago, one day in the fall of 1909 recalls stopping under a street lamp to get his bearings. London was in the grip of one of its infamous dense fogs. ca, the "Silver Buffalo," given for outstanding service to boyhood. It was put there in 1926 in honor of the "Unknown Scout" whose good turn brought the Scout movement to the United States.


The modern Scouting leadership training program emerged immediately after the First World War in 1919. On the morning of September 8, 1919, a 61 year-old retired British Army general stepped into the center of a clearing at Gilwell Park, in Epping Forest, outside London, England. He raised the horn of a Greater Kudu, one of the largest of African antelopes to his mouth and blew a long sharp blast. Nineteen men dressed in short pants and knee socks, their shirt-sleeves rolled up, assembled by patrols for the first Scoutmasters' training camp held at Gilwell. The training camp was the inspiration of Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the World Scouting Movement. When they had finished their training program Baden-Powell gave each man a simple wooden bead from a necklace he had found in a Zulu chieftain's deserted hut when on campaign in South Africa during 1888. The Scoutmasters' training course was a great success and continued to be held year-after-year. At the end of each course the wooden beads were used to recognize the successful completion of the training program. When the original beads ran out, new ones were whittled to maintain the tradition established by Baden-Powell. Because of these beads, the course came to be known as the Wood Badge Course. It continues to this day in England and around the world as the advanced training course for Scout leaders. Although an experimental course was conducted in 1936, Wood Badge training was officially inaugurated in the United States in 1948. Since that time it has grown and developed and become a key motivating force in the training of volunteer leaders in the Boy Scouts of America. For 10 years, Wood Badge courses were conducted by the Boy Scouts of America exclusively for the purpose of training representatives from councils in methods of training and how to help with the leadership training programs of their own councils. Participants were required to subscribe to an agreement of service to this effect.


The Scouting Movement grew rapidly in Europe and America after the First World War. Scouting existed in all European countries as well and soon spread to Latin American and European colonies in Africa and Asia. The development of the movement was truncated by the Nazis, Communists, and Japanese militarists. Scouting was outlawed by the totalitarians which sought to dominate schools and youth groups to thoroughly indoctrinate children. No group proved, however, as popular to boys in countries where the movement was free to operate the movement now extends to virtually every country around the world. After the defeat of the NAZIs and Japanese, the movement soon flourished in liberated countries. The fall of Eastern European Communist Governments in the late 1980s reopened these countries to the Scouting movement. The disolution of the Soviet Union opened in 1991 opened several new countries. The registered membership of the Boy Scouts of America in 2000 was about 4 million and in recent years has been rising. Most of these are youth. Worldwide there are about 21 million Scouts.


The Scouting movement from its earliest year received the support of influential people. After a generation that support was intensified as former Scouts began to gain positions of prominance. The movement has been supported by a hiost of royal personages as well as presidents and prime ministers. Many have lent their support to a movement which they believe has played a positive role in their lives and they believe can benefit future generations.

Scout Uniforms

HBU of course focuses primarily on Scout uniforms. This is primarily because of the importance of the Scout movement, but also because of the greater availability of information and images about Scouting. Much of our informtion comes from Britain and America, but we are also looking for information about uniforms in other countries to fully appreciate uniform trends in Scouting groups around the world. Given the Baden-Powell's role in the Scout movement, the original English Scout uniforms had a decidedly military look. The early American Scout uniform followed the English example looking rather like American World War I Army unifoms. Many Scouts in other countrie adopted Enlish-looking uniforms, but gradually more diversity emrged. The English and some Europeans have given great attention to the uniform, more so than in the more easy growing United States and many other counties. Uniform inspections have been more common in England. At events such as Scout Band competitions, the inspections can be quite rigorous. The English tend to have a stricte national standard. When the English Scout movement decided to shift to long pants in 1969, virtually all troops followed suit. In American, Scouting is much more identified with outdoor events where uniform standards were less rigorous. In addition, individual councils and even troops are allowed considerable leeway on how to wear the uniform and over the year a great diversity of hats, kerchiefs, knickers, long and short pants, can be observed at Cub and Scout groups. Over the years the Scout uniform in different transformed in to more suitable field uniform. Scout leaders in each country adopting the movement made a variety of changes, incorporating elements of national dress. Special uniforms were developed for the younger Cub Scouts as well as Sea Scouts and groups for older Scouts, such as the Explorers in the United States. Today younger Scouts very much like their uniforms and older Scouts in America tolerate them. Many European Scouts have virtually abanded their uniforms. The Scout movement which developed before the First World War had appears to have had a significant impact on boys' fashions. This of course is hard to deliniate with any certainty. At any given time there are many factors which affect fashions. Scouting is only one of the influences, but we believe was an important one. There were differences among countries. Scouting was founded in Britain which was a country that was especially important for men's and boys' fashions. The short pants introduced as part of the uniform were to dominate boys' clothing in Europe for five decades. The shorts proved less popular in America where many scouts wore knickers. One common feature of Scout uniforms was the kerchief. Within only a few years of Scotings foundations the drab colors of the uniforms were brightened by the addition of the colorful Scout kerchief--which soon became regarded as an indispensable article of equipment for Scouts around the world. While Scout groups in many countries now give little attention to the uniform, the kerchief is one part of the uniform that remains popular. Scouting not only affected fashion, but of course was affected by fashion trends.

Scout Shops

With the creation of the Scout movement a new kind of store was created to sell both uniforms and camping equipment. Scout shops sprang up all over England because Scouting was so popular. Boys could not buy Scout unifotms in department stores, they went to Scout shops. Elsewhere in the world where Scouting was not as popular had far fewer Scout shops. Most countries had at least a few. And Scout shops still exist in numerous countries around the world. Scout shops were also opened in America. There were not as many Scout shops in Amrica, however, because early in the cout movement uniforms were available in mail order catalogs. Both Sears and Wards offered Scout uniforms as did Pennys later. I do not have a precise chronology here. This probably occured because Americams were more accustomed to mail morder purchases than Europeans.

Figure 3.--French Scouts were the first to wear berets. Many other Scout groups have since also began to wear berets.

Uniform Items

This web page will provide details on the development of the uniform along with many historical photographs. Information and photographs will also be presented on scout uniforms in different countries. While Scout uniforms vary greatly from country to country there are also many similarities. Details on individual uniform items are described in this section.

National Scout Uniforms

One interesting aspect of Scouting is the many varied national uniforms. The original scouting uniforms were all similar to the military-style adopted by Baden Powell when he founded English Scouting. National Scout uniforms have since evolved into colorful, diverse outfits reflecting the character and traditions of each country's Scouts. Scout uniforms have also been affected by contemportary fashion trends. Scout uniforms were once a major attractions. Boys once admired the uniforms and wanted to wear them. This has changed substantially in our modern era. Boys are now much less interested in uniforms and especially teenagers, reluctant to wear them. Some national associations, like the Boy Scouts of America, coninue to insist on uniforms. Many European Scout associations have virtually done away with them.


Scouts have participated in a wide range of activities over time. Initially the activities were primarily delt with camping and woodcraft. Many popular activities like swimming and boating as well as archery and first aid were gradually added to the orogram. Over time the Scouts have sought to keep up with the times and activities like rocketry and computers have been added tomkeep the program interesting to contemporary boys.


The world Scouting movement began in 1906 with Baden Powell's English Scouts. The movement quickly not only crossed the Channel onto the Continent, but by 1910 had reached America where Scout-like groups had already begun forming. The early uniforms were mostly quite similar to the original English uniforms, but differences soon began to appear. The Americans opted for knickers rather than short pants. The Europeans folloed the English lead with short pants, but began adopting destictive national uniforms. This was in part facilitated by the tendency in many Eiropean countries to establishvarious Scout associations rather than one single national comprehensive national association. Images collected over time show how the Scout uniform has evolved around the world over time.

Other Selections

Information is available on other aspects and types of Scouting with destinctive uniforms.

Figure 4.--One of the interesting topics at international jamborees is always the different uniforms as well as the varied badges and insignias which the Scouts enjoy trading.


This section of the uniformed web sit provides views of Scout uniforms at various national and international jamborees. One of the most interesting aspects of national and international jamborees is the opportunity to compare notes with Scouts from many different places. One of the interesting topics is always the different uniforms as well as the varied badges and insignias. An early Scout meeting (eg 1911 also in London) was called a "Scout Rally", in analogy with sport meetings. The word "Jamboree" was used for the first time by B.-P. There are some different versions (given by himself) on the meaning of the word: once he said it is the union of Jam (what we should call now "melting pot" of races, cultures, etc.) and Boree (the wind which blows and mixes those cultures etc. Once more he said it was a Zulu word, used to define the Official Meeting of the Tribu Chiefs. Probably they are both right: B.-P. in hearing the Zulu word, wrote down it with the spelling which could recall to jam and boree, and then gave it this meaning. ith the word "Jamboree" the founder of the Scout movement, Lord Baden-Powell wanted to name the grand National and International Scout Camps, these merry gatherings where Scouts from every place of the world get to meet each other. The idea of the realization of such periodical International Camps in the pattern of the Olympic Games was expressed by the unforgettable Kokos Melas, General Chief of the Boy Scouts of Greece, during the First International Scout Conference, in 1918, in England. Baden-Powell adopted the Greek suggestion with great enthusiasm and the First World Jamboree took place in London in 1920 in a huge construction of an exposition bearing the--symbolic for the Jamboree--name "Olympia" (the place where Olympic Games were born in Ancient Greece). Since then, with the exception of the World War II period, World Jamborees take place every 4 years.

Sea Scouts

A popular Scout offshoot in many countries, especially England, was sea scouting. Not long after tyhe foundation of Scouting, the English decided to form a branch focusing on marine activities. This was a natural evolution in Britain. Baden Powell's background was of course the Army and a lot of early Scouting activities as well as the uniform was focused on the Army. It was only natural for English boys, given the country's seafaring tradition to want a Scouting experience with a more nautical flavor.

Wolf Cubs

View of uniforms for the Wolf Cubs, the unit for younger Scouts ininiated by the British Scouts in 1916 and adopted by all other natinal Scout associations. Views of individual national Cub uniforms are included in the individual country pages.

Scout Bands

Scout band competitions are a popular Scout activity in England each summer. Scout bands were not a major activity in America, but they did exist. I am not sure what the situation was in other countries. At English Scout band competitions, the participating groups take great care of their uniforms because their appearance is one of the judging standards.

Scout Gang Shows

A Gang Show is a variety show staged by Scouts and Guides--generally to a high standard carrying on the very best traditions of Gang Show and the theatrical arts. Gang Show had its beginning in England in 1932 when a young Rover Scout, Ralph Reader, who was making a name for himself in theatrical circles. In fact, Ralph was already a famous and sought after choreographer on Broadway-- but his life took a remarkable twist after he wrote and produced the first Gang Show to raise money for a local swimming pool. Recognising the worth of this form of training, Baden-Powell encouraged Reader to continue. Gang shows are still most common in England, but are held by Scouts around thw world.


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Created: November 15, 1998
Last updated: 11:45 PM 1/31/2007