History

Scouting began in England in 1907-08, created by General Robert Baden-Powell. Baden-Powell, a 50-year old bachelor at the time, was one of the few heroes to come out of Britain’s South African War. He was known primarily for his unusual ideas about military scouting, explained in his book Aids to Scouting. Startled to discover that many boys were using his military book as a guide to outdoor activities, he began to think how he could convert his concepts of army scouting for men to “peace scouting” for boys. Gathering ideas from many sources (including Ernest Thompson Seton, who had founded a boys organization in the U.S.), he tested his program on a group of boys on Brownsea Island in 1907. The island camp was successful, so B-P rewrote his military book, calling it Scouting for Boys. The climate was right for a youth program like Scouting, and it spread quickly around the British commonwealth, then to other countries.

Today, Scouting is found in 190 of the world’s 195 independent countries. The United States has a single national Scouting organization (many countries, especially in Europe, have several separate Scout organizations, divided by religion or language, with different uniforms, advancement, and national hierarchies). Scouting is the world’s most successful youth movement.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was founded by Chicago publisher William Boyce on February 8, 1910. At that time in the US, there were several other loosely structured outdoor-oriented youth organizations, some using the name “Boy Scout” and some using other names, and there were already a number of troops in existence using some variation of the British Scout program. Boyce’s key contribution was to organize the BSA as a business. He incorporated the organization, recruited key youth professionals to design and operate the program, and he provided key funding for the infant organization.