Lord Baden-Powell

Lord Baden PowellRobert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell was born February 22, 1857, in London, England. His father died when he was three years old, leaving his mother to raise seven children. He spent much of his boyhood in the outdoors with his four brothers, camping and hiking in many parts of England. He received a scholarship to Charterhouse School, a British school founded in 1611, and was the goalkeeper of the soccer team. He was dramatically and musically inclined, and had a gift for sketching.

When he graduated from Charterhouse, B-P joined the famous 13th Hussars regiment in the Crimean War in India. As he rose through the ranks of the British army, B-P gave much thought to the best ways to train soldiers. He believed that it was important for them to be able to think for themselves and to be able to act as scouts for their units. He chronicled his training ideas in a small book called Aids to Scouting. In 1899, B-P was sent to South Africa, where the British army was in conflict with the Boers, settlers of Dutch descent in the South African Republic and the Orange Free State. He soon found himself in charge of defending the small town of Mafeking with about 1,200 men under his command. However, many thousands of Boer soldiers surrounded and laid siege to the town, demanding that the British army surrender. Under B-P’s leadership and clever direction, the British soldiers led the Boers to believe that they were up against a more formidable foe and were able to hold off the Boers for 218 days.

B-P returned to England a hero, and Aids to Scouting became an inspiration for young boys. Carefully and slowly, B-P developed the Scouting idea and tested it in 1907 on Brownsea Island. The 21 boys he led that summer became the first Boy Scouts. The Scouting movement grew and, in 1910, reached such proportions that B-P knew that Scouting was to be his life’s work. In 1921, Scouts from all over the world met in London for the first international Scout gathering—the first world Scout jamboree. On the last night of this jamboree, B-P was proclaimed Chief Scout of the World.   Click here for photo gallery.

Earnest Thompson Seton

Born in England in 1860, Seton  spent his boyhood on a farm in the wilderness of  Ontario, Canada, and his late teen years in Toronto.  Having shown artistic talent, he was sent to London at age19 to study art at the Royal Academy.  At 21 he was back in Canada, tramping the wilds of Manitoba.  He soon began making a name as a naturalist and painter of wildlife, and when he was 26 years old Seton published Mammals of  Manitoba, the first of 46 books.

In 1898, his reputation was enhanced by publication of his classic Wild Animals I Have Known.  He bought a small estate in Cos Cob, Conn.  Neighborhood boys decided to test him by defacing his fence and perpetuating other mischief. Instead of calling the law, Seton invited the boys to camp on his property. With him as camp chief, the boys had a great time hiking, learning camp skills, studying trees and wildlife, and hearing Seton tell gripping tales of the American Indian.

Out of this camp for boys grew the Woodcraft Indians. The Woodcraft Indians offered badges for learning various skills, mostly in the outdoors. There was no uniform but homemade Indian headdresses or sashes served to display honors. Seton described the success of his “Indian Village” in a series of articles in the “Ladies Home Journal”. The articles—later expanded by Seton into a book, The Birch-Bark Roll of the Woodcraft Indians—laid the foundation of his new boys’ movement. The movement had as many as 200,000 braves by 1910. 

His rich background of woodcraft, camping and other outdoor skills made Seton a logical choice for the position of Chief Scout for the new organization—The Boy Scouts of America. He remained Chief Scout for five years, adding immeasurably to the excitement of the Boy Scout program. In 1910, he produced the first handbook for the new program.  Click here for photo gallery.

Daniel Carter Beard

Uncle Dan Beard was born in Ohio in 1850. He moved to Kentucky shortly after the Civil War broke out in 1861.  He had his mind set on an art career and after the Civil War he moved to New York to study at the Art Students’ League. He brought with him to New York the recollections of a lively boyhood spent in woods and fields, and a love for the skills and the spirit of the pioneers especially Daniel Boone. 

In order to keep alive the traditions and activities of the “American Knights in Buckskin” and to educate young men early in life to an appreciation of the absolute necessity and value of our forests and natural resources, he formed “The Society of the Sons of Daniel Boone”. In his book, The Boy Pioneers, he suggested homemade uniforms in frontiersman style, emblems for officers, and a red buff, and green flag with a tree, powder horn, bird, and the initials “SDB”. The program featured camping skills and outdoor crafts.  In the Sons of Daniel Boone eight boys made up a stockade; four stockades made a fort. Officers bore titles such as Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, John Audubon, Johnny Appleseed and David Crockett. 

When the Boy Scouts of America came into being, Dan Beard joined it enthusiastically as National Scout Commissioner and Chairman of the National Court of Honor. He died in 1941, ten days before his 91st birthday.   Click here for photo gallery.

William D. Boyce

William D. Boyce was a newspaper and magazine publisher from Chicago, Illinois. In 1909, during a trip to London he became lost in a dense fog. A boy came to his aid and, after guiding him, refused a tip, explaining that as a scout he would not take a tip for doing a good turn. This single act by an unknown scout impressed Boyce who then sought out Baden-Powell and learned about his scouting program.

Boyce returned to the United States and on February 8, 1910, he founded the Boy Scouts of America. In 1915, he founded a second program called the Lone Scouts of America in order to reach boys in rural areas not being served by the Boy Scouts of America. In 1924, the Lone Scouts merged with the Boy Scouts of America. Unlike the other “founding fathers” of Scouting, William Dickson Boyce was not a writer, an artist, a naturalist or a soldier. He did, however, have a great interest in the development of our youth and remained a strong supporter of the Scouting program.  Click here for photo gallery.


James E. West

James WestJames E. West was born in Washington, D.C. Both his parents died by the time he was six years old.  In his early days he was healthy and straight. He began to limp and complained of pains in one hip.  The people running the orphanage thought he was faking to get out of work. At last he was sent to a hospital where doctors diagnosed a tubercular hip.  He was kept in the hospital for nearly two years and much of the time strapped to a board with weights on his leg.  He was finally pronounced an incurable cripple and sent back to the orphanage.

Even though it was unusual that orphans were allowed to go to high school, Jimmie was granted permission to do so.  He graduated at age nineteen and left the orphanage a year later.  He supported himself with odd jobs while he worked for his law degree and was finally admitted to the Washington bar in 1901. After graduating from law school at 25, West was appointed to the Board of Pension Appeals and later was made an assistant attorney in the Department of the Interior. He devoted his energy to causes like the National Playground Association, the National Child Rescue League, and helped to reform the juvenile court system. He also organized the first White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children.

It was this experienced youth worker, now thirty-four years old, who was asked by the Executive Board of the newly formed Boy Scouts of America to head the movement. He was preparing to join a large Washington law firm at the time. He agreed to give it six months. He figured that would be enough time to get the movement firmly established. He opened a national office in the Fifth Avenue Building, 200 Fifth Avenue, New York, on January 2, 1911. But the six months he had planned to give to Scouting extended into thirty-two years of devoted and dynamic service as Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America.  Click here for photo gallery.