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The Boy Scout Handbook

ORIGINAL EDITION – In 1910 the Boy Scouts of America created a temporary edition of the Scout Handbook while developing its first edition. Ernest Thompson Seton, BSA’s Chief Scout, wrote “A Handbook of Woodcraft, Scouting, and Life-craft”. It served as the official handbook of the BSA into its second year. 

FIRST EDITION – 1911-1914. The “Official Handbook for Boys” became the official manual for Boy Scouts. The organization of material was somewhat weak and some basic skills were not presented in this printing.  

SECOND EDITION – 1914-1927. This edition improved on the contents and organization from the first edition. Information on skills such as map and compass, conservation, nature, wood tools was added. Proper uniform wear was also covered.  

THIRD EDITION – 1927-1940. This edition was titled “Revised Handbook for Boys”. Norman Rockwell produced the artwork for the cover. This was the first real rewrite of the handbook. It introduced the proper wear of the neckerchief. This is the only edition to encourage the Scouts to perform military drills. 

FOURTH EDITION – 1940-1948. This edition was also called the “Revised Handbook for Boys”. The cover art was once again by Norman Rockwell. It was in effect a continuation of the third edition. Additional woodcraft and scoutcraft skills were added to those covered in the third edition.

FIFTH EDITION – 1948-1959. This edition was simply called “Handbook for Boys”. It covered new advancement requirements and a new joining age of 11 years old. It introduced the slogan of “Do a Good Turn Daily”. It taught lashings and the taut line hitch. This edition had two different covers due to the uniform change from broad brim to overseas cap. Don Ross did both covers. 

SIXTH EDITION – 1959-1965. This edition was written by William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt who wrote many of the Scoutmaster’s and Patrol Leader’s Handbooks. It is a multi-colored handbook that is considered as a modern age manual. Norman Rockwell painted the cover to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the BSA. 

SEVENTH EDITION – 1965-1972. This edition resulted from the BSA revision of the advancement requirements with minimal changes in content and organization. Both the 6th and 7th edition are unique from earlier editions due to their larger size and their full-color artwork. Don Lupo painted the cover with Scouts wearing different hats. 

EIGHTH EDITION – 1972-1979. This edition introduced the most radical change in the BSA program. The “Improved Scouting Program” changed the direction of the BSA. Emphasis was away from traditional outdoor program and toward the inner-city. Skill Awards replaced the standard requirements with outdoor merit badges being taken from the required list for Eagle. A second cover showed Joseph Csatari’s “All Out for Scouting”.  

NINTH EDITION – 1979-1990. William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt came out of retirement to write this handbook. It features a return to traditional Scouting skills in an effort to recover from the poor programming of the 1970’s. This was the last cover painted by Norman Rockwell. The artwork in the fourth printing of this edition was redrawn to show the new uniform design. 

TENTH EDITION – 1990-1998. Unlike former editions, this one contains over nine hundred photographs throughout. Skill awards were removed and low-impact camping skills were introduced. Venture and Varsity programs and Varsity Scouting were also introduced. The new “activities uniform” is promoted for use in the outdoors. It also contains a lengthy section on child and drug abuse.


ELEVENTH EDITION – 1998-2009. This edition is an extension of the former edition. The cover shows Scouts in what we call “Class B” uniform and contains many pictures showing this uniform throughout. It adds the global positioning system to learning map and compass along with information on the “Leave No Trace” program. It continues information on drug abuse and child abuse and mentions AIDS and STDs.


TWELFTH EDITION – 2009-today. This edition is a celebration of the 100 years of Scouting in America and contains many references to our past. It is the first “green” edition being printed on recycled paper with environmentally friendly processes. It stresses that the full uniform is to be worn for indoor activities and that t-shirts or other proper parts may be worn for outdoor activities. It is colorful and full of action pictures showing that Scouting is full of adventure.

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