Scouting History: Girl Scouts of the USA & Boy Scouts of America


Girl Scouts of the USA will be celebrating its 108th birthday on March 12, and Boy Scouts of America just turned 110 years old in February. Both of these organizations started in England by a man named Robert Baden-Powell. He wrote a book called Aids to Scouting, which was a military field manual written for British soldiers in 1899.

Younger boys started reading the manual and loved the lessons on tracking and observation. They organized elaborate games using the book. Baden-Powell found out how popular his book was, and decided to write another non-military field manual that would also emphasize morality and good deeds just for boys.

Before writing this book, Baden-Powell decided to try some of his ideas with an actual group of boys. On July 25, 1907, he took 21 boys to an island in England where they set up camp for two weeks. Baden-Powell and some other instructors taught the boys about camping, observation, deduction, wood-crafting, boating, lifesaving, patriotism, and chivalry. Many lessons were learned with inventive games and were very popular with the boys. This was the first Boy Scout meeting, and it was a huge success. 

On January 28, 1908, in England, Baden-Powell’s first installment of Scouting for Boys was published and thousands of boys bought the book. By the end of April 1908, many Boy Scout troops had sprung up across Britain.

The book was a winner, and Baden-Powell set up a central Boy Scout office, registered Boy Scouts, and designed a uniform. By the end of 1908, there were over 60,000 boys registered. Troops began springing up all over the globe in British Commonwealth countries. About a year later, Britain had the first national Boy Scout meeting. Thousands of Boy Scouts showed up, including a group of uniformed girls who called themselves Girl Scouts. In 1910, Baden-Powell and his sister, Agnes Baden-Powell, started Girl Guides as a separate organization.

How Scouting started in America

When Chicago publisher William Boyce was lost in London. A Boy Scout came to his aid and guided him. The Scout refused to take a tip, explaining to Boyce that a Scout could not take money for doing a good deed. Boyce came back to the United States and on February 8, 1910, the Boy Scouts of America was incorporated. Thousands of boys registered as Boy Scouts spread throughout the country. Just like in England, the girls wanted to be scouts too, and in 1912, Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts of the USA in Savannah, Georgia.

So what have the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts been doing for a hundred years?

They meet regularly all year long. They work together doing community service projects and making their communities a better place. You might see them out cleaning up parks and playgrounds, or helping people in some way. 

Scouts learn about all kinds of different topics by doing activities and earning badges for completing the activity. For example, making a first aid kit. They learn how to treat wounds and administer first aid. Then they build a first aid kit and finally get a badge or patch for learning. Each level has badges for different things they learn. You can learn about the sciences, sports, crafts trades, business, and future careers. From knot tying to camping to cooking to computer coding, they get out and try lots of new things and have fun learning together. 

Scouting is a great way to make new friends, be part of a team and learn to do new things together. See if any of your friends at school are involved in scouting, they can show you their badges and share what they like about being a Scout. Check with your adult if you want to join Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts in your town. You just might learn something and make a bunch of new friends.


Boy Scout facts:

• Started in 1910

• There are 2.4 million youth participants and nearly one million adult volunteers.

• More than 110 million Americans have been participants in BSA programs at some time.

• Became a founding member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement in 1922.

• Just over 2 million boys have reached Eagle (the highest rank) in 100 years (15,000 a year, roughly). 

• Around 4 of every 100 boys that join Scouts make Eagle Scout.

Girl Scout facts:

• Started in 1912

• There are more than 1.7 million girls and 750,000 adults who participate in Girl Scouts

• More than 50 million women have been involved in Girl Scouts

• Girl Scouts of the USA was chartered by the US Congress on March 16, 1950.

• Girl Scouts do a lot more than sell cookies!

The long list of famous Boy and Girl Scouts will surprise you. Presidents, senators, representatives, judges, city mayors, astronauts, explorers, military leaders, sports stars, business leaders, actors, singers, university and college presidents and teachers. It’s a long list. You might know who some of them are and you probably know someone in your family who was a scout.