Neil Armstrong, the first
man to walk on the moon, is an Eagle Scout. When he said, “The Eagle has
landed,” he wasn’t kidding. In 1969, Armstrong became the first Eagle Scout to
be portrayed on a U.S. postage stamp—called “The Man on the Moon.”
The Invention merit badge
(1911–1918) required the candidate to obtain a patent.
Boys’ Life magazine,
which goes to 1.1 million Scouts each month, was started by an 18-year-old
Scout, Joseph Lane, in 1911. A year later, the Boy Scouts of America bought the
magazine for $6,100—about $1 per subscriber.
James E. West was the
BSA’s first Chief Scout Executive. When he took the position in 1911, he agreed
to serve six months. At his retirement in 1943, (32 years later) he was given
the title of Chief Scout.
The BSA is the
second-largest Scouting organization in the world. The largest is in
One of Scouting’s most
popular traditions, patch trading, has bloomed into a full-fledged hobby. Some
rare patches are worth thousands of dollars.
For all but two years
from 1925 to 1976, illustrator Norman Rockwell illustrated the annual Brown
& Bigelow Boy Scout calendar—for free. Most are on display at the National
Former Congressmen Alan
Simpson and Norman Mineta served together from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s.
They met as Boy Scouts during World War II, when Simpson’s troop from Cody,
Wyoming, visited the internment camp where Mineta and his Japanese immigrant
parents were being held. The two became—and have remained—close friends and
The first Eagle Scout to
earn all available merit badges was Leon Wallace in 1922.
In May 1964, 29 of
American’s 30 astronauts visited Philmont for a two-week training trip to learn
geological mapping and seismographic studies in preparation for the Apollo
Three important Eagle
Scouts all have names beginning with “A.” The first Eagle Scout is Arthur Eldred
(1912) of Long Island, New York; the 1 millionth Eagle (1982) is Alexander
Holsinger of Normal, Illinois; and the 2 millionth Eagle (2009) is Anthony
Thomas of Lakeville, Minnesota.
Scouts collected more
than 65 million containers of food during the first Scouting for Food drive in
The Cub Scout sign (the
index and middle fingers extended in a V shape) symbolizes the ears of an alert
wolf. It replaced the Indian “how” sign, which looked too much like the Nazi
The BSA sells 2.3 million
merit badges—one for each person in the state of Utah—every year.
After eating candy when
he had promised not to, a repentant Howard Hughes returned his Buckskin Badge to
Daniel Carter Beard with a note that read, “With love, from Howard.”
By the BSA’s centennial
in February 2010, more than 1.2 billion Boys’ Life magazines will have been
At age 12, Seattle
Mariners Chairman and CEO Howard Lincoln posed for Norman Rockwell’s painting
On February 8, 1910,
William D. Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America. He personally donated
$1,000 per month to keep the organization afloat—on the condition that boys of
all races and creeds be admitted.
In 1920, the BSA sent 301
Scouts to the inaugural world Scout jamboree in England, where they joined
Scouts from 33 other countries. The American Scouts represented all 48 states
plus the territory of Hawaii.
In 1933, President
Franklin Roosevelt requested the Boy Scouts’ service in collecting 1.8 million
items of clothing, household furnishings, foodstuffs, and supplies for victims
of the Great Depression.
After the 1941 attack on
Pearl Harbor, Hawaiian Scouts set up first-aid stations and emergency kitchens,
helped evacuate civilians, served as messengers, and manned 58 air-raid sirens
During a three-month
drive in the spring of 1942, Scouts collected 318,000 tons of paper for the war
In a nationwide
nonpartisan get-out-the-vote campaign in 1956, Scouts distributed more than a
million posters and 36 million Liberty Bell doorknob hangers.
In 1954, the BSA
conducted a National Conservation Good Turn, distributing 3.6 million
conservation posters. In parks, rural areas, and wilderness areas, Scouts
planted 6.2 million trees, and built and placed 55,000 bird nesting
Scouts collected more
than 1 million tons of litter on Scouting Keep America Beautiful Day in
Russia turned to the BSA
in 1993 for help in producing the first Russian Scout handbook; 20,000 copies
The 20 millionth Scout
was registered with the BSA in 1952; by 2000, that number reached 100
The gravestone of
worldwide Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell is marked with a trail symbol of
a circle with a dot in the center, which means “I have gone home.” It is a
tradition that many Scouters follow to this day.
Baden-Powell’s English Scouts had nine points in their Scout Law, the Boy Scouts
of America added three more: A Scout is brave, clean, and reverent.
In 1929, an African
American Boy Scout from Fort Worth, Texas, found and returned a woman’s
pocketbook that contained more than $300 in cash. The boy declined her liberal
reward, saying, “No, madam. I am a Boy Scout and cannot take a tip for doing my
Scouts have served at
every presidential inauguration since Woodrow Wilson’s in 1913. Boy Scouts who
helped out at the Wilson inauguration were Honor Medal recipients.
Portions of the 1963
movie “PT 109,” the story of the sinking of John F. Kennedy’s PT boat during
World War II, were filmed on Big Munson Island at the Florida National High
Adventure Sea Base.
When America entered
World War I in 1917, membership in the BSA outnumbered the 200,000-man U.S. Army
by more than 68,000 members.
railroads helped boost the population at the first national Scout jamboree in
1937—they offered fares at a special price of 1 cent per mile.
Wal-Mart founder Sam
Walton became an Eagle Scout at age 13, businessman and philanthropist H. Ross
Perot at 13, and President Gerald R. Ford at 14.
The first Scouts to live
in the White House were the sons of 30th U.S. President Calvin Coolidge: John
and Calvin Jr.
In the aftermath of the
attacks of September 11, 2001, Scouts from New York and New Jersey helped
reignite the American spirit, collecting more than 153,000 bottles of water for
Ground Zero rescue workers—and placing handwritten messages of appreciation and
encouragement in their hard hats.
The Boy Scout Memorial in
Washington, D.C., marks the site of the 1937 National Scout Jamboree. One of the
few D.C. memorials to commemorate a living cause, it was accepted in 1964 by
Associate Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark on his 50th anniversary as an Eagle
More than 8 million
people read Boys’ Life each month.
In Scouting’s first
decade, dozens of composers turned out Boy Scout sheet music, including John
Phillip Sousa, who wrote the “Boy Scouts of America March” in 1916.
More than 1.5 million
pinewood derby cars are sold each year. If the cars were lined up end to end,
they would stretch 166 miles.
At the outbreak of World
War I, the Boy Scouts of America was the largest uniformed body in the United
States—twice as large as the U.S. Army, nearly twice as large as the National
Guard, four times larger than the U.S. Navy, and 11 times larger than the U.S.
Each year, the BSA awards
6 million pocket certificates. If stacked on top of one another like a deck of
cards, they would be as tall as the Empire State Building, the Washington
Monument, both Sears Towers (now Willis Tower), and the John Hancock
The first African
American Boy Scout troop was organized in 1911 in Elizabeth City, North
The Florida National High
Adventure Sea Base is one of the largest scuba-diving operations in the United
States, conducting more than 25,000 individual dives annually.
These days, boys may earn
the rank of Eagle Scout only until age 18, but until 1965, both boys and men
could achieve Scouting’s highest rank.
Of the 12 men who would
eventually walk on the moon, 11 were Scouts.
Rafael Petit and Juan
Carmona of Caracas, Venezuela, hiked to the 1935 National Scout Jamboree, only
to find that it was canceled due to a polio outbreak. They returned for the
rescheduled 1937 Jamboree—a total of 8,000 miles.
The only recorded
Tyrannosaurus Rex footprint cast was discovered at Philmont Scout Ranch.
Norman Rockwell designed
the first 12 Scout medals for the BSA.
Robert E. Peary
discovered the North Pole in 1908. When his article on the adventure appeared in
print in June 1914, it was not in Harper’s or Collier’s. Only Boys’ Life had
In April 1937,
Cubmobiles, patterned after soapbox derby racers and described as any
contrivance on wheels (one, two, three, four, or more wheels) became an annual
feature of Cub Scouting.
At his family’s request,
two separate honor guards of Eagle Scouts played a major role in the 2006
memorial services for President Gerald R. Ford, the only U.S. president
to achieve the Eagle Scout rank as a boy. And the only President to serve
without being elected, by the way.
A young George Herman
“Babe” Ruth was a Tenderfoot Scout in Troop 23, promising to do a Good Turn
The BSA sells almost 1
million neckerchiefs each year. If laid out flat, they would cover 120 football
fields, or 124 acres.
In 1927, the BSA created
Honorary Scouts to distinguish “American citizens whose achievements in outdoor
activity, exploration, and worthwhile adventure are of such an exceptional
character as to capture the imagination of boys.” Among the Honorary Scouts were
Orville Wright and Charles Lindbergh.
In 1981, real Life Scout
Harrison Ford made film history, playing fictional Life Scout Indiana Jones in
the first of four adventure films.
Of 121 merit badges, the
one earned most by Scouts across the country is First Aid; more than 84,419
Scouts earned the badge in 2008.
The BSA is eco-friendly!
In addition to publishing the first “green” Boy Scout Handbook in 2009, BSA
magazines Boys’ Life and Scouting have been certified by the Sustainable
A Boy Scout was selected
to read Abraham Lincoln’s address at the 50th anniversary commemoration of the
Battle of Gettysburg in 1913, one of among several national notices the BSA
received that year.
Home to the world’s
largest collection of Norman Rockwell paintings, the National Scouting Museum in
Irving, Texas, is 53,000 square feet—it would take some 3.2 million merit badges
to fully cover the museum’s floor.
When Orville Wright wrote
how he and his brother Wilbur got to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, for the first
engine-powered airplane flight, only Boys’ Life printed “How I Learned to
Nearly 1.2 million
volunteers donate an average of 20 hours per month to the BSA, which totals 288
million hours of time during one year. Independent Sector projects the average
value of volunteer time to be $20.25 an hour. Given this hourly rate, the
approximate value of the time given by Boy Scout volunteers is more than $5.8
A project for Cub Scouts
and their parents, pinewood derby cars made since 1954 could form a line
stretching from Los Angeles to the island of Tahiti in the Polynesian Islands—a
total of more than 5,500 miles.
If a Boy Scout attends
his weekly patrol and troop meetings, participates in a monthly weekend troop
outing, and attends long-term summer camp with his troop, he will have spent as
much time with Scouting in a year as he spends in the classroom.
The Boy Scout Handbook
has had Braille editions for many years; merit badge pamphlets have been
recorded on cassette tapes for the blind; and closed-caption training videos
have been produced for those who are deaf.
Former Sea Scout Paul
Siple coined the term "wind chill". He experienced the phenomenon firsthand when
he accompanied Commander Richard E. Byrd on an 18-month voyage to Antarctica.
During 1950's and 1960's,
the world's second largest navy was owned by the BSA--Sea Scouting had obtained
and converted many ships decommissioned after WWII.
Inspired by an article he
read in Boys’ Life about the adventures of reporters working around the world,
Boy Scout Walter Cronkite went on to become the face of television news in the
During the 1970s, Kenner
Products developed a line of Scout action figures whose right arms, when raised,
made the Scout salute.
The “turn” in Philmont’s
first Scout name, “Philturn,” came from the Scout slogan “Do a Good Turn
In Scouting’s early
years, institutions such as Cornell University, Columbia University, and the
universities of Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas, and California offered training
courses for Scout leaders. More than 400 colleges and 34 seminaries offered such
courses by the mid-1930s—half for college credit.
As part of the two-year
“Strengthen the Arm of Liberty” campaign in 1949–50, Scouts erected more than
200 81/2-foot-tall replicas of the Statue of Liberty
across the country. Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the
statue on Seattle’s Aiki Beach became an impromptu memorial and gathering place
for stunned Seattle residents.
King Carl XVI Gustaf of
Sweden has dived from the Florida National High Adventure Sea Base.
The total number of merit
badges earned in 1911 was 85; the number earned in 2008 was 1,913,676.
Virtually unchanged since
1911, the design of the Plumbing merit badge is a water faucet.
Dr. E. Urner Goodman, the
founder of the BSA’s national honor society, the Order of the Arrow, was once a
volunteer Scoutmaster of Troop 1 in Philadelphia.