January 24, 1907: Robert Baden-Powell founds the Boy Scouts. Lieutenant General Baden-Powell began the movement in order to aid young boys in their physical, mental, and spiritual growth. During his military career, General Baden-Powell taught his men basic wilderness survival skills. He noticed it not only enhanced their chances of survival, but developed the soldiers’ independence. During the Boer War, Baden-Powell organized the Mafeking Cadet Corps, a group of young boys who supported the troops as well as helped in the defense of the town. Each member received a badge with a combined compass point and spearhead, a precursor to the fleur-de-lis of the Boy Scouts badge.
In England, Baden-Powell’s movements while holding Mafeking were reported in the news. When the siege was broken, he became a national hero. While in the service, he wrote a small guide for military scouting called Aids to Scouting. Boys became very interested in the book and after his return to England, it was requested he rewrite the book for boys rather than military personnel. The Boys’ Brigade was a large youth movement with military underpinnings. Baden-Powell thought a group like this, but with a focus on life skills rather than military precision, would fill a need.
Baden-Powell published Scouting for Boys and soon the movement was spreading to all parts of the British Empire. The first overseas unit was chartered in Gibraltar in 1908. At first, the program focused only on boys aged 11-18. As it grew, it became evident there was a need to expand to younger boys, older young men, and girls. Cub Scout and Rover Scout programs were added by 1910. Agnes Baden-Powell, Robert’s sister, introduced the Girl Guides in 1910 with the support of her brother.
Today, children aged 7-10 can join Cub Scouts or Girl Guides. Boys move to Boy Scouts aged 11-17 while girls move up to Girl Guide or Girl Scout status. Over age 18, Rover Scout or Ranger Guide is available. Adult supervision is provided by volunteers. The movement is truly global in scope with 28 million registered Scouts and 10 million registered Guides in 216 different countries. Some countries maintain gender separate groups while some have become co-educational. Indonesia boasts 8,100,000 members and the US has 7,500,000. The UK has 1 million members, the 6th highest membership country.
“My Scoutmaster made an indelible impact because he showed interest in young men by teaching us to do the right thing, to live right, and to be responsible for our actions.” – Reverend Dr. C.C. Robertson
“Scouting reinforces values you brought from home. It gave us an opportunity to share them with others whose values were not as strong.” – Jose Niño
“Following the Scout Law sounds like a game plan that would give us all a better chance for success in life—and I mean every area of life.” – Zig Ziglar
“I assure you of my own personal appreciation of Scouting as a magnificent experience and form of social and religious commitment.” – His Holiness Pope John Paul II
This article first appeared at Examiner.com in 2010. Editor’s update: Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell was born in 1857 in London. He had a long military career beginning in 1876 when he joined the 13th Hussars in India with the rank of Lieutenant. By the 1880s in the Natal province of South Africa, he was developing his skills in military scouting with the aid of the Zulus. He served in several places under English influence. While traveling to America in 1912, he met Olave St. Clair Soames. She was 23 and he was 55. They eloped ten months later. The couple had three children and Baron Baden-Powell died in 1941 at the age of 83. He was in Kenya at the time and was buried there. When his wife died, her ashes were sent to be interred with her husband.
Also on this day: Badminton – In 1900, Newcastle Badminton Club opened, the oldest such club in England.
“Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River” – In 1848, James W. Marshall spies gold in the American River, sparking the California Gold Rush.
Never Surrender – In 1972, Shōichi Yokoi was found.