The History of Cub Scouting
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In the mid 1890's, a British Army officer, Robert S. S.
Baden-Powell, while stationed in India found that his men didn't
know basic first aid or outdoor survival skills. They couldn't
follow a trail, tell directions, read danger signs, or find food and
water. In 1896, Baden-Powell drew upon his background as an army scout
to write a small military handbook called Aids to Scouting. He hoped
to teach his men resourcefulness, adaptability and the leadership
qualities demanded by frontier conditions.
About the same time, the seeds of Scouting were growing in the United States. Our rich pioneering traditions had caused Indians and frontier heroes to be part of every boy's life. Some creative youth leaders saw an opportunity to develop qualities of independence and resourcefulness in boys, as well as skill in nature lore and outdoor activities.
On a farm in Connecticut, a naturalist and author named Ernest Thompson Seton was organizing a group of boys called the Woodcraft Indians. He sent Baden-Powell a copy of his book, The Birchbark Roll of Woodcraft Indians. In it, he told how American boys formed tribes of Woodcraft Indians, about the games they played, and the Indian lore they practiced.
In addition to Seton, another American was working to bring boys and the outdoors closer together. Daniel Carter Beard, an artist and writer, organized the Sons of Daniel Boone, which soon became the biggest boys' club in the United States. In many ways the two organizations were similar, but they had no connection with each other. And the boys who belonged had never heard of Baden-Powell or of Boy Scouts, and yet both groups were destined to become Boy Scouts one day soon.
While Seton was in London in 1906, he met with B-P and discussed his ideas with him. B-P incorporated some of Seton's ideas and later credited Seton with being one of the fathers of Boy Scouting.
In 1909, a Chicago businessman and publisher, William D. Boyce, was lost in a London fog. As he groped his way through the fog, a boy appeared and offered to take him to his destination. When they arrived, the American reached in his pocket for a shilling tip. But the boy stopped him by courteously explaining that he was a Scout and could not accept payment for a Good Turn.
Intrigued, the publisher questioned the boy and learned more about Scouting. The boy took him to Baden-Powell's office, and once there, disappeared into the fog. No one knows what happened to him. He was never heard from again, but he will never be forgotten. At the Scout Training Center at Gilwell Park, England, a statue of a buffalo was erected in honor of this UNKNOWN SCOUT. His Good Turn is what brought Scouting to our country. As Boyce interviewed Baden-Powell, he became captured by the dream. When he boarded the transatlantic steamer for home, he had a suitcase filled with information, uniforms and ideas. Boyce was so impressed he took the ideas of Scouting back to America with him.
And so, on February 8, 1910, Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America. Shortly thereafter, a group of public-spirited citizens set up an organization. Seton became the first chief Scout of the Boy Scouts of America, and Beard was made the national commissioner.
A search began to find an executive officer. The man chosen was James E. West, a young Washington lawyer. He had a tragic boyhood. His father died before he was born, and his mother died when he was 7. He was sent to an orphan home where it was discovered that he had an incurable disease in one leg that made him physically impaired for life. In spite of his handicap, he put all his ambition, ability, and energy into becoming a lawyer. He succeeded and dedicated himself to helping all children, healthy, sick, or handicapped, to have a better life. He led the Boy Scouts of America for 32 years as the Chief Scout Executive. He was a strong, wise leader who helped build Scouting into the largest boy movement in the country and in the free world.
B-P came to the United States in September, 1910, to meet with all of BSA's early supporters. He would return many more times for Jamborees and other events - always inspiring with his vision, enthusiasm, wisdom and stories.
The Boy Scouts of America received its first national charter from the Congress of the United States in 1916. President Theodore Roosevelt gave his support as a vice-president of BSA and Chief Scout Citizen.
From the beginning, both in England and in America, there was a problem of sorts with younger boys. Younger brothers were wanting to tag along with their older brothers and boys without older brothers didn't want to miss out of the fun, either. Many units started junior troops or mascot troops in order to address the problems. In 1909 in England, B-P was having similar problems and gradually developed a program based on symbols and stories from The Jungle Book, written by Rudyard Kipling. In 1916, B-P published The Wolf Cub Handbook thus making Wolf Cubbing an official part of Scouting in England.
The Wolf Cub Handbook quickly made its way to America. Many Cubbing units were started without the endorsement of the Boy Scouts of America. James E. West, Boy Scouts of Americas Chief Executive, opposed the program because he feared it might take adult leadership away from a still young Boy Scout program. He also felt the older boys needed the program more so than the younger boys. Another man with a name familiar to many Scouts and Scouters today agreed with West. That man was Daniel Carter Beard, National Scout Commissioner. Even so, West succumbed to the pressure of the younger boy and in 1918, he took the American copyright of The Wolf Cub Handbook by B-P. The National Supply Office carried the book for the next ten years as a resource to Cub Pack Leaders, even though BSA did not have an official program for the younger boys.
As early as 1920, The Boy Scouts of America, saw a need for a similar program for younger boys and their families. In 1925 Dr. Harold W. Hurt, a research psychologist and veteran Scouter working with Ernest Thompson Seton studied other clubs for younger boys. They recommended that the BSA adopt a program for younger boys, with older Boy Scouts as leaders, to tie into home, church, school, and Boy Scouting. In 1929, after four years of studying and planning, Cubbing (it wasn't called Cub Scouting until several years later) was taking shape. It was introduced as a demonstration project in a limited number of communities. Its structure was similar to today's Cub Scouting, except the dens were led by Boy Scout den chiefs. The plan included a neighborhood mother's committee to encourage Cubs and their den chiefs.
The pressure to have an official program to offer younger boys kept West working on a solution. In 1922 West reported that he was keeping up with experiments with programs for the younger boys. In 1924 at the National Scout Conference, the National Executive Board was asked to investigate and prepare a program for younger boys as soon as possible. A committee was formed in 1925 to perform a study of other youth programs and make recommendations. It recommended a program for younger boys be prepared which would link to home, church, school and Boy Scouting. More recommendations were made in 1926 to adopt a program called "The Cubs", essentially the same program as Cubbing in England. West agreed with these recommendations, but he was still concerned it would take leaders away from Boy Scouting. In 1928 a thorough study was started and led to American Cub Scouting (or Cubbing as it was called in the old days). Field testing began and by August 1929 demonstration units were authorized. The Boy's Cubbook Part 1 was sent to the printer in December, 1929. Finally, on February 10, 1930 the Executive Board heard the report on the experiments and authorized Cub Packs to register with BSA on April 1, 1930. After 20 years, Cubbing (not Cub Scouting) was formed!
Cubbing grew slowly in the first few years. The National Committee on Cubbing kept a close watch on the program. The Executive Board was pleased to find their fears that Cubbing would remove leaders from Boy Scouts were not realized. Of the Cubbing Leaders, 76% were new to Scouting. On May 25, 1933 the Executive Board removed the experimental label from Cubbing and aggressive marketing began.
In the early 1930's, the Cub Pack was similar to those now. Cubbing was for the 9 to 11 year old boy. The ranks he earned were Wolf, Bear and Lion, (our older readers might remember Lion) and a boy had to pass Bobcat entrance tests before he could start working on his ranks. The Den, however, was notably different. As originally designed, the Cub Den was run by an older Boy Scout called the Den Chief (we still have those, they are helpers and not organizers). Although she had no official role in the den, the mother of the home where the den met frequently helped with the den. It soon became clear that dens with adult leadership did better than those with the Den Chief alone. Optional registration for Den Mothers was approved by the Executive Board on April 30, 1936. The first Den Mothers Handbook was published in March, 1937. Registration of Den Mothers was not required until 1948. Another major difference between then and now is the Den Chief or the Cubmaster signed off on the Cubs requirements, not the parents as they do now.
In 1933 BSA started a monthly publication called The Cub Leaders' Round Table offering ideas on pack and den activities. By 1939 many local councils were offering annual gatherings of Cub Leaders for training purposes. This continues to this day with annual training gatherings called Pow Wows.
Cubbing continued to grow and develop during the 1940's. Two major changes were made to the rank advancement. In 1941 the Webelos rank was added. It was for the 11 year old boy who had completed his Lion badge and had also completed certain requirements for the Boy Scout Rank of Tenderfoot. The Webelos badge at the time looked like the Arrow of Light patch we know today. At that time, a boy who joined Cubbing had to start with the Wolf rank, after completing his Bobcat requirements, and work his way up, regardless of his age. In 1942 this requirement was dropped so the boy could immediately start working on the rank that would go with his age, again after completing his Bobcat requirements. That meant that an 11 year old boy who joined did not have to complete the Wolf and Bear ranks before he started on the Lion Rank. A boy could also wear all of his rank and arrow points on his uniform shirt. When Cubbing first started, he could only wear his current rank and arrow points.
In 1945 BSA dropped the term Cubbing in favor of Cub Scouting, making the name we use today official. Up to that time the boys were referred to as Cubs and the movement as Cubbing. The name Cub Scouts was reserved for Boys Scouts that had been Cubs. The biggest change to Cub Scouting in the 40's was probably the change in age requirements which were put into effect in 1949. The entry age was dropped from 9 years old to 8 and boys could continue through their 10th year. Boy Scouts made a similar change, dropping the entry age from 12 to 11 years old. >
Cub Scouting continued to grow tremendously in the 50's. And like the previous 20 years, there were many changes that occurred in the continuing effort to improve Cub Scouting. The Pinewood Derby and Raingutter Regatta were introduced, as well as the creation of Webelos Dens.
In 1954 the Pinewood Derby car first appeared in the October issue of Boys' Life. While the supply catalog had listed various car kits over the years, this was when the instructions for making the car and track first appeared. The Pinewood Derby is one of the most anticipated events in Cub Scouting today. The Raingutter Regatta kits first appeared in the supply catalog in 1958.
In the spring of 1954 major changes were made to the advancement program. The Webelos Den was created and was intended for 10 1/2 year old boys who had earned the Lion rank. The Webelos Den was meant to improve and smooth the transition into Boy Scouts. A new handbook, the Lion-Webelos Book, was published to address the changes.
The 1960's was another decade of change for Cub Scouting. The most significant change was to the Webelos Scouting program in 1967 resulting in the Lion rank being dropped. This was for the 10 year old Cub Scout and offered him a program with fifteen activity badges in a variety of areas such as geology, engineering and sports. The Webelos program pointed the Webelos Scout toward the Arrow of Light, Cub Scouting's highest award. It also aimed at improving the graduation rate of Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. In addition, the 10 year old boy was referred to as a Webelos Scout, not a Cub Scout. A distinctively different uniform was also available for the Webelos Scout. He could wear the tan Boy Scout style shirt and had a different hat and neckerchief. Also, the Wolf and Bear rank requirements were completely reworked with different achievements and electives. A whole new purpose for Cub Scouting was also written as part of these major program revisions.
In the early 70's BSA continued its push to bring the program to the poor, disadvantaged, minority and handicapped youth of America. A special emphasis was put on bringing Scouting to the handicapped. More than 60,000 handicapped persons were enrolled in packs, troops and Explorer posts sponsored by community organizations and institutions while an estimated 150,000 others were members of mainstream units. Training materials were provided to leaders so they could better provide the Scouting program to the handicapped.
In 1971 the Cub Scout Promise was changed. The phrase to be square was dropped because it was felt that the word "square" was outdated. So our younger readers will know, the phrase to be square meant that you were an honest and honorable person who could be counted on to do the right thing - something we should all strive for. Below is the old version of the Cub Scout Promise and the current version so you can see the change.
The Rocket Derby was introduced in the 70's. The Rocket Derby used miniature rockets built from kits sold through the supply catalog. These kits were discontinued some years later.
The 80's introduced more major changes to the Cub Scouting program. 1980 saw the registration of the 30 millionth Cub Scout. BSA also introduced new uniforms in 1980. The major change for the Cub uniform was the introduction of the baseball style cap with different insignia for the Wolf, Bear and Webelos years.
The Tiger Cubs program was introduced in 1982 and is a program for first graders (or 7-year olds) who register with an adult partner who is at least 18 years old. The goal of the program was to bring the boy and his parent closer together by providing a program to allow quality time with the boy while sharing his experiences with others in his Tiger Group. It was a very flexible program, and at the time, the Tiger Group was only loosely associated with a sponsoring pack.
In 1985 BSA introduced the expanded program. Prior to this time, age had been the primary factor for determining a boy's eligibility to join. Starting in 1986, grade became the primary factor, with age as a backup requirement. The second year was added to the Webelos program and meant that a Scouting program is offered to all boys of grades 1 through 12. These changes also made it easier for boys to remain with the same peer group all through scouting.
In 1995, Cub Scouting celebrated its 75th Anniversary, known as 75 Years of Fun, Family, and Friends.
The Movement begun by Baden-Powell now exists in almost every country in the world. From 22 boys camping on Brownsea Island in 1907, it has grown to more than 25 million members. Baden-Powell remained active in scouting throughout his life. B-P was knighted and made a baronet, Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell, in recognition of his vision and tireless efforts on behalf of Scouting. During his later life, he was revered as Chief Scout of the World.
In 1938, heeding his doctor's advice, Baden-Powell and his family moved to Nyeri in Kenya. His health gradually declined, and on January 8, 1941, he died peacefully. Scouts of several nations carried him to his final resting place in a tiny cemetery at Nyeri on the slopes of the Aberdares, facing Mount Kenya. His final resting place is marked with a simple headstone which bears his name and the Scout sign for I have gone home.