Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The "Army" Scout Uniform

By August 31, 1911, a new Handbook for Boys replaced the hastily drawn A Handbook of Woodcraft, Scouting, and Life-craft by Ernest Thompson Seton, who combined parts of his own manual The Birch Bark Roll and Baden-Powell's Scouting for Boys. In Seton's handbook, the suggested uniform was a British model.
The new Handbook for Boys gave the new American Scout Oath, Law, advancement requirements, showed the newly approved uniforms and badges, and offered guidance for organizing patrols and troops. The handbook showed a uniform that looked like a miniature of the U.S. Army's garb. It called for a khaki campaign hat, a five-button, choke collar coat, knee
britches, and canvas leggings. The whole outfit cost $4.05; a haversack "closely modeled after those supplied the U.S. Government" was an additional $2.25. Neckerchiefs, a part of the uniform for decades to follow, at first were not offered.

Two distinct types of uniforms for leaders was offered--an adult version of the boys' uniform with leather puttees or a Norfolk coat-and-breeches combination for $6.50.

In Troop 1's archives are photographs of a young Yale Lyon and the original five boys of Patrol 1 of Troop 1--Charles Hildreth, Howard Morse, Thomas McKay, Cecil Stearns and Neal Stearns--all fully accoutered in the new uniform, ready to spend a week in the open on the shores of Otsego Lake tramping through Leatherstocking country or putting in a smart appearance at a local parade. In the only known photograph of Yale Lyon displaying his Lion Patrol pennant, he is wearing the Norfolk-breeches-puttees combination, a white shirt and a definitely nonregulation bow tie!

The uniform was both a plus and a minus for the young troop. Many of Troop 1's older alumni at their 75th reunion remembered that the uniform was a big attraction, that the two things that gave Scouting its distinction from other youth programs was the uniform and camping.

Old English Christmas: "Boy Scouts Will Have Regulation Hats!"

One of the earliest fundraising efforts for Yale Lyon's boys was an Old English Christmas entertainment held at the St. Matthew's rectory on January 9, 1911 to raise money for new uniforms. Announced in the Unadilla Times under the heading "Boy Scouts Will Have Regulation Hats!" the popular event included dramatic readings by Yale Lyon, a Yule log in the fireplace, and an authentic English boar's head dinner. Attended by a capacity crowd, the Scouts netted a "snug sum of $18" to purchase campaign hats for the twenty-seven youngsters who composed three patrols at that time.

The annual Yule Log celebration, a favorite of Yale Lyon's carried over from his Oxford college days, became a popular event that benefited the troop until one year the resplendent roasted pig's head on a platter scared the willies out of a young Scout and the event was discontinued.

But the new army-type uniform posed a problem, too, because it hinted at military training. That perception was understandable, given Baden-Powell's military background, the army-type uniform, and a program that at first included a lot of marching and drilling. With the impending loom of World War 1, people soon got the idea their boys would graduate from Scouting straight into the Army.

Louis A. Hornbeck, Otschodela Council's first professional Scout Executive remembered joining Troop 23 in Brooklyn in 1912 over his parent's misgivings. "Many people came here from Europe because the male member of the family was threatened with military service," he said. "I remember that was true of my father, who came here from Denmark. He didn't absolutely discourage me from joining, but there was definitely a concern."

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