Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Old Campaigner Restored

I know it is a sin
For me to sit and grin
At him here;
But the old [campaign] hat,
And the breeches, and all that,
Are so queer!
--Oliver Wendell Holmes

Among a number of 1940s-1950s Scouting items recently donated to the Unadilla Boy Scout Museum was a Boy Scout Campaign Hat once belonging to Unadilla Scouter Kenneth E. Davis. “The hat was so badly crushed we were going to throw it out. In fact we fished it back out of the dumper when we heard about your museum,” said his son Richard as they were preparing his father’s house for auction. The museum reluctantly accepted the sorry piece of felt and immediately set off on an internet search on how to clean it and put some snap back into the brim of the ol’ Campaigner.

A quick check of the Troop 1 BSA Unadilla NY Book of Names, the official roster of nearly every Scout or Leader who joined the troop since 1910, showed us Kenneth was an active a member of the Troop Committee in 1954 when the troop met on Tuesdays at the Presbyterian Church, and again in 1955 when son Richard joined the troop; Kenneth continued to serve on the Troop Committee at least until 1963, when Richard’s brother James also joined the troop. At that time, Troop 1 had a roster of around 40 boys and met at the American Legion Post on Tuesdays. None of the family appear on the roster after 1964—father Kenneth, sons Richard or Jim.

An examination of the hat itself revealed Kenneth’s initials K.E.D. on the sweatband, the logo of the Boy Scouts of America and the manufacturer’s mark of Sigmund Eisner Co., Red Hook, N.J. National Outfitter from 1910-1932. The Sigmund Eisner Co. was the official manufacturers of Boy Scout, Army, and National Guard uniforms and the supplier of Troop 1 Unadilla’s first uniform in 1910, essentially a boy-sized version of the doughboy uniform the company supplied the U.S. Army.

This hat-in-hand, so to speak, appeared to be similar to Eisner’s No. 503 17 oz. Regulation Scout Hat, but made of lighter-weight (4.1 oz.) olive drab felt, with a grommet ventilated crown, two grommets on the brim to let the shoestring chinstrap pass through, an olive drab grosgrain ribbon band and three rows of brown stitching along the rim. A 1916 Scouting catalog listed an Eisner Regulation Scout Hat as costing all of $1.90 but Kenneth’s hat has some earmarks of a hat made in the late 20s or 30s. –less of a peaked crown, ribbon instead of the leather band and machine stitching on the brim. That this could be the hat that Kenneth wore in his own youth is collaborated by his also-donated personal Handbook for Boys that shows on the My Scout History page he was a new Tenderfoot Scout in 1930, just two years before Eisner’s was out of the Scout uniform business. Along the way, someone, perhaps Kenneth himself, had replaced the original detachable lace ties with a silver and brown woven lanyard style chinstrap.

We quickly learned that you need a light hand and work carefully if we wanted to restore a felt hat that is antique or expensive or if it had sentimental value. What this particular Boy Scout campaign hat was short on in antiquity or cost, it certainly made up long on sentimental value. This “lid” (the military term is "cover") sat on the head of a Boy Scout who could look back almost to the founding of our venerable troop in 1910, and as an adult Scouter look forward to the 50th Anniversary of BSA in 1960. By some small miracle it fell in our hands 50 years later after a last minute rescue from oblivion during the year when the BSA and our troop are celebrating their 100th anniversary. We think it deserves a chance at restoration to take a valued place in our exhibits that tell the story of oldest continually chartered Boy Scout troop in the nation.

We began by brushing the hat with a soft-bristle hat brush to remove any loose dirt and dust from its 50 year stay in a closet and recent trip to the dumper. Fortunately, the sweat band inside was not badly stained and there was only minor damage by insects along the underside of the brim. Other than being crushed nearly flat and wadded into a rough ball, the hat was in remarkably good condition. We first gently brushed the crown and brim counterclockwise, and then brushed the top of the hat toward the back to loosen debris and lift the nap of the felt.

We then removed a couple stubborn lint or fuzz balls with painter’s tape and used a small car vacuum cleaner with a brush head to clean out around the inside of the thin leather sweat band. We gradually reshaped the crown by first using steam from a steam iron to make the hat soft and pliable, then opening up the crown and putting the dimples back in the right places with our fingers. We reshaped the flat brim by pressing it flat with a medium warm iron over a
damp towel on the ironing board. We did not have a hat form so we wadded up some absorbent paper toweling to fill the crown and dried the hat over a plastic coffee can overnight.We next sprayed on a hat-stiffener product especially made for felt hats to allow it to keep its shape without residue. We had been told not to use spray laundry starch or hairspray that can cause build up and residue over time, so we went looking on the internet to find a hat care product specifically made for stiffening felt hats. We found at Pete’s Western Wear Store a product called Scout Felt Hat Stiffener (Go figure—how could we go wrong with a product named Scout Felt Hat Stiffener?) for $10.95 that restored the hat’s body and shape without affecting its texture, tone, or color. We also ordered the companion Scout Felt Hat Cleaner For Dark Colored Hats at $7.99, although our campaigner didn’t require much cleaning. "

Many of the vintage felt items Troop 1’s Boy Scout Museum receives— felt patches, wool
uniforms, pennants and campaign hats—have moth holes or pin holes. Sometimes there is nothing that can be done, other than dry cleaning or fumigating to prevent any further infestation. (For example, the 1935 and 1937 felt National Jamboree patches are notorious for being eaten right down to their gauze backing material and yet still go for relatively high prices on eBay.)

We have seen some real magic done by utilizing a sharp pin to work the existing material into the hole. Pinning takes some patience and a steady hand but you can improve the appearance of a mothy Scout hat by teasing some of the surrounding felt into the hole like a woolly crack filler. A little steam from an iron and a shot of stiffener before pressing with the iron will make the hole nearly invisible.

We conclude this essay with a little information on the Campaign Hat (or "Smokey Bear Hat," but that is another story!) and its association with the Boy Scouts:

Baden-Powell was British, but picked up the habit of wearing
a Stetson campaign hat and kerchief for the first time in 1896 in Africa during the Second Matabele War. It was during this time that Baden-Powell, already a cavalryman, was befriended by the celebrated American scout Frederick Russell Burnham, who favored the campaign hat. In the African hills it was Burnham who first introduced Baden-Powell to the ways and methods of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, and taught him woodcraft (better known today as Scoutcraft). When Baden-Powell first re-wrote his handbook "Scouting for the Army" into "Scouting for Boys" he included sketches of boys as "scouts" wearing the campaign hat.

(Above right) Frederick Russell Burnham, American military scout and friend of Baden-Powell during the African Second Metabele War favored the campaign hat.

An excellent reference on the construction and use of the military campaign hat is at Doughboy Central, and Wikipeida has a good intro to the use of the campaign hat in Scouting at:"

Donald Tuttle, Troop 1 BSA Unadilla Historian

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Curtis Ballard Album Photos of Long Island Roosevelt Pilgrimage in 1933

Ray Ballard of Sidney, NY recently showed us a family photo album of his father's, Curtis Ballard, with some pictures of his father and Daniel Carter Beard at some Long Island Boy Scout event in the 1930s. A little detective work revealed his father was present at an annual Theodore Roosevelt Pilgrimage event in Oyster Bay, NY, probably around October 20 of 1933, the anniversary of Roosevelt's death in 1919. Many of the photos show "Uncle Dan" Beard and other buckskinned dignitaries ready to march to the grave site of the 26th President, columns of marching Scouts waving American flags, and a group of boys in full Indian regalia, several of which I have used to illustrate the blog article Daniel Carter Beard and the Theodore Roosevelt Pilgrimage posted below. One picture shows Curtis in a suit standing next to the grizzled National Commissioner.

Another related item, a 40th Crusade felt patch, a souvenir of the 1949 Pilgrimage to Roosevelt's grave, showed up recently in a collection of 1940s and 1950s patches donated to the Unadilla Boy Scout Museum. Collectors of Roosevelt memorabilia are familiar with buttons marking various years of this event but this little felt patch is unusual.

Daniel Carter Beard and His Annual Pilgrimage to Theodore Roosevelt’s Grave.

Although Theodore Roosevelt was no longer president of the United States when the Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1910, he was an ardent booster of the organization. He was a troop committeeman of Troop 39 in Oyster Bay New York, and first council commissioner of Nassau County Council. As a former president, he was elected honorary vice president of the Boy Scouts of America. Roosevelt was the first and only man designated as Chief Scout Citizen.

“More and more I have grown to believe in the Boy Scout movement. I regard it as one of the movements most full of promise for the future here in America. The Boy Scout movement is distinctly an asset to our country for the development of efficiency, virility, and good citizenship. It is essential that its leaders be men of strong, wholesome character; of unmistakable devotion to our country, its customs and ideals, as well as in soul and by law citizens thereof, whose wholehearted loyalty is given to this nation and to this nation alone.”

For many years after his death in 1919, Scouts planted Roosevelt memorial trees and several thousand Scouts and leaders in the area made annual pilgrimages to his Long Island grave in the Young’s Memorial Cemetery of Oyster Bay. Organized under the leadership of “Colonel” Daniel Beard, National Boy Scout Commissioner and old friend of the late president, the Roosevelt Pilgrimage quickly became a spectacular and colorful annual event.

The first pilgrimage was conducted in October 1920 by National Commissioner Beard and National Office officials with the help of about 50 Nassau County Council Scouts. The next year Beard saw to it that the solemn pilgrimage took on more airs of a circus involving Scouts from all parts of Long Island, New Jersey, Brooklyn and Manhattan, men of the Camp Fire Club of America, various officials in buckskin suits, Canadian Mounties, and blooded Indian chiefs from the Ohlyea Sioux with the regalia of their tribe, “the feathers of their hats reaching the ground.” Led by a band, the boys marched to the cemetery followed by hundreds of spectators, and after a short address by Beard telling of Roosevelt’s Americanism and his pleasure at being made honorary Chief Scout Citizen of the Scouts, the band played the “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the scouts laid wreaths at the foot of Roosevelt’s tombstone. The Scout Oath was then repeated and at its conclusion Colonel Beard, kneeling, placed his wreath on the grave while the Scouts and hundreds of spectators knelt in a brief silent prayer.

The caption of a 1933 press photograph read, "Daniel Carter Beard, picturesque National Scout Commissioner of the Boy Scouts of America, about to place the wreath on the grave of former President Theodore Roosevelt, as some of the five thousand Scouts who paid their 14th annual pilgrimage to the grave today, October 21st, look on. The parade of Scouts from the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania started from the High School and ended at the grave here."

By 1936, the event had mushroomed into a stirring sight of a parade march of more than 5,000 Scouts, BSA officials, Col. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., son of Theodore Roosevelt, members of the Explorer’s Club, the Buckskin Men, the Campfire Club, the Range Riders of the West, many of them friends of the late President. Following the placing of the National Council wreath on the grave, “Uncle Dan” and BSA President Walter M. Head, Col. Roosevelt, and the veteran outdoorsmen reviewed the Scouts as each contingent came to a salute and placed their wreaths on the gate of the family plot where the former president was buried.An airplane flying low overhead dropped rose petals on the grave. During the “Ceremony of Roses” three Scouts tossed rose petals in the air as the names of Scout leaders who had recently passed away were called. Following the National Commissioner’s address, the ceremony came to a close, with four buglers blowing the Church Call, and a fifth bugler blowing “Taps.” [1]

By 1939, the entourage had swelled to 6,000 Scouts from five states, led by a mostly now propped-up 89-year old Dan Beard, who continued to lead the pilgrimage to the Oyster Bay shrine. [2]

President Roosevelt’s dictum of the strenuous life strongly appealed to Uncle Dan and in each annual address, he always quoted the late President on his doctrine of a vigorous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and intellectual strife; to preach that the highest form of success, which comes, not to the man who desires easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph. In his own words during an interview in 1941, just 10 days before his 90th birthday, Beard remarked:

“As I have said, Theodore Roosevelt was associated intimately with us when we were organizing the Scouts. He was always keenly interested. I never had to explain to him any ideas of a robust outdoor training for boys. They were his ideas also. Just before the end of his life we tried to get him to take the head of the Scout movement. He agreed, but the fates ruled otherwise. In place of saluting him as our living leader I have ever since led the annual pilgrimage of thousands of Boy Scouts to the simple grave at Oyster Bay, where our great President and my beloved friend rests. Each year we place a wreath by the headstone. In addition to the thousands of boys, my old companions of the Camp Fire Club, the original Buckskin Men, always accompany me, their ranks thinning as the years pass but their courage unimpaired. Each year as I make the short address I think how sadly we miss that loyal American, Theodore Roosevelt.” [3]

The Theodore Roosevelt Council and the Sagamore Service Troop (a group of trained adult leaders in the T.R. Council organized in 1923 to support the council’s programs) held a 150th Birthday Anniversary in 2008, with a visit to the Young’s Cemetery gravesite. Another annual Roosevelt Pilgrimage is now sponsored by The Theodore Roosevelt Association, a not-for-profit group that promotes a greater appreciation of the 26th President through research, seminars and member programs. The latest pilgrimage held in 2009 included a special Presidential Wreath sent from the White House, U.S. Navy representatives, veterans, Cub Scouts and NE Region BSA officials, school children, dignitaries, and representatives from Sagamore Hill.

[1] Boys’ Life, The Scout World by Chief Scout Executive James E. West, December issue, 1936
[2] Special to the New York Times, Times World Wide,Sunday.
[3] Quoted on the Scouting website, The Inquiry Net,

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hugh N. Collins, Troop 1 Scout (1947-1951)

A box of Scout memorabilia donated to our Troop 1 BSA Unadilla Boy Scout Museum recently at first glance didn’t hold much of interest. The short inventory included two Cub Scout membership cards (1947-1949), a stamped metal Cub Scout neckerchief slide and another leather neckerchief slide embossed B.S.A. CRUMHORN MOUNTAIN 1950. Three Boy Scout membership cards (1949-1951), a Handbook for Boys (fifth edition-June 1948)—all spoke of the typical stuff of a young boy’s hike along the Trail of Scouting in the late 1940s and 1950s. Two boys’ novels, The Banner Scouts On A Tour by “Professor” George Warren and The Boy Scouts in Camp by George Dunston, silently spoke of his reading interests. A 1950s-style aluminum cook kit, a knife-fork-spoon set stamped “stainless steel Japan” and a little aluminum B.S.A. Bantam Lite mini-flashlight were all indicative of his personal camping gear of the time.

We were somewhat puzzled by a painted tuna-fish can and wood handle “liberty torch” until we remembered the National BSA theme in 1950 was "Strengthen The Arm of Liberty” This item might have been a handmade prop for a den skit at a pack meeting.

The box also contained Hugh’s 1948 Certificate of Completion in the Unadilla 4H Rotary Poultry Club for raising poultry, a pair of tickets for the 1950 New Mexico vs. Army game at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and two little carved wooden plaques—one of a duck and the other of what might be a cowboy hat. The rank and membership cards, the handbook, and many of the other items are marked “Hugh N. Collins, 34 Fellows Street, Unadilla, NY, Troop #1." A check of the Troop 1 Book of Names shows Hugh first joined the troop in 1949 (after two years as a Cub Scout in Pack 1) when his father Ernest M. Collins became the Scoutmaster (and explains why a small folder with a card detailing “The Scoutmaster’s Job” was also found in the box.) Hugh continued with the troop through 1951 when he reached 2nd class. But his father was replaced as Scoutmaster that year by Arthur Sommers, who was Assistant Scoutmaster the previous year. Hugh and his father do not appear in Troop 1 records after 1951.

The vast bulk of Scouting items, like most of Hugh’s items, exist to recognize a Scout for his accomplishments in Scoutcraft, to engender feelings of kinship with other Scouts similarly outfitted, and to assist in the practice of his or her Scouting. Everything pertaining to Scouting can be collected—cloth and metal insignia, uniforms and awards, and extends to handbooks and advancement pamphlets, postage stamps, magazines, camping equipment issued by a national Scout organization, photographs, coffee mugs, and other items—but we think the items that tell a story are the most interesting.

Our museum houses and displays Scouting items that chronicle the hundred year story of Scouting in Unadilla to the members of our troop and preserve our legacy for museum visitors in the future. None of Hugh’s items are especially valuable as collectibles, but in the story they tell of one young Unadilla Scout’s experience in “
America’s Centennial Boy Scout Troop,” they are priceless.

Our thanks go to Carl Staff and his wife for donating Hugh Collins’ Scout items to the Unadilla Troop 1 Museum. Donald Tuttle, Troop 1 Historian. 04.02.10

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bugle Calls

"Official" Boy Scout Bugle

Our Troop 1 BSA Unadilla Scout Museum contains a number of brass "Boy Scout" bugles in various states of condition, several of which date back to the early days of the movement--the 'teens and 20s. While examining a set of c.1914-1916 Scout Gum cards recently, I was pleased to find this reference to bugles on the back of Card No. 1:

"For scout camps especially, the bugle finds its place in daily Scout life. At sunrise, the Reveille or awakening call arouses the Scouts to breakfast and the start of another days' activity. At noontime, perhaps the sound is even more welcome when the bugle calls the hungry ones to mess and perhaps the most unwelcome call is Retreat at sunset, which calls everyone to the Colors, after which follows Evening Mess, the Camp Fire and finally to close the day--Taps and all retire."

This blog entry started out be about bugles, but the issues about "official" Boy Scout-branded bugles and Scout Gum cards are similar. Between 1907 and 1916, several companies tried to capitalize on the popularity of the Scouting movement by branding their products with the name "Scout" and using graphic images of Boy Scouts to promote their merchandise. In 1916, the Boy Scouts of America received a congressional charter that granted the organization exclusive rights to the term “Boy Scout,” the uniforms, and the insignia. The BSA protected this right by very aggressively pursuing all infringements (not unlike it is doing regarding the unauthorized use of its logos today). As a result, any privately printed series of cards that were issued after 1916 were relatively short-lived. In spite of this, there are several very attractive series of postcards published both before and after that date.

The Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1910, and they published the first "American” Boy Scout Handbook in 1911. On page 361 of that handbook, in the APPENDIX - BOY SCOUT EQUIPMENT, is an illustration of a bugle and the statement: “Bugle. It is recommended that the standard bugle used in an army or drum corps be used. Each Patrol should purchase these from a local music store.” By 1913, the statement, “Each Patrol should purchase these from a local music store.” had been replaced by the statement, “These may be purchased from a local music store or National Headquarters will quote prices.” BSA National Headquarters had begun selling bugles.

There were two bugles listed in early 1910s BSA catalogs. These early catalogs used the technically correct term of trumpet, not bugle. Listed were No. 1064 BOY SCOUT TRUMPET and No. 1065 BOY SCOUT TRUMPET, a “higher quality instrument” than No. 1064. No. 1064 was gone from the BSA catalog by 1917, so 1917 and 1918 BSA catalogs contained only the No. 1065 BOY SCOUT TRUMPET.

Three significant changes occurred in 1919. First the terminology in the BSA catalog changed from “trumpet” to “bugle.” Second, a higher quality bugle was introduced, Catalog No.1415, so that there were once again two bugles in the catalog, No. 1065 and No. 1415. Third, the manufacture of the No. 1065 bugle was transferred to Rex International Products of Brooklyn, New York, at that time the largest producer of bugles in America, with their brand name “Rexcraft.” There is strong evidence to suggest that the manufacturer of the No. 1415 bugle was C. G. Conn Ltd. of Elkhart, Indiana, another major band instrument manufacturer.

Rexcraft Official Boy Scout Bugle

Over the next 80 years ads filled Boys Life magazines, Boy Scout Handbooks for Official Boy Scout Bugles from several different manufacturers: Conn, King, Rexcraft, made in various finishes and materials, even a WWII "plastic" military-inspired version made by the Tennessee Eastman Corporation, a Kodak subsidiary.

A very comprehensive History of American Boy Scout Bugles Using Bugles, Handbooks, Equipment Catalogs and Boys Life Magazines by Bruce McCrea can be found at
which provided much of the information included here.

Actually, the Boy Scout bugle is far from being "history." The folks at have produced a modern improved version of the brass instrument Scouts used to complete their Bugler Merit Badge and blow their lungs out nearly a hundred years ago. Their new Philmonttm G Bugle celebrates the Boy Scouts of America 100th Anniversary while meeting today's requirements of ease of play, tone quality, intonation, and construction quality and still be available for an economical price. While maintaining some of the flavor of the traditional 1892 model bugle and the traditional Boy Scout bugle, they have elected to take advantage of 108 additional years of brass instrument manufacturer along with an ISO 9000 qualified factory to deliver the best of modern day product. It's a beautiful instrument! Curiously, its only for sale on their website, you won't find it in BSA's catalog...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Unadilla Camporee Helps Prove Outing Is Two-thirds of Scouting--1960

Gateway and Flagraising at Troop 1 Unadilla's campsite

Approximately 2,000 area residents witnessed a panoramic display of Scouting recently when more than 2,200 Otschodela Council Scouts, Cubs and Explorers converged on the Unadilla Rod & Gun Club grounds for a two-day Golden Anniversary Camporee, May 21-22, 1960.

In spite of a heavy downpour, which washed out campfire ceremonies and a climactic pageant depicting 50 years of Scouting, color and camaraderie filled the Camporee area to overflowing. Thousands of boys demonstrated scouting skills, staged unit displays, and engaged in competitive contests.

One point of the Scout Law--A Scout is Religious [editor: Reverent] --was vividly demonstrated on Sunday morning by the Scouts marching en masse, a sea of khaki and blue, to their respective services, Catholic and Protestant. Services for boys of the Jewish faith were conducted on Friday evening.

One of the distinguished visitor was Congressman Samuel Stratton.

Senator Stratton makes a political statement by crossing a
"Monkey Walk" bridge.

Many Scintilla employees participated in the Camporee as leaders. Hundreds of the boys taking part were sons of Scintilla employees.

Staged in Unadilla as a highlight of the 50th anniversary of Boy Scouting in America, the Camporee--in a sense--was a homecoming celebration for the Boy Scout movement. The Unadilla troop, which is chartered as Troop No. 1, is one of the first Boy Scout troops in

Signal Tower built by Explorer Post #80, Sidney, NY

--The Scintillator, June 1960, Scintilla Division of the Bendix Corporation, Sidney, NY.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Unadilla Boy Scouts celebrate 100th, history

Area Boy Scouts celebrated Uniform Day today to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Boy Scouts of America. While troops across the country will mark this milestone, Troop 1 in Unadilla has a special connection, as it is the oldest continually chartered Boy Scout troop in the nation. Troop 1 Scoutmaster Brian Danforth said the celebration got under way in early 2009 and will continue throughout this year.

The troop formed a Centennial Celebration Team of Scouts, calling itself the Lyon Patrol. The five Scouts had special 1910 replica uniforms made, and each Scout has a name tag representing the original five boys. The Lyon Patrol has participated in numerous parades, flag raising ceremonies and other community activities.

"Those uniforms have been very well received in the community," Danforth said. "We've been having a lot of fun with it."

Scouting in the United States can give credit to Chicago newspaperman and entrepreneur, William D. Boyce, who was determined to train and educate the army of newsboys who delivered his papers. Legend has it that, while visiting England, Boyce got lost on a foggy street in London when an unknown boy came to his aid, guiding him to his destination. Boyce offered the boy a tip, but he refused, explaining that he was doing his duty as a Scout.

England had a program called Scouting for Boys at the time, started in 1907 by Sir Robert Baden-Powell. Boyce met with Baden-Powell during this visit in 1909. Boyce returned to the U.S. and started the process for incorporation papers for the Boy Scouts of America. It was completed Feb. 8, 1910. From the start, Boyce focused the Scouting program on teaching self-reliance, citizenship, resourcefulness, patriotism, obedience, cheerfulness, courage and courtesy "to make men."

The Rev. Yale Lyon had a somewhat similar experience as Boyce while in England. Lyon studied for a year at Magadelen College of Oxford University to complete a master's degree in divinity. Lyon saw the work of Scouting for Boys and was impressed. Lyon came back to the U.S., and first served as a house master at the Albany Diocese Hoosic School. He then accepted a call from the vestry of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Unadilla.

Lyon had an idea for a community project for boys as he arrived in Unadilla based on his experience with Scouting in England. Lyon applied for a warrant to start a troop in April 1910, but the Boy Scouts of America headquarters of New York didn't get around to sending a charter certificate until September 7. Out of about 4,000 would-be scoutmasters who applied to start a Boy Scout troop, Lyon's application was No. 166.

The charter was finally issued Sept. 7, 1910. Troop 1 in Unadilla began with five boys. The first troop of any community was designated as Troop 1. Lyon served as Scoutmaster from 1910 to 1937, and after his death in 1942, Unadilla residents were determined to keep Troop 1 going.

What differentiates Unadilla's Troop 1 from all the others nationwide is its continuity. Each year, a troop has to file paperwork to renew its charter, and Unadilla has never missed a deadline, earning it the distinction of the oldest continually chartered Boy Scout troop in the United States. There are 25 boys in the troop.

Don Tuttle, former Troop 1 Scoutmaster and now historian for the troop, said: "I think it was Yale Lyon's influence. He was an important community figure, and the people always felt that Unadilla would have a Boy Scout Troop."

With the centennial under way, both Tuttle and Danforth said they hope that alumni Scouts will get in touch and participate in upcoming activities, not only in Unadilla, but throughout the area covered by the Otschodela Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

On May 14, Troop 1 will host a Centennial Alumni Banquet at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Unadilla. This dinner is open to all Boy Scout alumni (by reservation only). There will be a retirement of the original troop charter and presentation of a new centennial Charter to Troop 1, a scouting musicale and more. Special "guests" include former President Theodore Roosevelt and Sir Robert Baden-Powell. For reservations, call Tuttle at 369-7323 or e-mail

That same weekend, all are welcome as Unadilla hosts the Boy Scouts of America 100th Anniversary Encampment. The event will emulate the first New York State Boy Scout Encampment held in Cooperstown in 1910. Activities will include a Skill-o-Rama Midway and Circus, new Scout Museum exhibits, a Main Street parade, bonfires and fireworks.

For more information and encampment registration, Scout units may contact the Otschodela Council Inc. BSA at 432-6491 or

--By Mark Simonson, Contributing Writer

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Historical Merit Badge Program

A merit badge called Computers would sound just a crazy to a 1910 Boy Scout as a merit badge called Tracking sounds to Scouts today. That’s because the BSA’s list of available merit badges has evolved through the years as the interests of boys have changed.

In honor of the BSA’s 100th Anniversary, though, today’s generation of Scouts will get the unique opportunity to experience some of the activities their predecessors enjoyed. That’s possible thanks to the BSA’s new Historical Merit Badge Program, a set of four discontinued merit badges that today’s Scouts can earn.

Boys can earn any or all of these merit badges:


First offered in 1910 and discontinued in 1992.
Sample requirements: build a simple buzzer or blinker capable of sending Morse code messages, and send a message of at least 35 words; send and receive messages using semaphore flags at a rate of at least 30 letters per minute.


First offered in 1911 (as Stalker merit badge) and discontinued in 1952.
Sample requirements: recognize the tracks of 10 different animals; give evidence to show you have tracked at least two different kinds of birds or animals, documenting their speed and direction.


First offered in 1911 and discontinued in 1952.
Sample requirements: be able to guide people to important places within a three-mile radius of your home; submit a scale map of your community.


First offered in 1911 and discontinued in 1952.
Sample requirements: demonstrate the use of tools, such as a miter and bevel; build a simple piece of furniture for use at home.

Sounds like a blast, right? But there’s one catch: Boys must start and finish all requirements within the year 2010. So if your guys built furniture for their patrol kitchen at last year’s summer camp, they can’t use that product for the Carpentry merit badge. And don’t delay—after Dec. 31, 2010, these merit badges will go back on the “retired” list.

If this is a program you want to bring to your troop, the BSA suggests you track down merit badge counselors soon. For Carpentry, contact a local cabinet-making business. A nearby Homeland Security office could help you with Pathfinding. Signaling would benefit from the help of a local amateur ham radio group. And for Tracking, try your state’s department of natural resources. Those are merely suggestions. Be creative!

For more information, look for a special Web site and a printed guide by the end of the month. That’s where you’ll find the complete requirements for each patch. The BSA also plans to deliver a guide that will help councils and districts host a historical camporee or similar event to offer these merit badges.
The Historical Merit Badge Program gives you the perfect chance to organize exciting activities for your Scouts, while connecting them with the BSA’s rich past. It’s another example of the BSA’s devotion to Celebrating the Adventure, Continuing the Journey.

Historical Merit Badge Update. March 08, 2010

Gleaned from Scouts-L is this update by Bruce McCrea:

"This delay has been discussed on Scouts-L with different National BSA sources cited. There are still no requirements for the historic merit badges at However, it is interesting that Keith Wood informed Scouts-L on February 19 that Stonewall Jackson Area Council had posted a very official-looking set of requirements for these badges at Historical_Merit_Badges.pdf

and, several weeks later, those requirements are still there. Apparently no one from National BSA has told the council to take that web page down."

"I wonder what Stonewall Jackson Area Council is doing when advancement reports are turned in for Scouts who have completed the merit badges using those requirements. The council can sell the merit badges to the units. Those are available from National Supply. However, as far as I know, they can't enter those merit badges in a Scout's record."

Bruce McCrea

Sunday, January 10, 2010

WWII Civil Defense Scout Messenger Armband

An item donated to the Unadilla Boy Scout Museum recently, a Civil Defense Scout Messenger Armband, got us thinking about how much Scouts were involved in war work during WWII. Scouts were called upon to distribute more than 1.6 million defense bonds and stamp posters; they began the collection of aluminum and waste paper. They conducted defense housing surveys, planted victory gardens, distributed air-raid posters, cooperated with the American Red Cross, and by an agreement with the Office of Civil Defense Mobilization, formed an Emergency Service Corps composed of older Scouts who served in three capacities: messengers, emergency medical unit assistants, and fire watchers.

Boy Scouts distributed thousands of posters to local merchants and civic buildings calling for scrap metals and other strategic materials collection, defense bond campaigns, air-raid awareness. They also served the war effort as auxiliary messengers, airplane spotters and volunteer firemen. (Boy Scouts of America photo)

To qualify as a messenger, one had to be 15 years or older, have parental permission and a good reference from their Scoutmaster, own a bicycle in good condition and possession a thorough knowledge of their community's streets. They had to be able to write in the dark. One of the perks for a Scout messenger was being excused from classes if an alert sounded during school hours. Scout messengers wore a Civil Defense armband like the one pictured here.

Messengers reported immediately to their sector headquarters to await orders. Periodically, a simulated raid would "destroy" the radio and phone communications systems that mandated the messengers pedaling their bikes all around town.

Supplementing the messengers was another division of volunteers, known as plane spotters who operated from the bell tower of a church or high school rooftop. It was their only function, identify and report any and all aircraft approaching the area. The only equipment they possessed to accomplish their mission was a pair of binoculars, a plane spotter's silhouette chart, and access to a telephone.

The Civil Defense Scout Messenger armband was donated to the Unadilla Scout Museum by Fred Schoen, Hobart, NY.