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.