Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, a British Army Officer stationed in India, found that many of his men did not know basic first aid or elementary outdoor survival skills. He began dividing the men into small groups for instruction, competition and games to help them learn skills and knowledge necessary for scouting (how to follow a trail, tell directions, recognize danger signs, find food and water, etc.) He authored a handbook for soldiers, Aids to Scouting, that contained the information and instructional methods he used.
While serving in South Africa in 1899, Baden-Powell had become an enormously popular national hero. His small handbook had become nearly as popular and was even being used by some teachers! While attending a rally of the Boys’ Brigade, he met Sir William Smith, who asked him to rewrite his book to make it more appealing to boys. In 1907, they organized a camp at Brownsea Island to see how boys would like Baden-Powell’s ideas. Twenty boys spent twelve days divided into patrols, going on hikes, learning how to cook outdoors without utensils, learning patriotism, woodworking, and having a great time! Baden-Powell rewrote his book and soon after the camp, patrols and troops began springing up all over England.
In 1909, the first big rally was held at the Crystal Palace. More than ten thousand boys attended. Baden-Powell was startled to discover that six thousand girls also showed up, proclaiming themselves as “Girl Scouts!” With the help of his sister, Agnes, the Girl Guides were started.
Baden-Powell and Agnes had become friends with a woman from the United States, Juliette “Daisy” Magill Kinzie Gordon Low, who was living in England at the time. Low was extremely interested in the idea of a scouting organization for girls. She began a troop of Girl Guides in Scotland, which was a huge success, and later formed other troops in London. On March 12, 1912 she realized her dream of returning to the United States and organizing “Girl Scouts.”
In 1909, the year of the first big rally, a Chicago businessman and publisher, William D. Boyce was lost in a thick London fog. A boy suddenly appeared and offered to lead him to his destination. When they arrived, Boyce tried to “tip” the boy for his trouble. The boy kindly refused and explained that he was a Scout and could take no money for a Good Turn. Boyce was intrigued and questioned the boy about Scouting. The boy led him to Baden-Powell’s office, then disappeared into the fog.
After speaking with Baden-Powell, Boyce was determined to begin an organization for boys in the United States. On February 8, 1910, Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America. No one was able to discover the name of the boy scout whose Good Turn led scouting to the United States. A statue of a buffalo was erected in honor of the “Unknown Scout” at the Scout Trading Center at Gilwel Park, England.
And so, the ideals, methods, instruction, goodwill, and spirit of Scouting came to BSA and GSUSA from Lord Baden-Powell, by way of Julliette Gordon Low and William D. Boyce.