Be Prepared: Baden-Powel and the Scouting Movement
By Pamela E. Apkarian-Russell – The Halloween Queen®
Over 50,000 people will visit the newly opened Summit Betchel Family National Scout Reserve from July 15 to 24, 2013 for the National Scout Jamboree. Most of them will be unaware of the incredible amount of Scouting memorabilia that is available at antique shops and shows. Even the Norman Rockwell poster from the Four Seasons will not be familiar to them. What they will know is that uniforms and badges have changed over the years and are very different from country to country. Most Scouts are aware of the changes and differences in these uniforms, especially if they have attended previous Jamborees. There are considerable more items available now, with a greater diversity for the Boy Scouts than for the Girl Scouts. This is not unusual, as the Boy Scouts are older and traditionally in this country and most others the lion’s share of all funds and activities are concentrated on the masculine rather than the feminine. Hence, much of what is available to collectors will be Boy Scout memorabilia. With the long awaited decision due in May of whether all boys, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be treated with equal respect, there are many who are paying more attention now to this organization and its history, hoping Scout leaders are prepared to do the right thing and uphold the honor of scouting.
Thomas Jefferson said that, “Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds.” He also often said that education and free discussion are the antidote of both. The purpose of Scouting was not just to teach youths basic map reading and military tactics, like tracking, but to educate them to think and learn and be useful to their communities. The purpose of the Scouts was to open up whole new worlds to them with experiences which would enable them to grow into useful and productive members of society. They were encouraged with the pledge, “I will do my best.”
Knowledge being power, Scouting provided not only camaraderie, but badges for their work. Badges gave proof of what they had done and served as reminders to apply what they had learned, to the best of their abilities. Baden-Powell wanted to give them a background that they might use as future military men but also one they could apply thoughtfully and intelligently to any job, without bias or prejudice. Such teachings could make them the future backbone of what a nation or a family needed.
Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, Lord Baden Powell (February 22, 1857–January 8, 1941), established the first Brownsea Island Scout Camp in 1907 and founded the Boy Scouts. His wife and sister later began a secondary group for girls called the Girl Guides which in America became the Girl Scouts. Princess Elizabeth and other members of royalty were very active in the English Girl Guides. In Europe Queens and royalty served as leaders.
Scouting spread from country to country promising children free access to knowledge and activities that would enhance their lives and teach them how to make contributions to the world around them. Scouting skills could be helpful in a crisis. You might never be called on to apply a tourniquet or apply the Heimlich maneuver but boys learned how, in case of emergency. Booklets on snakes, ferns, birds, beadcraft, woodcraft, government, etc., were avidly read in order to obtain badges. Later these emblems would become collector items.
During WWII Scouts played a pivotal role in England and helped in a myriad of ways to save lives and help those who suffered from bombings and other war related calamities. Baden-Powell opened up a world of knowledge and taught not only survival skills but compassion.
The emphasis on education and enhancing the thought process was what our founding fathers, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, and others also believed essential and was considered to be the basis of good government and moral civilization. To provide education to people of every economic level would help raise social and economic standards for the country. It was an investment that needed to begin as early as possible and would strengthen the country as well as the individual. It was the patriotic thing to do and the socially responsible thing to do as well.
However, it took some time for women and people of color to be included in this prime gift to freedom and civilization. It was through the auspices of Baden-Powell and Low, and those that spread the teachings of scouting, that children were given the opportunity to go beyond the regular school curriculum by joining the Scouting organizations and participating in events and programs.
Collecting badges, uniforms, booklets, postcards and any form of social history on the Scouts can be a good experience for young people. It provides a fine introduction to the world of collecting and the antique world. An old water container will sell for approximately $35. A tin with all the emergency paraphernalia intact will sell for $40. Mugs sell for $5 to $15 each. And postcards begin at a few dollars. A signed Baden-Powell card can sell for $300. Jamborees bring together Scouts and Scouting collections and nostalgia for events of the past. With the World Jamboree scheduled in West Virginia in a few years, there will be added interest in Scouting memorabilia.
The global influence of scouting’s tenets has helped make this a much better world. Their teaching against intolerance has helped reduce bias and prejudice in almost every country of the world. Collectors can find scout postcards and other memorabilia from nearly every country and even some which no longer exist. Perhaps it is time for enthusiasts and collectors to take a different look at Scouting memorabilia. It might open up a whole new world for the Scouts and cultivate a new age of collectors.