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What's in a name?

Baden-Powell had no hand in the origin of the word 'Scouting'. True, he had published army manuals Reconnaissance and Scouting in 1894 and Aids to Scouting in 1899. These books have now been identified as part of a logical sequence that led to Baden-Powell's Scouting for Boys published as a part-series in 1908, but at the time they were published there could have been not thought of a future movement that might have the word 'scout' as part of its name. The words in all B-P's now seemingly prophetic titles were normal Standard English in every day use at the time and not a special coining that he had devised.

MOST people do attribute the origin of the name 'Boy Scouts' to Baden-Powell, in connection with the Movement he created bearing that name. Unfortunately though, the facts tell a different story.

Early uses of the term 'Boy Scout' prior to 1907

THE term was first used by Aldine Publishing in 1899 in The New Buffalo Bill Library. This was a series that ran for many years based, on the exploits of William Cody - or Buffalo Bill as he was more popularly called. Cody was often described as the last of the great scouts.

Buffalo Bill

William Cody was born in Scott County, Iowa, USA in 1846 and was, variously, a wrangler, a gold miner and a Pony Express Messenger, prior to joining Union Army as a scout. In 1863 he joined the Cavalry and saw action in Missouri and Tennessee. By 1867 Cody had left the army and was employed by the Kansas Pacific Railroad to feed the railway construction crews by slaughtering the wild buffalo that roamed the plains. He shot 4,280 head of buffalo in seventeen months earning his nickname 'Buffalo Bill'. Cody returned to the Union Army and earned the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1872, and was also involved in the Indian wars. Whilst a large enough character in real life, a 'dime author', Ned Buntline, used 'Buffalo Bill' as a character for his stories which were a mixture of fact and fiction, putting Buffalo Bill on the same footing as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. In 1872, Buntline persuaded Cody to take part in his stage show The Scouts of the Plains. Cody proved a natural showman. After more army adventures he organised a travelling show Buffalo Bill's Wild West - which eventually toured Europe also staring Annie Oakley. For a time, his show was linked with Barnum and Bailey's Circus. Cody's show was first performed in England in Leeds in 1892 and there were other tours over the next twenty years. Cody died in the USA in 1917.

'Buffalo Bill' was a gift to any publisher of children's literature. The mixture of Cowboys, Indians, Soldiers and Circus was irresistible and, amazingly, known and seen in England by thousands of English children. It is not surprising that Aldine Publishing Co., a prime mover in the field of the 'Penny Dreadful', brought out a long-running series, starting in 1899, of The New Buffalo Bill Library. One story concerned 'Boy Scout' Harry White, a youngster of 17.

The True Blue Library

True Blue cover

IN February 1900, whilst the Boer War was on-going, another series of adventure stories was published by the Aldine Publishing Company. They were set in South Africa. They cost one penny and were published on a weekly basis. The stories were written in quite a small type face, unrelieved by any graphics, making the contents appear very intense if not boring to modern eyes, the covers had garish full colour artwork occupying all the space available, they certainly would have stood out head and shoulders above any competition.

The 'Boy Scout' stories involved a fictional hero, Harry St. George. (Surely deserving a prize for most the patriotic name ever devised for a fictional character?) The series was long-running, lasting until 1906 - one year before B-P's experimental camp on Brownsea Island. Every title in this series began with the words 'Boy Scout'. A group of six titles published from December 1900, had Harry St. George actually in Baden-Powell's South African Constabulary. One particular title of particular interest was 'The Boy Scout joins the B-P Police', another could have well have been linked with B-Ps time in the besieged town of Mafeking as it was entitled The Boy Scout Captures Long Tom. 'Long Tom' was the name given by the British to the four Boer 94 lb Cruesot 'Siege Guns' that the Boers had ordered, prior to the war, to defend Pretoria, but then, on the advent of war, took the guns via mule trains to various strategic sites, the most famous of which was the involvement of one of the Long Toms at Mafeking for most of the Siege. The cover example shown opposite is also from this sub-series.

Like most boys' magazines of the day it was possible to join a club associated with the publication. In this case it was the True Blue Trusty Band and Crypto Club. (No, I am not making this up!) The 'crypto' part of the title was to do with coded messages published weekly. B-P, had he read this series, would definitely have approved of that. The club also had secret signs (the equivalent of the left handshake was the index finger of the right hand cupped the your right ear!) and a list of seven rules. Some have quite a familiar ring, for example:

"To do your best to help one another in times of trouble and distress."

Table 1: Occurrence of the term 'Boy Scout' in the True Blue Library magazine

Date Issue Title

Empire League Badge Boys of the Empire League Badge Boys of the Empire masthead

THIS magazine was first published on Sunday October 27th, 1900, by Andrew Melrose of London. Though also priced at one penny, Boys of the Empire was certainly not a 'penny dreadful'. It adopted a high moral tone and was designed to sell to patriotic boys across the British Empire, hence its motto 'Many Countries but one Empire'. Its published aim was: "To promote and strengthen a worthy imperial spirit in British-born boys."

Boys of the Empire bound edition cover

It ran in conjunction with an 'Empire League', which required boys to give certain loyal undertakings, including finding ways of identifying themselves openly to other members. Badges could be bought from the publishers. Unlike Scouting, class divisions were evident from the start. The pin badges available were bronze for sixpence, white metal at one shilling and two shillings for solid silver! (See above left) Later on the magazine produced its own Boys of the Empire League pin badge that had (see above right) an almost indecipherable American style image of a headless torso with a hand across its heart! The motto around the top read; "Each One For All."

The League had important patrons such as The Duke of Marlborough (Winston Churchill's uncle), Lord Strathcona and also Lord Charles Beresford who later was to become Chief Sea Scout.

On the last page of the very first issue of Boys of the Empire is the enticing trailer -

"Look out next week for 'The Boy Scout' by Baden-Powell."

One month's editions were sold bound together with an orange cover, part of one shown here.

The first of B-P's articles were published under paragraph promoting a 'Game of Scout', in which editor Howard Spicer wrote:

"In the meantime, in order that our readers might have some knowledge of the qualifications necessary for the game, we have arranged with Messrs Gale & Polden [Publishers of Aids to Scouting] to publish a set of six articles taken from Aids in Scouting written by that boys' hero, General Baden-Powell."
Boys of the Empire League

Spicer acknowledged that the series of articles taken from Aids to Scouting was an arrangement between publishing houses without the direct involvement of Baden-Powell. Indeed, it would almost impossible for it to be otherwise. Less than six months after Mafeking and before his return to this country, B-P was fully occupied in South Africa fighting the Boer War.

The 'Game of Scout', later referred to as the Scouting Competition, was a piece of self-publicity and moral blackmail that even the arch-publicist Pearson, who later published Scouting for Boys, might have balked at: Boys (later called 'our Army of Boy Scouts') in order to win a prize, had to submit the greatest number of names of newsagents who did not stock Boys of the Empire

Apparently, this ruse worked very well:

"Our Boy Scouts have been a huge success. They have taken Baden-Powell's hints and have tracked down every culprit [i.e., newsagents] who ignores BOYS OF THE EMPIRE."

Needless to say none of the hints contained within either B-P's original Aids to Scouting or the articles under his name in Boys of the Empire had anything to do with harassing newsagents!

The prizes for the Scouting Competition were mundane enough, but shortly afterwards a bicycle was presented to the boy who found and enrolled the most new members. In a later edition a competition was held with the main prize being the to opportunity for the winner to emigrate to a new life on a farm in Canada! This predated the Scout Association's own attempt to encourage boy emigration to Empire farms under the Boy Scouts Overseas scheme by twelve years.

In a very short time the League had 7000 members.

Table 2: Occurrence of the term 'Boy Scout' in Boys of the Empire magazine

Boys of the Empire masthead
Date Issue Title
Oct. 27th, 1900 Advert Look out next week for "The Boy Scout" By Baden-Powell p.24
Nov. 3rd, 1900 Part I The Boy Scout p.39 Scouting Competition announced p.39
Nov. 10th, 1900 Part II The Boy Scout p.57
Nov. 17th, 1900 Part III The Boy Scout p.70
Nov. 24th, 1900 . Winner of Scouting Competition announced; competitors described As "Boy Scouts" and collectively as an "army of Boy Scouts" p.83
Nov. 24th, 1900 Part IV The Boy Scout p.85
Dec. 15th, 1900 Part V The Boy Scout p.136
Dec. 22nd, 1900 Part VI The Boy Scout p.166
Jan. 5th, 1901 Part VII The Boy Scout p.204
Jan. 19th, 1901 Part VIII The Boy Scout p.244
Jan. 26th, 1900 Part IX The Boy Scout p.266

Baden-Powell and the name gameB-P cigarette card

SIR Percy Everett records that it was Scouting for Boys publisher, Sir Arthur Pearson, who suggested to B-P that as his new scheme be partly based on Aids to Scouting and should contain the word 'Scouting'. B-P agreed that it was little use having a name like 'The Society for the Propagation of Moral Attributes' and came back with the title 'Boy Scouts'.

Years later, it was suggested to B-P that the Founder of the Scout Movement that the name was not his invention, but that he had taken it from boys' magazines named illustrated in the article. B-P was adamant that this was not the case. In a letter to the Scout Press July 4th, 1916 (now owned by the Boy Scouts of America) he wrote:

"I had certainly never heard the title 'Boy Scouts' before I applied it to boy training in Britain in 1907."

Author Tim Jeal, in his biography of Baden-Powell, published in 1989, covered some of the same 'evidence' outlined above and characteristically leads his readers to think the worst, without actually going so far as calling B-P a liar!

It should be borne in mind that there was no organisation called 'Boy Scouts' before 1908. The use of the term prior to B-P starting to promote his scheme, was either purely coincidental to denote a young 'frontier scout', or was used by editors in conjunction with articles, works or events associated with though admittedly associated with the Founder's fame as a 'Reconnaissance Scout' . An example of this can be found on the cigarette card illustrated above (courtesy of the John Ineson Collection) was issued by Ogdens in 1901 and grandiloquently entitles B-P 'The King of Scouts'. Perhaps this came from a quotation I have so far been unable to confirm or identify, which refers to B-P as; "A King of Scouts and a Prince of Men".Union Jack Library article

Baden-Powell was not permitted to leave his command directly after the Relief of Mafeking and return home at that point to an adoring public, whilst he exploits were fresh in their mind. He was immediately employed in "chasing up Boers" as they retreated away from Mafeking, and given command of a new regiment that he insisted be called the South African Constabulary. ln June 1901 he was ordered home on sick leave for six months - his first home leave since 1895. Tim Jeal reports B-P's younger brother as having said that B-P was in state of 'general breakdown'. It is doubtful that the General, prior to this leave or indeed throughout its duration, would have had access to or spent much spent time reading boys' magazines.

On his return to South Africa, B-P resumed his duties as Commanding Officer of the South African Constabulary, where he remained until March 8th, 1903. Most of the publications listed above were published whilst B-P was out of the country and it is doubtful that he ever saw them. Those that were published later do not, as far as I know, carry any preface or personal endorsement from B-P. (This was often the case later on in Baden-Powell's life). Had there been any such contact then surely the publishers would have made this prominent. The absence of any such link supports the contention that B-P was not personally involved in these publications.

WHEN Baden-Powell was once again established in England, he did write a one-page article for a Boy's Magazine The Union Jack Library in December, 1904. This very short article (shown here), partly printed in a facsimile of his own hand, encouraged "Loyal Britishers" to form themselves into teams with a view to becoming "useful to our King and country when needed." He invited the captains of cricket and football 'elevens' to take up his idea with their players and to write to him reporting their progress. In this article B-P did not even hint at the term 'Boy Scout'. This, I think, indicates that as far as B-P was concerned, the term 'Boy Scout' was not under consideration until his conversation with Pearson in 1907.

I do not know if we will ever be able to say, with any certainty, at exactly what point B-P became conscious of the early use of the name 'Boy Scout'. Interesting though this sort of conjecture might be to historians, to the millions of past and present Scouts, their organisation is defined by the Law and Promise, 'brotherhood', adventure and fun. And there is no doubting who was the architect!

Boys of the Empire Coat-of-Arms
Shield and motto of Boys of the Empire


Printed Sources
The First Ten Years Sir Percy Everett, 1948
Baden-Powell Tim Jeal, 1989
Internet Sources
The use of the name Boy Scout

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