The Boy Scout movement was founded in England by Sir Robert Baden-Powell in 1908. As a military officer, he had noticed that soldiers in his regiment, while well educated in the classroom sense, were ill prepared for the field: “Tell one of them to ride out alone with a message on a dark night and ten to one he would lose his way.”
While stationed in India, he discovered that his men did not know basic first aid or the elementary means of survival in the outdoors. Baden-Powell realized he needed to teach his men many frontier skills, so he wrote a small handbook called Aids to Scouting, which emphasized resourcefulness, adaptability and the qualities of leadership that frontier conditions demanded.
Baden-Powell wanted to develop men who were more at ease in the world. “I wanted them to have courage, from confidence in themselves and from a sense of duty; I wanted them to have knowledge of how to cook their own grub; in short, I wanted each man to be an efficient all-round reliable individual.”
In August 1907, he gathered about 20 boys and took them to Brownsea Island in a sheltered bay off England’s southern coast. They set up a makeshift camp that would be their home for the next 12 days.
The next year, Baden-Powell published his book Scouting for Boys, and Scouting continued to grow. That same year, more than 10,000 Boy Scouts attended a rally held at the Crystal Palace; two years later, membership in Boy Scouts had tripled.
Because of growing demand for the scouting experience by younger boys, in 1914, Baden-Powell began implementing a program for them that was based on Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. The Wolf Cub program began in 1916, and since that time, Wolf Cubbing has spread to other European countries with very little change.
A strong influence from Kipling’s Jungle Book remains today. The terms “Law of the Pack,” “Akela,” “Wolf Cub,” “grand howl,” “den” and “pack” all come from the Jungle Book. At the same time, the Gold and Silver Arrow Points, Webelos emblem and Arrow of Light emblem are taken from American Indian heritage.
The seeds of Scouting were growing in the United States. On a farm in Connecticut, a naturalist and author named Ernest Thompson Seton was organizing a group of boys called the Woodcraft Indians; and Daniel Carter Beard, an artist and writer, organized the Sons of Daniel Boone.
But first, an American businessman had to get lost in the fog in England. Chicago businessman and publisher William D. Boyce was groping his way through the fog when a boy appeared and offered to take him to his destination. When they arrived, Boyce tried to tip the boy, but the boy refused and courteously explained that he was a Scout and could not accept payment for a Good Turn.
Intrigued, the publisher questioned the boy and learned more about Scouting. He visited with Baden-Powell as well, and became captured by the idea of Scouting. When Boyce boarded the transatlantic steamer for home, he had a suitcase filled with information and ideas. On February 8, 1910, Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America.
That same year, a Hawaiʻi artist and outdoorsman by the name of David Howard Hitchcock discovered Scouting in California, and brought it home to Hawaiʻi.
“The boy scout movement, so popular in England, and which aims to develop patriotism, discipline, courage, thrift, helpfulness and cheerfulness in boys is described by Francis Buzzell in an illustrated article in the August Popular Mechanics.”
“He says: “The general organization, and the symbolism of the scout movement are essentially military, but the strict military discipline, and especially the routine of incessant military drill, are almost entirely lacking.”
“General Baden-Powell, chief scout of all the boys In the British Empire, appoints scout commissioners to organize branches, Inspect scout corps, and help scout masters.” (Hawaiian Star, July 27, 1910)
“The ‘Boy Scout’ movement has spread to Hawaii. … The movement was founded in America by Ernest Thompson Seton, but did not attract much attention until the foundation of a similar organization in England by Sir Robert SS Baden-Powell, the hero of Mafeking. General Powell’s organization spread like wildfire and over 400,000 boys are enrolled in England.”
“The object of the movement, as defined by Sir Robert, “is to seize the boy’s character in its red-hot stage of enthusiasm and to weld it into the right shape and encourage and develop its individuality, so that the boy may become a good man and a valuable citizen for our country.” (Hawaiian Star, September 3, 1910)
A newspaper article noted the first meeting: “The Boy Scout movement in Honolulu will be started tonight at the meeting at the K. of P. (Knights of Pythias) Hall. All the parents in the city are invited to hear Colonel Bullard of the regular army tell about the boy scouts of America at eight o’clock in the K. of P. Hall.” (Honolulu Star, September 20, 1910)
Within months of returning home, Hitchcock, a Punahou School graduate, set up Hawaii’s first local troop – Scout Troop 1, the famed Rainbow Patrol (because of the wide range of nationalities represented in its membership) sponsored by Punahou and still in existence today.
The first troop included Hitchcock’s sons, Harvey (1917) and Dickson (1920) Hitchcock, Dudley Pratt (1918,) Walter (1919) and Fred (1920) Vetlesen, Ronald von Holt (1917,) Fred Waterhouse (1918,) Sam Wilder III (1917) and Donald Young (1918.)
According to Hitchcock: “About 1910 I went to California and saw boys in pairs and in small groups camping out as Boy Scouts but with no such organization back of them as now exists.”
“Visiting such men as could be found who were interested, I obtained all the data then available with a series of photographs from the East illustrating (Boy Scout) activities and with these came back to Honolulu where I proceeded to organize a troop which at first consisted of one patrol.”
In later years the patrol was renamed Troop 1 to codify its status as Hawaiʻi’s original Boy Scout troop; it includes not only the students of Punahou, but also boys attending schools located all over the island of Oahu.
Hawaiʻi has a royal link to Boy Scouts. In 1913, Queen Lili‘uokalani presented a silk Hawaiian flag with her royal crest “Onipaa” (Lit., fixed movement – steadfast, established, firm, resolute, determined) and the lettering in gold “The Queen’s Own Troop,” which she had sewn herself. That flag was recently donated to the Bishop Museum.
“This flag symbolizes the Queen’s recognition of Scouting as a positive and productive outlet to encourage young men and women to become leaders for life and contributing citizens who give back to their community,” Rick Burr, executive director of the Aloha Council said. (Bishop Museum)
At the time of the Queen’s death, “Roger Burnham, Scout commissioner, sent a letter to Colonel CP Iaukea, stating that inasmuch as the Queen had given the Boy Scouts a flag they wanted to do what they could to help in the funeral exercises.”
“Colonel Iaukea accepted their offer and the Scouts will have a place assigned them in the funeral procession. The Scouts will doubtless also be used as messengers throughout the week.” (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, November 13, 1917)
Perhaps the most unique aspect of Scouting is that – unlike many other activities –it doesn’t focus on competition – it focuses on achievement. Something everyone experiences in Scouting and strives for in their day to day lives.
To not only Be Prepared – but to do a good turn every day. To be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent – as well as to do one’s duty to God and country.
Because of this early community support Scouting was quickly organized and grew. And because of those early community leaders Scouting established a deeply rooted heritage in Hawaiʻi.
Scouting has grown in the United States from 2,000 Boy Scouts and leaders in 1910 to millions strong today. From a program for Boy Scouts only, it has spread into a program including Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouts, Webelos Scouts, Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and Venturers.
The Aloha Council is flourishing geographically as well – encompassing not only Hawaii, but Guam, American Samoa, Marianas, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau. In all – the Aloha Council covers the largest geographical area in the world – over 8,000,000-square miles on both sides of the equator and date line.
After Baden-Powell’s death in 1941, a letter was found in his desk that he had written to all Scouts. It included this passage: “Try and leave this world a little better than you found it.” (Lots of information here from Troop 1 and Aloha Council.)