Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Still Prepared

The fog was heavy in London that day in 1909 -- like "pea soup," as locals would describe it -- when a Chicago publisher named William D Boyce realized he was lost. A young boy dressed in a peculiar uniform noticed his plight, and offered to assist. Boyce gave him the address. Upon arrival at his destination, Boyce offered a shilling as a reward, but the lad refused. He was a "Boy Scout," and could not receive a tip for a good turn. This aroused Boyce's curiosity, and he wanted to know more about these Boy Scouts. The lad agreed to wait until Boyce was finished with his appointment, whereupon he would take him to the association's headquarters. Upon arriving at his unexpected destination, the boy disappeared into the fog. Boyce met with General Baden-Powell, a hero from the Boer Wars and founder of this youth movement (the beginnings of which are briefly mentioned in an earlier piece entitled "This is the part where..."). Boyce returned to America with a bag full of handbooks, pamphlets, and other accoutrement from this curious phenomenon.

His endeavor culminated on this day, the 8th of February, 1910, in Washington, DC, as Boyce and several other businessmen and outdoor enthusiasts incorporated the Boy Scouts of America. At the time, there were other organizations for boys, such as Ernest Thompson Seton's "Woodcraft Indians," and another British import known as "The Boys Brigade." But the BSA would come to dominate them all. Ninety-six years later, they boast over 4 million members.

The boy who came to the aid of William Boyce was never identified, despite all efforts to locate him. Years later, the BSA awarded the "Silver Buffalo," their highest honor award for service to Scouting, to the Prince of Wales, who accepted it on behalf of "the unknown scout," whose chivalrous act was the singular catalyst for bringing the world's largest youth movement to America. A statue of the buffalo stands today in Gilwell Park.

A short bio of Boyce can be found here.

No comments: