“I’m not saying I can smell fear, but that’s just because I’m very modest.”
~Frederick Russell Burnham
The Boy Scouts of America have been around since 1910, and in that time they have made quite an impression on the nation. Some of you might associate Boy Scouts with your childhood, earning merit badges and going camping and learning how to like, tie knots? That’s a thing you did right? Others of you, like our staff, might also associate Boy Scouts with their childhood, only the focus is more on that one kid in your High School that really stuck with it, and while it was cool that he got to use a pocket knife and shit, he always wore knee-high socks with shorts and you know definitively that he did not get laid until he was well into his 20s. And still others of you might think of the Boy Scouts as an organization that is not particularly good at being nice to gay people.
But, something that almost no America thinks about in relation to the Boy Scouts are the men responsible for for the very idea of scouting itself. Scouting was first established in the United Kingdom by Robert Baden-Powell in 1907 as a way to support youth physical, mental and spiritual development. As you likely know, this goal was achieved through the focus on outdoor and survival skills, with the notion that a self-reliant child with a diverse skill set would be able to use what they learned through scouting and apply it to take constructive roles in society.
Now, “going outside” isn’t something that we really like doing much ourselves, and since we live in the age of the internet we don’t have to. But in the pre-internet age of the early 1900s when this all started, we imagine that going out and learning how to make fires and whittle sticks into shivs (we’re assuming that’s a thing Boy Scouts did) was probably both constructive and about as exciting of an activity as you could get. Either way, it’s an influential movement, and though it was started by a Brit, it was in fact inspired by an American man who basically taught Baden-Powell everything he knew. A tiny man with a powerful nose who you probably haven’t heard of, which is a right we’re going to wrong. Because there were few Americans as badass as…
Frederick Russell Burnham: America’s Scout