There are those who argue that the the first Boy Scout Troop was organized on January 24, 1908.
History is not so clear on that point, however. There may have been earlier troops organized, but records were unclear, or lost.
From Wikipedia: Front cover of the first part of Scouting for Boys by Robert Baden-Powell, published in January 1908. Illustrations by Baden-Powell himself.
We do know that the the first installment of the serialized Scouting for Boys was published on January 24, 1908. By April of that year all installments were published, and we can say that the first Boy Scout handbook had arrived.
Either way, January 24 holds some historical significance for the Scouting movement.
Do a good turn in honor of the day.
Who was really first? Unfortunately, the records don’t exist to settle that issue.
Scouting, in England, arose from the popular clamor by boys after the 1899 publication of Col. Robert Baden-Powell’s handbook for the scouts he trained for the British Army in southern Africa, Aids to Scouting. Though not written for a youthful audience, the book became a best seller among boys who wished to emulate the adventures of soldiers and rangers in the British Army.
By 1907, Baden-Powell seriously worked to translate his experience and wisdom in a book aimed at boys. In the summer of 1907 he gathered a collection of boys to camp, to try out his ideas for outdoor activities for boys. With aid of the YMCA and other organizations, troops were planned and organized at the end of 1907 and in early 1908; then the program skyrocketed, with 60,000 boy members by the end of 1908.
Which was the “first” troop?
In England, where history and firsts might understandably be taken more seriously for Scouting, a number of groups can make the claims — and it’s almost impossible to choose from among them. Wikepedia explains the claims of each, without much blood (I’ve left in most of the links and footnote links):
The first Scout Troops were formed in the United Kingdom in 1907, and registered in 1908. There are a number of claimants to be the first troop. However, due to poor record keeping when the Scouting Movement started, The Scout Association does not acknowledge any single troop as being the first. The Scout Association maintains a list of all the Scout Troops who claim to have started in 1908.
The Scout Troops with the strongest claims are listed below:
The 1st Glasgow Scout Group in Scotland holds the earliest known registration certificate, dated 26 January 1908, issued by the Scouting Association. The Group was formed from the Glasgow Battalion of the Army Cadet Corps; its Adjutant was Captain Robert E Young. In June 1907, they formed the ‘Cadets’ Winter Recreation Training Club’. The club was a success from the beginning, as ‘Boss’ Young related: “At first we met at my house, signalled up and down the stairs, tied knots around the banisters and always finished with a good tuck-in.” ‘Boss’ Young met B-P during Autumn 1907 who suggested that the Club could experiment with the ideas contained in ‘Scouting for Boys’. On 16 January 1908, the Club was formally disbanded and the First Glasgow Troop of Boy Scouts was registered with Scout HQ in London.
The first Scout Troop to receive a visit from Baden-Powell was the Vaux’s Own Scout Troop in Sunderland. This visit was made on 22 February 1908, so it is assumed by The Scout Association “that it had already been in existence for some days at any rate”. This was also the first Scout Troop listed in the Imperial records. The 1st Crystal Palace Patrol (now known as the 2nd Croydon, 1st Crystal Palace) is documented as being in existence on 28 February 1908. The group is still in existence.
In 2007, 1st Henfield Scout Troop was named as the oldest surviving Scout Troop in the world for the centenary of Scouting. They were the hosts of the only place that the centenary flame stopped in England for the night before reaching its goal of Brownsea Island. However, it is not the oldest Scout Troop, as others were set up before Henfield. It is said that the boys that went to Brownsea Island on the first ever scout trip were from Henfield.
The 1st Birkenhead (YMCA) has a claim to be the oldest Scout Troop as it was founded on 24 January 1908 when B P attended a meeting at the YMCA. Documents at the District Headquarters confirm this fact. Baden-Powell at the 1929 Coming of Age Jamboree in Birkenhead said “Here in Birkenhead that I first mooted the idea of Scouting”.
The 1st Croydon Scout Group (Addiscombe) were founded in the latter months of 1907. The Group was officially registered by Imperial Scout Headquarters on 16 June 1908 and can claim to be one of the earliest Groups.
1st Church Kirk, Church near Accrington Lancashire. Formed 1907. Baden Powell formed a link with Accrington during his opening of the Ambulance Drill Hall in 1904.
There is an entry in Baden-Powell’s diary on 4 February 1908 which mentions a Scout Troop in Nottingham.
1st Alsager, Cheshire were formed before 24 February 1908.
A troop from Hampstead was involved in various events in the first half of 1908.
The 1st City Of Aberdeen Scouts existed in 1908. 1st Arbroath Scout Troop (2nd Angus) dates back to June 1908.
The 1st Norwich “Capt. Bower’s Own” Sea Scouts started in January 1908. The group is one of few which has continuously run for 100 years and, remarkably, had just 4 Group Scout Leaders during that time. To celebrate their centenary year, the group published a book entitled, “It Can Be Done: The Hundred Year History of the 1st Norwich Sea Scout Group.” drawing from their extensive archives.
In Poole, Dorset, there are strong claims from 3 current Scout Groups, that all have separate newspaper articles back to 1908 listing Patrols or Troops practicing Scouting. 1st Parkstone has got a registration number back to February 1908 for a Scout Troop. Hamworthy are listed as having a Boat patrol at the Local Church in November 1908 and Broadstone having an Ambulance Scout at the Gathering on Brownsea Island in December 1908.
Wycliffe Scout Group (Gloucestershire) claims to be the oldest continuously active school-based Scout group in the world (active September 2013). It is listed in the Scout Association database with a registration date of 1 February 1909, although the Group celebrated their centenary in 2008, implying that there had been Scouting activity at the school before the Group was registered.
Who was first? The question remains, not yet satisfactorily answered for history.
How would you decide the controversy?
Scouts from several nations around a campfire — photo from the website of the World Scout Organization. “Leave this world a little better than you found it” — Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting. There are over 40 million Scouts in the World Organization of the Scout Movement.