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By Dan Beard

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I've always loved the forest.

My life of hard work, exposure, privations, jollity, fun, frivolity, study and play was but the kindergarten, grammar school, high school and university necessary to educate me for my real life's work with boys. The launching of the Boy Scouts of America gave me a soul satisfying opportunity for the work to which I have ever since devoted myself.

I have always cared for boys. They have always seemed to me most delightful and inspiring. Today, in my old age, life is in large measure made for me by the thousands of men playing notable roles in the United States, whom I remember first as grubby, bright eyed youngsters.

There are many who squabble about the origin of Scouting. They have lost sight of the forest through looking at the trees. The important fact is that Scouting now is a great, growing movement with a membership of more than a million youngsters in this country. These youngsters and their predecessors will be those who will preserve for future generations this great liberty loving democracy that means so much to us.

Undoubtedly Scouting came in part from different sources. Many people contributed effort and ideas to the movement. It was brought into being in the American way: by the efforts of a group of people. My own relationship came as a logical result of my life's work and directly because of my association with Recreation magazine.

At the time when I joined the staff of that publication the. dynamic, irascible G. O. Shields was editor. With the help of Dr W. T. Hornaday, the militant conservationist, he made things boiling hot for game hogs and poachers. He was a dictator by temperament, so though I approved his actions we were bound to lock horns sooner or later.

Once he came to my study and bluntly stated that he wanted a friend who would stand by him through thick and thin, right or wrong. I was taken aback and explained that if a friend of mine were accused of murder I would sell the coat off my back to see that he had a fair trial, but under no circumstances would I condone the crime. This made Shields violently angry.

He had organized the Camp Fire Club on a dictatorial basis, and I was a charter member. As I had offended him he dropped my name from the list. In this he went too far, for a large number of the members seceded and formed a new organization, the Camp Fire Club of America, of which I have been president.

Shortly after, the magazine Recreation went bankrupt. It was reorganized and I was made an editor. Shields never forgave me. In spite of all his faults, however, he was a great pioneer conservationist. He was a fighter from Fightersville, way down on Fighters' Creek, neither gave nor asked quarter, and his name should have a place among the other great battlers in this cause Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, Dr Hornaday and William Greeley.

As editor of Recreation I got the opportunity not only to fight for conservation but to take up the cudgel for boys. My battle for the young people now began to take form and color, and my position as editor threw me in contact with such picturesque characters as Yellowstone Kelly, Buffalo Bill, John Burroughs, Bat Masterson, Buffalo Jones and Charles Russell.

The business manager of Recreation, William Annis, had, grown up in my study as a kind of office boy student. He was familiar with my work for boys. One day he suggested to me that I start some organization for the juvenile sportsmen who were readers of our magazines. I already had a Boys' Department, but he wanted something more concrete. I suggested a society of scouts for boys to be identified with the greatest of all scouts, Daniel Boone, and to be known as the Sons of Daniel Boone. Each member would have to be a tenderfoot before he attained the rank of scout. Eight members would form a stockade, four stockades a fort.

Annis was delighted. He was sure we would sweep the country.

That seemed a large order to me then, but it really was an understatement. I never realized then that the Boy Scouts would sweep over much of the world and would become my real life's work. I did, however, tell my Sons of Daniel Boone that the time would come when the President of the United States would be proud to be a member.

The Sons of Daniel Boone prospered. I sometimes wrote longhand as many as fifty letters in one day to the members. The little rascals were too impatient to wait for printed answers in the magazine.

Recreation was sold, but I took the organization with me to the Woman's Home Companion. When I resigned from this last magazine I left the Sons of Daniel Boone in charge of my valued friend, Sir Robert Baden Powell.

My next work was with the Pictorial Review. There I started the same type of movement. This I called the Boy Pioneers and made Baden Powell an honorary member. Don't mix my Boy Pioneers with the later day organization by that name. There never was any connection. The Communists took our name and organized the Red youth under it.

In both these organizations, the Sons of Daniel Boone and the Boy Pioneers, I confined myself to the United States for my inspiration. I did not summon to my aid King Arthur and his Round Table, the glistening armor of the tourney, Richard the Lionhearted, the Black Prince or Saladin of the Saracens. No, not even Robin Hood, though he was more my type of man. In place of the lance and buckler was the American long rifle and buckskin clothes, in place of the shining plumed helmet was the American coonskin cap, the tail of the 'coon its plume. I tried to put into the organization the joyousness of the blue sky with its fleeting clouds, the reliability and stability of the earth beneath our feet, and the natural democracy of Daniel Boone himself.

The equipment of the Boy Scouts grew in simple fashion. We adopted the cowboy sombrero, the famous Stetson that is interwoven with the winning of the Western plains. I myself had often used it and there is nothing that is better as a shield against the weather. The world over it is now recognized as a great hat for the open spaces.

At Culver Academy I worked with Colonel Gignilliat on the Woodcrafters, a boys' organization. Colonel Gignilliat and I together designed the uniform for these youngsters. It consisted of a short sleeved woolen shirt open at the neck, shorts or flappers, with long woolen stockings.

The handkerchief around the neck came from the cowboys, along with the hat of which I have spoken, with its leather hat band. It was from Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders on their return from the Spanish American War that I learned how to fix the backstrap or barbiquejo, to keep the hat on the head.

The name Scout was of course used by Baden Powell in his original military organization, but when I applied it in my Sons of Daniel Boone it signified to me rather those stalwart Americans, the men of the wilderness, such as Daniel Boone himself, Simon Kent and George Rogers Clark. It had always appealed to me because of its romance and intimate connection with the history of this country. I gave it to the boys who had qualified in my group. For those who had just joined I used "tenderfoot," which is a cowboy term originally applied to cattle shipped from the East to the West, because as they were unused to the rough country their feet became sore. The cowboys themselves used it for all greenhorns.

My close friend, Lord Baden Powell, in his English Scouts used the same formation of eight boys that I used in the Sons of Daniel Boone. Instead of using stockade and fort, which

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I had a Navaho belt made of Mexican 
silver dollars and presented it to 
Baden-Powell. James E. West, Boy Scout 
Executive, was present.

are American pioneer terms, he carried on the terms patrol and troop from his original military organization. He used three fingers for the salute to represent the three points of the Scout oath, instead of the two I used, which is the Indian sign for a wolf, the scouting animal of the wilderness. The latter is still used by the younger group of boys in the Scout movement, the Cubs, as we call them.

In 1907, upon the invitation of the President of the United States, I journeyed to Washington to have a conference about my work for boys. The cabinet room was filled with senators, diplomats, congressmen and office seekers. The President shook hands with each of them, and as he did so he loudly called each by name. When it came my turn he exclaimed, "Ah, the Honorable Daniel Carter Beard!" and, shaking hands with me, quietly said, "Please remain here." He was so cordial in handshaking with the others that before they knew it they were outside the door, and I was left alone with the most strenuous of Presidents since the time of General Jackson. The President then took me by the arm and led me over to the cabinet table, saving, "Now, Dan Beard, let's see what this is all about."

I laid out my plans before him, and he inquired "Whom have you?"

I told him, "John Muir, Joaquin Miller and John Burroughs."

"Who else?" he asked, to which I replied, "Buffalo Bill.'

"Bully!" cried Roosevelt, bringing both fists down on the cabinet table with a bang.

I said "I want someone to represent the sea How would Fighting Bob Evans answer the purpose? "

"Oh no," said the President, smiling; "you want Admiral Dewey for that."

"Very good. Next I want an Indian fighter to interest the boys."

"You have him right here," laughed the President. "The chief of my staff, Major General Bell."

The President called up the men he suggested and sent me down to see them. I was received graciously and genially by each and all of them, including Mr. Taft.

While the Boy Scouts of America were organizing there were some who felt that it should be a branch of the English Boy Scouts and that Baden Powell should be named Chief Scout. I strenuously opposed this, for I wanted our organization to be thoroughly American.

Our first Chief Scout was Ernest Thompson Seton. He appointed me as a committee of one on costume, and we then and there designed in its essentials the Boy Scout uniform used today.

Colonel Bomus, Dr Gulick, Lee Hanmer and Colonel Verbeck met with us. All of us had been interested in boys' work. They brought to our organization the Boy Brigade, the Boy Cadets and the Knights of King Arthur. I had already written The American Boys' Handbook. Because of this I was asked to write the first handbook for Scouts but was unable to do so because I had my living to make. The first handbook was therefore compiled by Seton, who added his romantic woodcraft and Indian lore to the English book already in existence.

It was about a year later than this that Mr. Colin Livingstone, then president of our organization, said that he had a young man in Washington who would make a good executive secretary for the Board, and we empowered him to bring him to New York, so that we might look him over. This splendid young man was James E. West. We employed him at a modest salary as secretary of the board. The board afterwards changed his title to Chief Scout Executive. As Chief Scout Executive, he has proved himself to be a genius at organization, and, largely due to his skill and ability, we have built up the most complete scheme of training ever devised, practically from the cradle to old age.

To the Boy Scouts I brought all my love for outdoor life which I was sure would appeal especially to the young people. Ever since my arrival in New York in 1878 I had been preaching love for the out of doors. In an article in the Ladies' Home Journal I was probably the first to advocate putting up bird boxes. I think I also was the first to propose establishing trails for hikers and planting memorial trees. In all my writings I have tried to make my readers love nature, especially the primitive wilderness-- unmanicured, unshaven without a haircut.

In the beginning there were very few on my side and I felt as lonely as a warrior in a Quaker meeting. Our people were so close in point of time to the pioneers that they did not appreciate the wilderness. As time passed, however, many splendid recruits rallied to the cause, and now there is a veritable army of conservationists in this country.

Because we were so close to pioneer days, outdoor life seemed to mean destruction of wild life. We killed the game recklessly. We caught the fish from the streams, pulled up the wild flowers by the roots. We even destroyed the songbirds to get feathers for ladies' hats.

In the Boy Scouts we preached love of the outdoors in terms of conservation. We taught the young people that catching small trout means no big trout. We taught them the thousand and one laws of woodcraft, explaining for example that if one goes near a bird nest on the ground, one leaves a trail which will almost certainly be followed by skunk, weasel or fox, who would destroy the nest. Today, because of this teaching, the Boy Scouts furnish the backbone of the sentiment for the preservation of wild life.

Not only have we taught the Scouts out of door life, but we have taught them the virtues that go with outdoor life and which also go to make up good citizenship. We have taught them courage not the courage of the tyrant or bully, but the courage of the strong man who will defend his rights. We have shown that brutality is not a measure of strength. We have preached the gospel of service to others and to the country, and thereby created the stuff that goes to make a democracy.

I know nothing finer than the Scout oath. We say:

On my honor I will do my best--
To do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law.  
To help other people at all times.
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

What is more, we Scouts live up to this oath.

I have said I do not believe anything is to be gained by squabbling over the originator of Scouting. That is so. But I do want to raise the American flag to this extent. Scouting as we practice it today in this country is thoroughly American in its basic principles and approach. I have known Lord Baden Powell intimately for many, many years, and I have for him not merely great admiration but deep affection as well. He has rendered a superb service to boys all over the world. When I was working with my Sons of Daniel Boone my interest was centered in this country, and I heard only occasional reports of what Baden Powell was doing. My organization was being developed in my own way, independently.

My work in Scouting no less than my early life brought me in contact with many interesting and delightful people. No one's friendship do I value more than that of the man of whom I have just written. He may be, as he styled himself, "the uncle of Scouting," but it is to him that much of the development is due, and we all know that the bringing up of a child is quite as important as his birth.

I once arranged a meeting for my friend Baden Powell with another of my friends, Theodore Roosevelt. After the interview Baden Powell said to me, "Dan, I begin to realize what you mean when you say that you Americans come of pioneer ancestry. You came to my hotel at the unheard-of hour of nine o'clock this morning. Then you casually remarked that we must have Roosevelt in this with us. Whereupon you called the greatest man in the United States and twenty minutes later we were in his office. In England there would have been much greater formality to arrange such an interview. It would have taken a week or more."

As I have said, Theodore Roosevelt was associated intimately with us when we were organizing the Scouts. He was always keenly interested. I never had to explain to him any ideas of a robust outdoor training for boys. They were his ideas also. Just before the end of his life we tried to get him to take the head of the Scout movement. He agreed, but the fates ruled otherwise. In place of saluting him as our living leader I have ever since led the annual pilgrimage of thousands of Boy Scouts to the simple grave at Oyster Bay, where our great President and my beloved friend rests. Each year we place a wreath by the headstone. In addition to the thousands of boys, my old companions of the Camp Fire Club, the original Buckskin Men, always accompany me, their ranks thinning as the years pass but their courage unimpaired. Each year as I make the short address I think how sadly we miss that loyal American, Theodore Roosevelt.

Some things I accept as truth which are not based on scientific, authentic grounds. One of these is that every man is allowed to finish his real career. I do not think, or instance, that Abraham Lincoln was cut off too soon, but at exactly the right moment. For him to have lived longer might have been an anticlimax. The same is true of Theodore Roosevelt, of Henry George, of Nathan Hale. Nathan Hale alive could never have instilled such devotion to American ideals as Nathan Hale dead. Personally, I feel convinced that the life and teachings of Christ himself would not have so greatly affected the minds of the whole world had Providence permitted him to die peacefully of old age.

My affection and intimacy with the Roosevelt family did not finish with the death of President Theodore Roosevelt but has continued through the last twenty years. Every year when I visit Oyster Bay on the pilgrimage Mrs. Beard and I lunch with his widow at Sagamore Hill. His son, Colonel Teddy Roosevelt, has been and is my coworker in the Boy Scouts. He is now vice president of the organization. He and I have had many jolly times together at Oyster Bay, at Suffern and in other parts of the United States.

My rewards have been great for the work that I have done. At a big banquet at which Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton was speaking he pointed to me and said, "There is the man who sent me in search of the South Pole. It was his books and his writings that taught me the love of stirring adventure and filled me with a desire for achievement." Above all, I rejoice in the achievements in afterlife of our own Scouts.

As I look back over the years I see how fortunate I was that Mrs. Beard married me. We have had a splendid time. She has been with me on my trips into the wilds, she has aided me in my Scout activities, she has stood behind me in all that I have done. Her common sense has steered me from many a possible shipwreck. Then there are the two children. I am very proud of them both. My daughter has been a great help to me in my work. I am proud of the fact that my son his taken to nature as I did. He is a biologist now, mapping the wilds of Florida, catching and banding birds, and better than all this, he and his wife are responsible for another Daniel Carter Beard, now four years old.

A number of years ago, while sitting in front of the fireplace in my home in Flushing, Hamlin Garland took up a pencil and wrote:

Do you fear the force of the wind,
The slash of the rain?
Go face them and fight them,
Be savage again.
Go hungry and cold like the wolf,
Go wade like the crane.
The palms of your hands will thicken,
The skin of your forehead tan--
You'll be ragged and swarthy and weary
But--you'll walk like a man.

and pinned it over the fireplace. Consciously or unconsciously, Garland put a great truth into that verse; the history and development of our race is there.

The upward progress of the human race begins with the, first campfire. It is not an accident that virile races come from the wilderness of bitter countries; vigorous exertion, which was necessary in order to protect themselves from hard weather, and to supply themselves with food, developed both mind and body of the people and gave them a stamina and character not possessed by the inhabitants of softer climes. Woodrow Wilson said, "Character is a by-product of duty," but I claim that it is the direct product of necessity.

The first settlers of America were practically tenderfeet, surrounded by enemies on all sides; men, beasts and elements seemed to have combined against them. Their front yard was the rocks and sands of a wild, relentless ocean; their back yard a terrible and mysterious wilderness, in which even the cowardly wolves held these audacious but woefully inexperienced settlers in contempt, "sitting on their tails and grinning at us," as one related.

Here in the United States we, the descendants of a mighty set of hardy pioneers, now find ourselves in a new age the "push button" age. We no longer go to the well and drink from the old oaken bucket; we touch a button and a pitcher of ice water is brought to us. We no longer walk; we ride in luxurious machines. We no longer write our own speeches and reports; they are written for us and we sign them.

We must be on our guard to see that modem conditions do not soften our fiber until, when confronted with hardships we become as helpless as a hermit crab without a shell.

This was a good country in the past. It is a good country today. It will be a good country tomorrow unless we fail it. As I lay down my pen I feel like saying with David, the Psalmist: "Thou hast set my feet in a large room."



I have drained the sparkling beaker of the magical brew of Youth and been thrilled with the wild tumult of its impetuous urge coursing through my veins.

I have pledged my happiness with the blood-red goblet of Love and drank deeply of its sacred and intoxicating contents.

I have toyed with the tempting opal bowl of Ambition, but its dregs are bitter and may only be sweetened by libations from the crystal cup of Service to Man.

Then it was revealed to me that no one yet has drunk too deeply of the sacrament in the golden chalice of Friendship, without which even Youth and Love would lose their deepest meaning.

Traditional Scouting






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Last modified: October 15, 2016.