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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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BSA’s First Highest Rank was not The Eagle

Elred's original Eagle

When scouting began back in 1910, there was no “Eagle” scout rank. The “Eagle” scout rank began as a sort of “supper Merit Badge” along with the Star and Life Ranks of today. In fact at the beginning, Robert S. S. Baden-Powell, the British founder of worldwide Scouting, planned to have the highest rank be a “Wolf” scout, based on the Silver Wolf award in his master plan.  This award caused second thoughts among the founding father’s of the Boy Scouts of America. While proofing the 1911 edition of the Handbook for Boys, they questioned why the highest award had to be a dog. Why could it not be the American Eagle. Subsequently, no “Wolf” scout badge was ever given out and the Eagle became the highest merit badge to be given out.

This merit badge was given to a “First Class” scout who had earned 21 other merit badges including five required merit badges for First Aid, Athletics, Lifesaving, Personal Health, and Public Health. Two more current ranks were “Super” merit badges. the “Life” merit badge and then the “Star” merit badge prior to getting the Eagle. It was until 1924 that the Life-Star order was reversed as it currently stands today.

Arthur R. Eldred, a 17-year-old scout from Oceanside, Long Island, N.Y., was the first scout to receive the coveted Eagle scout badge on Labor in 1912. He was a member of Troop 1 in Long Island. His board of review was administered by three of the top leaders of BSA at the time, Chief Scout Executive James E. West, Chief Scout Ernest Thompson Seton, and National Scout Commissioner Daniel Carter Beard.

1912 saw 22 more scouts earn their Eagle badge. As of January 1 of 2020, there have been 2,598,986 scouts awarded Eagle since Arthur Eldred.

As Always, Be Prepared

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