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How the Order of the Arrow Came to Be

Scouting as we know it has always been outdoor oriented. Seven years after Lord Baden-Powell started scouting in Great Britain, a young scoutmaster in America decided to take the outdoors aspect of scouting to the next level. In 1915, we have to remember that scouting in America was still in a state of peace as Great Britain was deeply involved in a war more terrible than any before in history. Boys in the U.S. seemed to be donning scout uniforms everywhere as membership grew rapidly from coast to coast. Prominent businessmen, civic and religious groups, and politicians, including Congressmen and the President, vied to match the enthusiasm of boys surging into scout camps across the nation, eager to be part of the great wave of scouting which had reached American shores in the years before World War I.

E. Urner Goodman, then a 25-year-old scoutmaster, as the new Camp director at the Philadelphia scout council’s camp perched on idyllic Treasure Island in the Delaware River was busy with plans that would also have far reaching effects. What he had in mind was to leave a lasting imprint on thousands of American youth in the twentieth century and into the 21st century. He decided to launch an innovative program that was camping based on peer recognition and the appeal of Indian lore. As Camp Director, he wanted a way to recognize the best campers at the Treasure Island Scout camp for their cheerful spirits of service. The idea he came up with was for each troop to select from among their own scouts who best exemplified the principles embodied in the Scout Oath and Law. These scouts would then become honored as members of an Indian “lodge.”

Urner, with help from his Assistant Camp Director Carroll Edson, researched the native inhabitants of Treasure Island, the Delaware Indians, to develop dramatic induction ceremonies for his fledgling honor society soon to be dubbed the “Order of the Arrow.”

By 1921, the idea had spread to a score of scout councils in the northeast U.S. and the first national gathering, called a Grand Lodge Meeting, of the Order of the Arrow, held by the Unami and Unalachtgo Lodges of Philadelphia, on October 7 and 8, 1921.

Presently, the Order of the Arrow consists of nearly 300 lodges, which form approximately 48 sections in four regions.

As Always, Be Prepared.


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