The Scout Handbook Through the Years

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More than 36 million copies of The Boy Scout Handbook have been printed since the first edition in 1910, which included an illustration of a Boy Scout helping an elderly woman cross a street. One requirement to become a First Class Scout at the time: be able to stop a runaway horse. Later editions of the manual were also representative of their times, as the following examples show:

Merit badges emphasize World War II-era interests, such as airplane structure, signaling, and seamanship. Advertisements in the back of the manual promote Remington and Winchester rifles for achieving a marksmanship merit badge. Scouts were advised to seek advice on sexual matters from "wise, clean, strong men."
Multiculturalism abounds in drawings. Text discusses pollution, conservation, and how to "Go Metric." Merit badges include atomic energy, space exploration, and computers: "Show how your name and address would be punched on a card.
The new "Prepared for Life" section includes warnings on safe Internet use and sexual responsibility: "AIDS and other diseases spread by sexual contact can ruin your life and that of others.'' Elective merit badges include cinematography, disabilities awareness, and snow sports.

Vol. 18, Issue 13, Page 7

Published in Print: November 25, 1998, as The Scout Handbook Through the Years
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