Any organization or institution is bound to change over the course of a century. As Boy Scouts of America celebrates its 100th anniversary, it seems like it has always been viewed as a somewhat conservative organization with a military bent. More recently, its stances on atheists and gays have prompted controversy and litigation. Yet David Scott and Brendan Murphy's The Scouting Party: Pioneering and Preservation, Progressivism and Preparedness in the Making of the Boy Scouts of America not only indicates questions of religion and militarism confronted the organization from its inception but that today's organization is different from what its founders envisioned.
The Scouting Party focuses on BSA's formative years and the personalities and viewpoints that gave rise to it. Much of the meticulously researched book looks at the three men — only one of whom was American — who laid claim to originating the concept that became the Boy Scouts.
Robert Baden-Powell, who became a household name in England due to his service in the British Army during the Second Boer War, is frequently considered the founder of Scouting. Yet also factoring in the mix were Ernest Thompson Seton, born in Scotland but whose family emigrated to Canada when he was a boy, and Daniel Carter Beard, the American illustrator of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
A book Baden-Powell wrote in 1899 about military scouting became a bestseller in England. Seton was the author of popular books of animal stories and a naturalist. While Baden-Powell was serving in Africa, Seton formed the Woodcraft Indians, a youth organization aimed at preparing boys for life by activities involving nature, animals, camping, and Indian lore. Shortly after, Beard, who wrote successful books for boys, formed the Sons of Daniel Boone, aimed at using outdoor activities to teach boys about nature and conservation.