Founders of Boy Scouts in Fort Wayne....sort of

By Eric Olson

January 16, 2013 Updated Jan 16, 2013 at 11:46 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Indiana--It’s hard to believe that an iconic American brand like the Boy Scouts was actually born in Britain but that’s one of the valuable lessons you learn from a remarkable collection of letters and documents now on display at Fort Wayne’s Karpeles Manuscript Museum.

Boy Scouts of America began with this man, Ernest Thompson Seton, a huge admirer of Native American culture. Seton started an organization called ‘The Tribe of Woodcraft Indians’ in 1902, to teach boys wilderness skills and help build character. At the same time in Great Britain war hero Sir Robert Baden Powell founded the Boy Scout Association. In this letter Powell talks about the attitudes and responsibilities necessary for a boy to become a man…’A boy is no good who is not honest’, he writes. This letter is considered the founding document of the Boy Scouts.

“I don’t think it’s just about personal achievement,” says museum director Lisa Olinger, “I think it’s more about building character and about doing things for others.”

Seton and Baden Powell heard about each others efforts and began a correspondence that would lead to the Boy Scouts we know today. Other interesting documents in this collection include the ‘Bill of Rights for Boys’ issued by President Herbert hover, those rights including the right to play the right to form friendships and, apparently, the right to health care. This document is called the ‘Badge of Honesty’, a tribute to the Boy Scout motto signed by John Wayne. It’s a great American institution, the Boy Scouts of America, part of a greater world organization of scouting now found in 161 countries, and counting. Eric Olson reporting out in Your Country.

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