Boy Scouts of America’s New Name Reflects A Sometimes Troubled History


The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) recently announced that it will rebrand to Scouting America, reflecting the organization’s only more recent commitment to welcome every youth to experience scouting. The organization’s name change, which will go into effect on BSA’s 115th anniversary on February 8, 2025, is an opportunity to reflect on its history.

The Boy Scouts were formed in 1907 during the progressive era as one of many responses to the increased migration of people into cities. They hold a rare congressional charter.

In America, the YMCA was an earlier promoter of reforms for young men with a focus on social welfare and programs of mental, physical, social and religious development.

Similar organizations included the Woodcraft Indians started by Ernest Thompson Seton in 1902 in Connecticut, and the Sons of Daniel Boone founded by Daniel Carter Beard in 1905 in Cincinnati.

Beard founded Boy Scout Troop 1 in Flushing, Queens, which is believed to be one of the oldest continuously chartered Boy Scout Troops in the United States. Another claimant for first Boy Scout troop is Troop 1 of Barre, Vermont.

According to Saratoga County Scouting historian Gene Phillips:

“The national Boy Scouts of America kick-started its organization with a two-week summer camp at the YMCA’s Silver Bay facility on Lake George in August 1910 [you can read about that here]. BSA commissioned its first scoutmaster – S.F. Lester of Troy, NY – September  10th, 1910.”

Among those at Silver bay in 1910 was both Beard and Seton, who designed the Scouts’ uniform at the site and later wrote the Boy Scout Handbook.

1950 US Post Office Boy Scout stamp commemorating the BSA 40th AnniversaryExclusionary Scouting & Sexual Abuse Cases

At its peak in the early 1970s, Boy Scouts had an active membership of over 4 million youth. At the time women and girls and LGBT people were barred from participating. Although the first Black Scout troop was was formed in Elizabeth City, North Carolina in 1911, Zaron Burnett, writing in MEL, notes:

“The Boy Scouts didn’t fully integrate its Southern troops until 1974, a full 20 years after Brown v. the Board of Education required desegregation in schools. And even up until then, many Boy Scout troops in the South that did allow Black Scouts to join wouldn’t allow them to wear the uniform. As NPR noted in 2013, ‘Boy Scout officials in Richmond, Virginia, once even threatened to stage a public burning of scout uniforms if Black boys were permitted to wear them.’”

Boy Scouts of America banned gay youth until 2014, and gay scout leaders the following year. On January 30, 2017, BSA announced that transgender children who identify as boys would be allowed to enroll in boys-only programs, effective immediately.

In 2018, the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board reaffirmed its commitment to religion, despite the general practice of volunteer troop leaders allowing agnostics and atheists to become members being widespread for decades at least.

Just five years ago, in 2019, girls were allowed to join. Girls were previously able to join the Venturing, Sea Scouting, and Explorers programs since 1970. BSA also changed the name of its primary program from Boy Scouts to Scouts BSA.

On October 19, 2012, BSA was forced by court order to release over 20,000 pages of documentation on 1,200 alleged child sexual abuse cases between 1965 and 1985. Later court testimony showed that over 7,800 former scout leaders were accused of sexually abusing 12,000 scouts over 72 years.

Although some cases continue to the present day, on February 18, 2020, BSA filed for bankruptcy and all civil litigation against the organization was suspended. Over 92,000 sexual abuse claims were filed with the bankruptcy court before the November 16, 2020 deadline to receive claims.

BSA bankruptcy filing listed liabilities of between $100 million and $500 million and assets of $1 billion to $10 billion. Lawsuits the organization was dealing with are now on hold.

Scouting Today

Although its popularity has waned, BSA remains the largest scouting organization and one of the largest youth organizations in the United States.

More than 130 million Americans have been through Scouting programs since its founding in 1910, and currently, more than 1 million youth or all genders are served by 477,000 adult volunteers in local councils throughout the country. To date, more than 2.75 million youth have earned Scouting’s highest rank of Eagle Scout.

Scouting America currently serves more than 176,000 girls and young women across all programs, including over 6,000 who have earned the rank of Eagle Scout.

“Though our name will be new, our mission remains unchanged: we are committed to teaching young people to be Prepared. For Life,” said Roger A. Krone, president and chief executive officer of Scouting America. “This will be a simple but very important evolution as we seek to ensure that everyone feels welcome in Scouting.”

Scouting America’s goal is to provide young people with a safe environment where they can learn meaningful life skills and have fun, educational experiences.

Scouts provide more than 7 million hours of volunteer services for community improvement and other projects across the country annually, according to BSA.

“Scouting America provides a welcoming, safe environment where youth can become the best version of themselves by learning from and respecting each other,” Krone said.

To learn more about Scouting America visit

John Warren contributed to this essay. Scout photo by Michael Roytek, courtesy of Boy Scouts of America – Scouting America.

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