Following up on Mischa Honeck’s interesting post, “Innocent Ignorance: Whitewashing an Empire with the Boy Scouts of America,” which includes a link to a 1914 Boy Scout Handbook, we have found a year’s worth of Boys’ Life from 1915 at the Internet Archive. This official BSA magazine contains stories, Scouting news, advice, photographs, advertisements, and more—some 580 pages of it in 1915. Below are four of the covers, one of them created by Norman Rockwell, an artist who was famous for capturing much that was ostensibly “innocent” about America.
The history of organized youth has much to offer scholars interested in processes of knowledge formation and dissemination. This is particularly true of an organization as easily recognizable and widely influential as the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Popular culture in the United States is replete with images of cheerful Scouts roaming the woods or helping strangers in need. Among the more popular fictional representations are the Junior Woodchucks, which the Disney cartoonist Carl Barks created in 1951 to poke gentle fun at some aspects of Scouting. The Junior Woodchucks’ Guidebook, a satirical take on the BSA’s Handbook for Boys, appeared as a magical reservoir of knowledge that provided information on every conceivable subject, but was small enough to fit into a Junior Woodchuck’s backpack.