Calvin Coolidge greatly admired the Boy Scouts of America, though they hadn’t even existed during his boyhood in Plymouth Notch, Vt. He believed scouting taught the virtues he’d learned on his family farm.
“…Every boy who has the privilege of growing up on a farm learns instinctively the three fundamentals of scouthood,” he told a group of Boy Scouts over the telephone in 1924. He described those fundamentals as reverence for nature, reverence for law and reverence for God.
The U.S. branch of the Boy Scouts started in 1910, a time when Coolidge rose through Massachusetts politics in his late 30s. Within 16 years, 3 million boys between 12 and 17 joined the scouts. Another half-million adults had served as scoutmasters and assistant scoutmasters.
The Boy Scouts got a boost from the White House, which hosted the first annual meeting in 1914. President William Taft served as the first honorary president. Coolidge’s friend, Boston investment banker James Storrow, had served as the second national president.
In Praise of the Boy Scouts
Coolidge gave a speech praising the Boy Scouts of America in a ceremony honoring Sir Robert Baden-Powell on May 1, 1926. He said they had protected birds and wildlife, reforested woods and cooperated with churches to promote wholesome reading. They also carried out ‘safety first’ campaigns, helped in Liberty-loan and get-out-the-vote campaigns.
“If every boy in the United States between the ages of 12 and 17 could be placed under the wholesome influences of the scout program and should live up to the scout oath and rules, we would hear fewer pessimistic words as to the future of our Nation,” Coolidge said during that address.
The photo was taken a year before. It shows 1,500 boy scouts from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut making their annual pilgrimage to the Capito. President Coolidge greeted them at the White House.
Photo courtesy Library of Congress, American Memory, ‘Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929.’
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