One Hundred

Great Years of Scouting

South Georgia Council

Boy Scouts of America

THE HISTORY OF THE EAGLE RANK

The BSA's highest award was originally conceived of as the Wolf Scout, as shown in the June 1911 Official Handbook for Boys. The August 1911 handbook subsequently changed this to Eagle Scout. The medal illustrated in the handbook was a profile of an eagle in flight, but was changed to the current design before any were issued. In their original conceptions, Life Scout, Star Scout (Life preceded Star until 1924) and Eagle Scout were not ranks, but part of the merit badge system that recognized Scouts who had earned a number of merit badges. The rank of Eagle Scout was awarded to any First Class Scout who had earned twenty-one merit badges.  Consequently, eight of the first nine Eagle Scouts did not earn the ranks of Life or Star.

 

Since its introduction in 1912, the Eagle Scout medal has undergone several design changes. Changes to the scroll and to the eagle pendant were not always introduced at the same time, therefore types may be somewhat mixed.  Scouting historians classify these medals by the five different manufacturers and then by 17 sub-types, with several minor variations. Many variations were caused by quality control issues, mainly due to wear of the dies. During the 1920s and 1930s, some military schools allowed wear of the Eagle Scout medal on the uniform. In order to conform to the medal system, the scroll was removed and the ribbon affixed to a standard ribbon bar.

 

T. H. Foley made the first medals from 1912 until they went out of business in 1915. The eagle pendant and scroll were of die struck bronze washed with silver. Early versions were made with a short double knot and later ones with a long double knot. Only 338 of these medals were issued, making them the rarest version. (In 2006 a Foley medal sold for over $13,000 on Ebay).  Some Foleys were issued with a drop ribbon – the ribbon was extended, folded through the bar mount on the scroll, then dropped behind the eagle pendant and cut in a swallowtail. The first drop ribbon style medal was issued to the fourth Eagle Scout – Sidney Clapp, a 31-year-old scoutmaster from West Shokan, New York (prior to 1952 adults could earn the Eagle rank).

 

Dieges & Clust took over production from 1916 to 1920, basing the design on the Foley. These medals also have the distinguishing extra-long double knot hanging from the scroll. There were 1,640 of this variety awarded, all made of sterling silver.

 

In 1920, the Robbins Company took over production. They produced six distinct variants, all in sterling silver. The first 1920 version was similar to the Dieges & Clust design, but with smaller scroll lettering and the standard single knot. The second 1920 version has more distinctive feathering on the back side of the pendant. The engraving on the 1930 version is especially fine. In 1933, BSA was removed from all of the Eagle Scout insignia, including the medal. In 1955 the obverse of the eagle pendant was made flat so it could be engraved. BSA was added back to the front and the obverse was returned to a full feathered design in 1969.

 

Medal manufacturer Stange was authorized to begin producing Eagle Scout medals in 1968, at the same time as Robbins – they created six distinct models. The 1968 version is very similar to the Robbins version, but the bend in the scroll is much flatter, more like a sideways V as compared to the S on the Robbins scroll. The BSA was added back to the front, and the obverse was returned to a full feathered design in 1970. A major re-design of the eagle pendant was made in 1974 to match the new NESA logo. In 1978, Robbins ceased manufacturing Eagle Scout medals and Stange switched to the last design used by Robbins. Minor differences are in the white edged ribbon and the sterling silver markings.  In 1980 the price of silver rose dramatically and the medal was changed to silver plated, die struck copper. Very early versions were silver plated and oxidized, thus the scroll and pendant are black. Later versions were oxidized, buffed and lacquered to maintain the silver shine. Sterling silver medals were produced from the same dies and from this time were only available on special order. 1993 saw a number of changes. The clasp on the scroll was changed from the pin on type to a double clutch back. The pendant was changed to pewter and enlarged due to the lighter rigidity of the material.  Custom Fine Jewelry (CFJ) took over the contract in 1999 and has currently created three types. The initial versions were based on the last Stange version but with the ribbon attached through the clutch pins instead of a bar (this led to damage of the ribbon). A small number of sterling silver versions were made, marked with 925. In later 1999, the dies were laser engraved, giving a much sharper look and the ribbon mount was improved to eliminate wear. The knot went from wire to a molded version in 2001

 

In the fall of 2006, the national supply division of the National Eagle Scout Association began to issue replica Eagle Scout medals for specific wear on U.S. military dress uniforms. These medals are designed to be proportionate to other military medals: they contain the same pendant, but no scroll, and a ribbon that has been made thinner and more rectangular in shape.

 

At right is the original Eagle medal as conceived in the 1911 handbook.  None were ever made with the flying eagle.

At right is the

 Foley Eagle medal

 

 

The first Eagle Scout medal was awarded in 1912 to Arthur Rose Eldred, a seventeen-year-old member of Troop 1 in Rockville Centre, Long Island, New York. Eldred was notified that he was to be awarded the rank of Eagle Scout in a letter from Chief Scout Executive James West, dated August 21, 1912. The design of the Eagle Scout medal had not been finalized by the National Council, so the medal was not awarded until Labor Day, September 2, 1912. Eldred was the first of three generations of Eagle Scouts; his son and grandson hold the rank as well. Since then, more than one and a half million Scouts have earned the rank. In 1982, thirteen-year-old Alexander Holsinger, of Normal, Illinois, was recognized as the one millionth Eagle Scout. In 2002, 49,328 Scouts attained the Eagle Scout rank, more than in any other year. A total of 1,835,410 Scouts have earned Eagle Scout as of the end of 2005.

 

Eagle Scout requirements have evolved since the awards' original conception. A requirement to earn 11 specific merit badges was added in 1914, which underwent minor changes in 1915.  The Life–Star order was reversed in 1924, apparently because the five-pointed star of the Star Scout insignia could be associated with the five merit badges required to earn the rank immediately following First Class Scout. In 1927, Eagle Scout began the transition from being a super merit badge to a rank. As a result, the first requirements for tenure were created, Scouts were now required to be an active First Class Scout for one year and the initial requirements for what became the service project appeared with a requirement to show satisfactory service. The number of required merit badges increased to 12. In 1936, the ranks of Star and Life became mandatory, and the number of required merit badges jumped to 13. It was at this time Eagle Scout became a full-fledged rank. In 1952, age limits were set so that adults could no longer earn Eagle Scout and the service project requirement was slightly expanded to "do your best to help in your home, school, church or synagogue, and community". In 1958 the number of required merit badges increased again to 16 of the 21 total merit badges needed to obtain Eagle, along with the first requirements for service and leadership. In 1965, the requirements for the service project and specific troop leadership were defined, and the number of required merit badges returned to 11. The Eagle Scout candidate was now required to plan, develop, and carry out a leadership service project. Minor changes were made to the required merit badge list in 1970. In 1972, the Improved Scouting Program increased the number of merit badges needed to obtain Eagle to 24, while reducing the list of required merit badges to ten, eliminating badges that required swimming and outdoor skills and adding the requirement to show leadership during the service project. Until 1972, Explorers who were also registered as assistant Scoutmasters in a troop could work on Eagle until age 21. In 1978, the total number of merit badges needed for Eagle was dropped back to the original 21; required merit badges now numbered 11 and would eventually change to the current 12 in 1999..1

 

1  Parts of this page are from Wikipedia (November 2006) and is the culmination of the work of many persons who are named on the history page of the article.  Use here is by permission of Wikipedia to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".   Copywrite (c) J. Micheal Greene

 

 

 

(This page last updated on: Thursday, November 26, 2015 )