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Where did Scouting get the Neckerchief?

Posted by on Thursday, 7 March 2013

If Sir Robert Baden-Powell was a British war hero, how did Scouting end up with the campaign hat and neckerchief as symbols, two items very much from the American West?

Good question, I say.

Actually, it is a question that never crossed my mind until the beginning of a presentation at our council’s Wood Badge Breakfast last weekend.


Turns out, BP met this guy named Frederick Russell Burnham during the wars in Africa. Burnham was an American that spent many years as a scout for the U.S. Army in the west, serving during campaigns against the Apache and Cheyenne. When he figured the west was getting too tame, he took off for Africa where he volunteered to help the British Army. While there he taught Baden Powell about scouting (the military kind) and woodcraft. This later became BP’s basis for Scouting for Boys and ‘scoutcraft’ (along with the work of Seton and the Woodcraft Indians)

A sketch of Burnham by Baden Powell

A sketch of Burnham by Baden Powell

During the time Burnham and BP rode together in the Second Matabele War, he taught Baden Powell quite a bit about (military) scouting, tracking, fieldcraft, and self-reliance. Due to his contributions, Frederick Russel Burnham is often referred to as the “Father of Scouting”. This was also the time when Baden Powell started wearing his signature campaign hat and neckerchief.

After he returned to the United States Burnham involved with the (Boy) Scouting movement. The BSA made him an Honorary Scout in 1927, and awarded him the Silver Buffalo in 1936 for his service to the Scouting movement. He remained active in Scouting and continued his friendship with Baden Powell for the rest of his life.

So there you go. Frederick Russel Burnham, the “Father of Scouting”

Too bad the mustache didn't catch on as well.

Too bad the mustache didn’t catch on as well.