Historical merit badges help Boy Scouts celebrate Scouting’s past


UPDATE (04/01/10): The Historic Merit Badge Program has been
released. Click
here for details

UPDATE (01/13/10): Bill Evans, Youth Development team leader with the BSA, tells Cracker Barrel that these merit badges will count as electives for rank advancement. As if you needed another reason to get your guys to earn these.

A merit badge called Computers would sound just a crazy to a 1910 Boy Scout as a merit badge called Tracking sounds to Scouts today. That’s because the BSA’s list of available merit badges has evolved through the years as the interests of boys have changed.

In honor of the BSA’s 100th Anniversary, though, today’s generation of Scouts will get the unique opportunity to experience some of the activities their predecessors enjoyed. That’s possible thanks to the BSA’s new Historical Merit Badge Program, a set of four discontinued merit badges that today’s Scouts can earn.

Boys can earn any or all of these merit badges:


  • First offered in 1910 and discontinued in 1992.
  • Sample requirements: build a simple buzzer or blinker capable of sending Morse code messages, and send a message of at least 35 words; send and receive messages using semaphore flags at a rate of at least 30 letters per minute.


  • First offered in 1911 (as Stalker merit badge) and discontinued in 1952.
  • Sample requirements: recognize the tracks of 10 different animals; give evidence to show you have tracked at least two different kinds of birds or animals, documenting their speed and direction.


  • First offered in 1911 and discontinued in 1952.
  • Sample requirements: be able to guide people to important places
    within a three-mile radius of your home; submit a scale map of your


  • First offered in 1911 and discontinued in 1952.
  • Sample requirements: demonstrate the use of tools, such as a miter
    and bevel; build a simple piece of furniture for use at home.

Sounds like a blast, right? But there’s one catch: Boys must start and finish all requirements within the year 2010. So if your guys built furniture for their patrol kitchen at last year’s summer camp, they can’t use that product for the Carpentry merit badge. And don’t delay—after Dec. 31, 2010, these merit badges will go back on the “retired” list.

If this is a program you want to bring to your troop, the BSA suggests you track down merit badge counselors soon. For Carpentry, contact a local cabinet-making business. A nearby Homeland Security office could help you with Pathfinding. Signaling would benefit from the help of a local amateur ham radio group. And for Tracking, try your state’s department of natural resources. Those are merely suggestions. Be creative!

For more information, look for a special Web site and a printed guide soon. That’s where you’ll find the complete requirements for each patch. The BSA also plans to deliver a guide that will help councils and districts host a historical camporee or similar event to offer these merit badges.

The Historical Merit Badge Program gives you the perfect chance to organize exciting activities for your Scouts, while connecting them with the BSA’s rich past. It’s another example of the BSA’s devotion to Celebrating the Adventure, Continuing the Journey.

92 thoughts on “Historical merit badges help Boy Scouts celebrate Scouting’s past

  1. That seems to be the question – Will they be able to use them towards Rank Advancement or just for fun Merit Badges?

  2. Will a merit badge counselor have to sign up in order to teach any of these merit badges? I think that this is neat for the boys to be able to do. Also, it will fun and interesting for the counselors. Will there be available merit badge handbooks for these?
    Kahl Edwards

  3. Neat! I went back and looked at my ‘ole’ Merit Badge Sash for my Eagle Scout Award of 1949. Yes, I earned Carpentry and Pathfinding Merit Badges. Thanks for the memory!
    Yours In Service,
    Carl Melvin Bennett
    MC HNES Pack 0327
    Council 773

  4. p.s. I have JPEG scans, Part A and B, of my ‘Ole’ Merit Badge sash for my Eagle Scout Award Silver Palm 1951. If you would like a copy, how would I send them to you?
    NESA Life Member
    CMB Merit Badge Sash 1952 A.jpeg
    CMB Merit Badge Sash 1952 B.jpeg

  5. Note: I find no Tracking MB in my 1914, 1927, 1940; 1948 BSA Handbooks. I do find a Stalking MB in my 1914, 1927; 1940 BSA Handbooks, but not in my 1948 BSA Handbook.
    There is a Second Class Tracking Requirement (page 138) in my 1940 BSA Handbook. I find only a Chapter 13 “TRACKING AND STALKING” (page 245) in my 1948 BSA Handbook. Hope this is useful history. CMB, Eagle Scout 1949.
    p.s. I have twelve relevant JPEG scans from the above BSA Handbooks if anyone desires them. Just email me.

  6. To answer some questions…
    These will count as the elective merit badges needed for rank advancement.
    No word on merit badge counselors yet, but presumably you’ll need a registered BSA counselor like you do for other merit badges.
    These merit badges are only for Boy Scouts, but Cub Scouts would still enjoy age-appropriate activities in these subject areas.

  7. Tracking was originally called Stalker, then Stalking. Am sure the BSA desided to re-name it for PC reasons.
    Merit Badges are only for Boy Scouts, so, no, Cub Scouts can’t earn them.

  8. Hi MBROWN. I can not find a Stalker MB in my 1911, 1914, 1927, 1940, or 1948 BSA Handbook. My 1911 BSA Handbook shows a Stalking MB on page 42. Do you have a reference to a Stalker MB? I concur with the PC comment. As a Scout in the 1940′s it was a complement to be called a gay stalker. That seems not to be so now.

  9. I would think that all of these skills are appropriate in some ways. Certainly carpentry is a useful skill. Pathfinding sounds like orienteering. Tracking is a skill that is like an investigator, but in the forest. It should empasize awareness of our surroundings and that sounds good to me. Signaling is a lost art, but is it can be critical if the infrastructure breaks down (be prepared). I would like to see some signing for the deaf, for example

  10. Awesome opportunity, I hope I can intrigue some of my scouts to try for these. Teaching them the traits of days gone by would hopefully help them to relate to the history of Scouting. And then have something few other scouts have or can attain. I hope they bring back other retired patches on a limited time sensitive basis.

  11. Useful References: The 1981 BSA Handbook shows “Sign Language for the Hearing -Impaired” on page 352. “Signing” of the Scout Laws is shown on page 353; and “Touch”, (the braille system) is shown on page 355. The 1990 BSA Handbook also shows ‘signing’ on pages 448-449, and Braille on page 450. I do not find these in the 1998 BSA Handbook.
    There also may be some ‘Signing’ and ‘Braille’ materials in ‘ole’ Cub Scout Books, e.g., some ‘ole’ Webelos Handbooks.
    ‘Ole’ 55 Year Scout Vet

  12. This is fantastic. But they should also bring back Pigeon Care as one of the historical MBs.We have an adult leader in our area that earned Pigeon in the 1960′s and is still raising and racing pigeons today. I had him put on a presentation at a Camporee, and the scouts loved it.

  13. See “Merit Badge Requiremnts”, BSA 1979, page 61 for the six requirements for the Pigeon Raising MB.

  14. Tracking and Stalking after 1952 used to be part of Second Class requirements. It was so so so much fun! We learned the different foot prints of different animals, we learned to look for bent grass and twisted twigs. We learned to do a “silent swim” where you would enter a pool, swim with your clothing on 100 feet, then exit, all the while without a sound. It was like Commando training!
    BSA has taken a lot of the “adventure” out of Scouting in its constantly “looking forward”. Sometimes kids like to just learn and do things because they are fun. Signaling was hard, but I learned the Morse Code and ended up earning my Amateur Radio license because of that MB. I became a Scout camp counselor because of silent swim – it was fun to teach, fun to do, kids loved it.
    I earned Beekeeping, and still keep bees. Schools call me every year to see the hives I keep at my home in Dallas, and I sell 300 pounds of honey a year at $10 per pound! Not a bad return on a silly little MB!
    I know the Troop my sons are in now will be doing these MB – even if I have to drag them screaming and clawing back to the 1940′s and 1950′s!

  15. I think that it is really great that they have brought back some of the old Merit Badges, to celebrate “100 Years of Scouting!” But I just read that these are only for the Boy Scouts to earn. Do you have any for the Cub Scouts to earn? I am in charge of our areas Cub Scout Day Camp (my first time) this year and I thought that it would be great for the boys to do some of the old Scout things. We will still do some of the old things (games, stuff from Merit Badges, etc.)from Handbooks of yesteryear; but it would be even better if they could actually earn badges, belt loops, or something. You know how much Scouts love to earn their recognitions. Any info that you could give me would be a great help, Thank You!

  16. Scouting — Make it Challenging, Interesting, and Fun; Keep it Simple and Make it Fun. I feel, if scouting is not a bit challenging, scouts do not find it interesting and fun. Questions: Have we “Dumbed Down” BSA Requirements? Is this correlated to a drop in membership from over 20% of scout age boys when I was a boy, to some 10% of scout age boys currently? In the 40′s, when I was a scout, scouting was not for sissies. I am now over 75. Let me tell you ‘Old Age’ ain’t for sissies either. My over 55 years in scouting helps me cope, as it has my entire life. ‘BP’ got it right, scouting is a game with a purpose — building character, citizenship, and fitness through challenging, interesting, and fun “adult” activities within a boy’s capabilities. Be well! YIS, Carl
    “Happy Fox” Wood Badge R5-7 (1969)

  17. Sherrie, I have some 7.9 MB of scanned “SCOUTCRAFTFILE” Game Cards (p31-161) from Bill Hillcourt’s , BSA, “Brownsea Double Two” document, circa 1978 in “pdf” format, I could share. There may be an email sharing problem here, as some ISP’s limit email attachment size to 4MB or even as low as 2MB.
    I could also “snail mail” a copy as part of my 640 MB, “ScoutStuffCD”, with has more scout items than you may want.
    My email is: Bennettcm@knology.net.
    MC HNES Pack 327
    Council 773

  18. Will there be Merit Badge Handbooks available soon? I am interested in signing up as a counselor for one of these, but I must do it soon and be able to have a handbook in order for this to work.

  19. Dave Self: Look at the merit badges themselves. All are showing to be online requirements only, with those requirements to be ready by end of January.
    Three of these are pretty simple. Signaling is a challenge – and it always has been. Learning the Morse Code at 20 letters per minute, 35 words to send – man, that was hard back when, and it will be really hard for kiddos today who have a very short attention span!

  20. The requirements will be online by the end of the month. There will not be any new MB pamphlets for these badges issued.
    As to “dumbing down” the requirements, you can read the old MB requirements in the reproduction of the 1911 handbook available at the scout shops. Personally, I think the current crop of merit badges scouts have to earn to become Eagle are much harder.

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