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. Bill Nelson wrote “Personally, I think the current crop of merit badges scouts have to earn to become Eagle are much harder.” As a Silver Palm Eagle Scout (1951), with two sons who are Eagle Scouts (circa late 1970s), a Fifty-Five Year BSA Veteran (2008) who has over ten years service as a District Advancement Chair who has served on numerous Eagle Scout Board of Reviews since 1961, I do not concur with your opinion. The current “current crop of merit badges scouts have to earn to become Eagle” may be just as hard, but in my view, they are certainly not harder. YIS, Carl (NESA Life Member)

  2. This is really cool. I plan to help my boys in my Troop earn these.
    Dan Giles
    Scoutmaster, Troop 10
    Jasper, AL
    Mountain District, BWC

  3. Bill Nelson wrote: “Personally, I think the current crop of merit badges scouts have to earn to become Eagle are much harder.” Another perspective is “One person’s simple is another’s hard”. I appreciate and enjoy The Language Arts and The Performing Arts, but find them hard to master. I find The Physical Sciences and Mathematics challenging, interesting and fun and fairly easy to master. Our aim in the BSA is to set Eagle Scout Award requirements that effectively build character, citizenship, and fitness in our current population of available youth, to the maximum extent we can. Advancement is a method of Scouting, not an aim or goal. Peace!

  4. This is an awesome idea! Some of the leaders in my Troop had earned signaling as Scouts. My Troop to a boy last night was excited to have an opportunity to earn these Historical Merit Badges!!!!
    Great job BSA!!!!

  5. If you go into the usscouts.org/meritbadges web site you will find the requirements for the historical merit badges.

  6. It’s always useful to move forwards with reverence and respect for the past. While these badges are no longer offered as current, the skills learned in them are timeless.

  7. If you go into the usscouts.org/meritbadges web site you will find the requirements for the historical merit badges.

  8. If you go into the usscouts.org/meritbadges web site you will find the requirements for the historical merit badges.

  9. If you go into the usscouts.org/meritbadges web site you will find the requirements for the historical merit badges.

  10. There is nothing on the national website regarding these merit badges any idea when they will become ‘official’?

  11. The BSA never officially retire or remove a merit badge. All merit ever offered can still be earned by boy scouts. These four are being offered as a centennial celebration with special gold trim.Find the most recent requirements, get someone to sign up as a counselor and earn any badge you want at any time

  12. I earned my Eagle in August 1963 and when I just looked at my old merit badge sash, to my surprise I had earned the Carpentry MB. I’m not sure how that was possible if it was indeed discontinued in 1952 because in 1952 I was only 6 years old. I suspect this is a misprint and it was actually discontinued in 1962 which would ring true with my Eagle in 1963. Someone might want to re-verify the discontinue dates of these merit badges.

  13. I’m interested in getting the PDF files Mike Kost mentioned in his post of 1/13 and any other scanned or PDF’s of the old Merit Badge books for the four Historical topics if anyone has them available. Feel free to e-mail me how to get them.

  14. @Patrick Dillon
    That is just not true. Merit badges are retired and cannot be earned once that happens, unless the scout began the badge prior to its retirement. If an eleven year old scout begins a badge and it is retired, he can still have until he turns 18 to complete it, but nobody can start a badge one it has been retired. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is.

  15. What a great way to introduce boys to a slice of history. It will broaden their understanding of life back “in the day”.
    I can’t see anything negative about this
    feature of our celebration. More well rounded young men is a wonderful attribute.

  16. Cracker Barrel just spoke to the team leader in charge of the historical merit badges. It looks like the team is finalizing some requirements and will go live with the special Web site soon.
    They’re planning to include scans from the original merit badge pamphlets with each of the historical merit badges. These scans will be annotated with explanatory call-out boxes to explain the early 20th-century technology to modern-day Scouts. Cool!

  17. So these are only available to earn during the 2010 calendar year, right? Well 2010 is already 10% over and the BSA has yet to release the requirements and launch their website for these! The clock is ticking here. You say “don’t delay” but the real hold-up is the BSA. These should have been ready to go on January 1st (so boys would have a whole year to complete them). Instead, the program wasn’t announced until January 12th and (as of February 3rd) they have yet to go “live” with the requirements and other official information to make earning these possible. The BSA should considering extending the deadline for these to be one-year after they officially launch the program (whenever that’ll be) and not retire them on December 31st.

  18. Bill Evans told the Great Lakes Council on Monday Feb 1st, 2010 that the four historic Merit Badges have been suspended. Not sure what that exactly means, but the Great lakes Council is not proceeding with them.

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