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.


  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

  14. 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)

  15. 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

  16. 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.

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

  19. 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)

  20. 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

  21. 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!

  22. 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!!!!

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

  24. 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.

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

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

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

  28. 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

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. @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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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!

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. We are doing these 4 merit badges as part of our spring camp-o-ree setting up stations in Grafton NH..w/ councilors at each station so every boy has the opportunity All Scouts are welcome!!!

  37. The person at our Council received word that these merit badges are on hold until further notice. Anyone hear that too? There is a merit badge clinic in March that is offering one of them. I’m wondering what is going on.

  38. I can certainly understand why “stalking” has been changed to “tracking.” The word has different connotations now than it did in the 1910 – 1950 era.

  39. Historic Merit Badges Program on HOLD
    The Centennial Historical Merit Badges Program, announced on the Scouting Magazine Cracker Barrel Blog has been placed on HOLD.
    The announcement was made prematurely, and the Requirements posted on this web site had not been officially adopted.
    Therefore, we have removed the requirements form this web site until BSA officially launches the program.
    We apologize for any confusion we may have caused.
    The above comment was on the usscouts.org page. I hope that they don’t wait too late to launch the program. It was a good idea and I hope they follow through with it.

  40. How about Blacksmithing or Taxidermy? Or any of the many agricultural merit badges that we used to have, like Farm Arrangement, Farm Records, Dairying,or First Aid to Animals? Try them all!
    David Rohlfing, Chapter Adviser,Lodge 10

  41. Well I am satisfied to read That this is a program I want to bring to My troop, the BSA suggests me track down merit badge counselors soon. For Carpentry, contact a local cabinet-making business.

  42. Several weeks ago I saw a twitter message that the Historical Merit Badge team was working to finalize requirements and would post them on a special website ASAP. Has anyone heard how this is going?
    Another month of 2010 has nearly passed with no word or official announcement. Does this mean that the Hist. MB program really is on hold or cancelled? In order to get MB counselors and start to plan MB classes for these historical MBs the requirements really need to be published immediately. The description and pictures of these MBs in the Scout Stuff online catalog look great.
    How much confusion can there be in terms of which requirements will be used or how to select MB counselors? I suggest choosing MB counselors in the same way all other counselors are selected and registered. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Is the team over-analyzing the requirements’ wording for political correctness or for the sake of legal issues or because of safety issues for the scouts? If safety is an issue then drop or revise that specific requirement; otherwise, let’s get on with it.
    I hope that issues are sorted out very soon! The program sounds like a good idea and promises to be fun for scouts and scouters. If it doesn’t happen soon, I feel that BSA might as well cancel the program to avoid confusion and frustration.

  43. To answer Mike Kost’s question about how to become a counselor – I consulted our district advancement coordinator. He stated that Scoutmasters of each unit are the authorized counselors for these four historical merit badges. He also stated that although other troop adult leaders may teach the skills and administer the requirements, the SM’s signature must appear on the blue card application forms, as his/hers is the authorized signature for his/her respective unit.

  44. These are so cool if anyone is looking for the complete requierments of found them on google under histroical merit requierments. P.S. it was called Staking.

  45. I’m looking forward to this exciting program for our home troop and district. Could National post an official comment with an ETA for when they expect to be done with the requirements and pamphlets? Do they need help? Just ask.

  46. Last fall we had a “scouting through the years” camporee. One troop taught a small stalking merit badge class. Another taught signalling and other trail signs. Seems some boys in my district might be a little ahead of the game since they already have some knowledge they can apply towards the requirements! 🙂

  47. Why are they on hold? How soon will the requirements be approved? Boys are ready. Why isn’t this program on GO?

  48. Thats awesome!!!!! My scout master said that these would count towards rank advancement. Can’t wait to get them!!!!!

  49. I think that learning the way’s of our fathers, and grandfather’s is something that needs to be continued. I don’t think looking into the past is a bad idea. Learning these skills keeps the art alive.

  50. Why can’t you just have fun learning and not always “be rewarded” for everything? Welcome to the real world where there isn’t always a reward (rank advancement) for doing something good.

  51. I was just wondering if the requirements are out yet for the 4 retired merit badges? My son is 17, an Eagle Scout, and would like to finish these before his 18th birthday in July. So please post and let us know asap. Thanks.

  52. where do I find the requirements for the historic merit badges? I think the boys in my troop will enjoy some of these.

  53. I hope they have a sense of urgency, because the excitement with the scouts is wearing off. 3 months to tweek is excessive at this point. Guess they didn’t want these at summer camp, because not enough time to put a program together in another week or so.

  54. It is almost the 4th month of the 100th anniversary year, and still no concrete plan or rollout for these merit badges????? The BSA is certainly teaching Scouts the best way NOT to implement a program – have no plan, be late, be vague, and keep changing the rules. Very disappointing.

  55. The biggest problem with the new generation is the main scouter’s are city fide and the historical merit badges still have relevancy in the world.Like in new Orleans when people are stranded they can communicate using semaphore or morris code. because batteries die in water. The new computer geeks and video gamers don’t have any clue that is why they think it’s not important anymore. They will only learn by not being prepared.OOPS is the new scouts motto.

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