What’s happening in this Scouting cover? (Or: A history of ‘new Exploring’)

exploring-1“Who wouldn’t like to do Exploring in this pleasant fashion,” Scouting editors wrote in describing the April 1959 cover seen at right. “It’s a case where it might be more fun to fail than to succeed!”

It’s a cover that must have been considered risqué in its time, making it unlike any Scouting cover printed before — or since. But the image surely got readers talking, meaning it achieved its goal. I shudder to picture the stack of letters the editors must have received, though.

Because today’s Valentine’s Day, I thought it appropriate to investigate this Scouting cover a little further. Who are these teens, and what are they up to?

As you might have noticed by the logos on the young men’s jackets, the cover depicts the “new Exploring program,” described in the November 1958 issue of Scouting as the BSA “reaching out to more of these four and a half million high-school age young men where they are, on their own ground, whether or not they have been Scouts.”

Chief Scout Executive Arthur A. Schuck explained in the story that the BSA had no trouble “aiding mid-adolescent boys through that difficult stage of their development.” Reaching older teens, however, wasn’t so easy.

And so beginning Jan. 1, 1959, boys could join Exploring at age 14 and in the ninth grade or higher or at age 15 regardless of grade. Explorers chose a program of focus that most interested them, such as science, auto mechanics, law, rowing, electronics, diving or pretty much any specialty they could dream of. They teamed with schools or local businesses to find adult leaders and places to meet.

(Today’s Explorers — young men and young women — get a similar opportunity to try out careers with professionals in their communities, and older boys and girls with high-adventure interests can join Venturing.)

By focusing on a specialty, 1959’s new Explorers could enhance their experience through “trips, tours, expeditions, cruises, camps and the at-home type of superactivity which is a new feature of Exploring.” Activities were measured using six experience areas:

  • Social
  • Vocational
  • Outdoor
  • Personal Fitness
  • Service
  • Citizenship

“The officers evaluate the proposed activity to see how many it provides of the six types of experiences,” Schuck wrote. “The more the better.”

The game being played in the April 1959 cover fits the Social requirement, but anything beyond that is beyond me.

Here’s what else I know about “new Exploring”:

Explorer Code

Explorers subscribed to the Scout Oath and Scout Law as well as the Explorer Code:

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Explorer Eagle Scouts

Young men in Exploring could still earn the Eagle Scout award using “an alternative Explorer method” that still included the traditional requirement of 21 merit badges.

Explorer Uniforms

The green uniform and red jacket from “old Exploring” remained, but a new option was added: the blue blazer seen in the April 1959 cover above. It was worn with gray slacks and a maroon tie, and its “campus styling and the distinctive emblem on the pocket” made it “attractive to teen-agers, both boys and girls.”

The blazer was an official uniform piece, but it was more befitting of a college student than a Scout. Perhaps that’s the best explanation yet of the cover in question. Young women in the late 1950s, apparently, just couldn’t resist a young man in a blue blazer.

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The entire November 1958 article introducing “new Exploring”
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Scouting magazine archives

The April 1959 issue and all other issues of Scouting are yours to browse at the Scouting magazine archive page.


Thanks to Brad Delaney, who emailed me to ask what was going on in the April 1959 cover and in the BSA in the late 50s. I hope I answered your question, Brad.

About Bryan Wendell 2819 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is senior editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.