We know the date (Feb. 8, 1910), but at what time was the BSA founded?

We celebrate Feb. 8 as the birthday of the Boy Scouts of America.

On that Tuesday in 1910, William D. Boyce (above) filed the official documents to incorporate this great organization.

That much you probably know. But here’s something you might not: We actually know what time those documents were filed. In other words, we know the exact time the BSA was founded.

According to record N011695 at the Washington, D.C.-based Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the BSA was founded at 11:03 a.m.

A little background

Colin H. Livingstone, the railroad executive and first national president of the BSA, had convinced Chicago newspaperman Boyce to incorporate the BSA in D.C.

Livingstone wanted to make the BSA more of a national organization — letting it stand out among competitors like the now-defunct Boy Scouts of the United States. He figured incorporating in our nation’s capital would help that effort.

Livingston’s lawyers — at the firm of Ralston, Siddons and Richardson — helped the BSA clear all necessary legal hurdles. Then Boyce walked into the incorporation office to make it official.

A large book

P-B, a Scout historian from the National Capital Area Council who goes by that two-letter name, has seen the incorporation record with his own eyes.

“When you go to the incorporation office, there’s a very large book,” P-B told me by phone last month. “You present your petition, and the seal becomes incorporated at a specific time. Everybody who incorporated on that day has a different time when their incorporation begins.”

Next to the Boy Scouts of America, “it says it right there: 11:03 a.m., Feb. 8, 1910.”

Had Boyce walked into the office a little earlier or later in the day, the time would be different. As history (or fate?) would have it, the time is 11:03 a.m.

“At 11:02, the Boy Scouts of America was not yet an official entity,” P-B says. “At 11:03, it was.”

P-B jokes that the incorporation time is why we hold three fingers up on our right hand for the Scout sign.

(In truth, the three fingers stand for the three parts of the Scout Oath: duty to God and country, duty to others and duty to self.)

And now you know.

About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.