BUGLES AND SCOUTING
Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of World Scouting, introduced the idea of Boy Scouting to the British public with the 1908 publication of his book SCOUTING FOR BOYS. On page 44 of that book, he included the music for “The Scout’s Call” with the caption “For scout master to call together his troop by bugle.” Bugles were a part of Scouting at its beginnings and have been a part of Scouting ever since. This is a compilation of information on bugles and Scouting.
BUGLES AND SCOUTING BRUCE MCCREA
Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of World Scouting, introduced the idea of Boy Scouting to the British public with the 1908 publication of his book SCOUTING FOR BOYS. On page 44 of that book, he included the music for “The Scout’s Call” with the caption “For scout master to call together his troop by bugle.” Bugles were a part of Scouting at its beginnings and have been a part of Scouting ever since. The illustration above from the cover of an early Boy Scouts of America MUSIC AND BUGLING merit badge pamphlet shows a Boy Scout bugler playing “The Scout’s Call.” Just a few years after Scouting was founded, London Boy Scout buglers were called on to serve their country by riding on their bicycles and in vehicles sounding the all clear after World War I air raids. A 1929 article in the TIMES OF LONDON recalled the end of World War I being marked by “the shrill reverberation of a Scout’s bugle sounding the ‘All Clear,’ which had become familiar to London after many an air raid and was now, by a very British turn of symbolism, announcing that the Armistice had been signed.” This image of London Scout buglers serving their country was circulated around the world.
Very soon after Scouting was founded in England, it spread to other countries around the world, and the use of bugles in Scouting spread with it. All around the world, the general public began to associate bugles with Scouting. Boy Scouts were such an important feature of everyday life that they began to appear on postage stamps, and bugles appeared with them. The first postage stamp to picture a Boy Scout was a 1925 Hungarian stamp issued as part of a sports series that showed a Scout bugler in the foreground and a camping scene in the background. It is the second stamp in the second row below. Since then, a number of countries have pictured Scout buglers on their stamps. Scout buglers have also appeared on cigarette cards, postcards, and magazine and sheet music covers, and as lead and plastic toy figures and game pieces.
Nowhere has the connection between bugles and Scouting been more significant than in the United States. When the Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1910, boys who joined Scout troops had heard first-hand about bugling in the Civil War, the Indian Wars, and the Spanish-American War. Bugles seemed the natural way to communicate over distances on a campout. An article in the January, 1913, BOYS LIFE stated: “It should be the ambition of every scout who loves music and is interested in bugling to become the bugler of his patrol. But in addition to the appointment of official bugler for the patrol or troop, every well organized troop ought to have a drum and bugle corps. This sounds rather ambitious, but it will be found a comparably simple matter to organize and develop a proficient bugle corps in any large troop.” And bugling did catch on. As one example, a newspaper article describing a 1917 Boy Scout rally at Harvard Stadium stated “a bugle and drum band of 160 scouts provided one of the features of the afternoon as it paraded around the stadium,stopping before the reviewing stand, where the ‘to the colors’ was sounded.”
On May 1, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that commended the Boy Scouts of America for “notable service to the Nation during the world war” and stated “The Boy Scouts have not only demonstrated their worth to the Nation but have also materially contributed to a deeper appreciation by the American people of the higher conception of patriotism and good citizenship.” He then urged Americans to support the BSA financially and by volunteering as leaders and stated: “The plan, therefore, for a Boy Scout week, during which a universal appeal will be made to supply the means to put the Boy Scouts of America in a position to carry forward effectively and continuously the splendid work they are doing for the youth of America, should have the unreserved support of the Nation. Therefore, I Woodrow Wilson, do hereby recommend that the period beginning Sunday, June 8th, to Flag Day, June 14th, be observed as Boy Scout Week throughout the United States for the purpose of strengthening the work of the Boy Scouts of America.” The BSA issued a Boy Scout Week poster with President Wilson’s proclamation on the back and a front, shown below, that featured an illustration of a Boy Scout in uniform sitting on a porch playing a bugle. The distribution of this poster coincided with the publication of the May 15, 1919, issue of LIFE magazine with the same illustration on its cover that is on the poster. There was no information inside the magazine about the cover. People knew this was a Boy Scout playing a bugle.
As Scouts in different countries began to play bugles, they would typically use the type of bugle that was used by the military in their country. For Scouts in Europe and the British Commonwealth, this was a true “bugle,” which has a conical shape throughout. For Scouts in the United States, this was what is technically called a “field trumpet,” which looks like a trumpet without valves, in which 2/3 or more of its length is a cylindrical tube. The photos below shows an English bugle presented to one of the All Clear buglers of World War I on the left and an American King Official BSA bugle on the right. The difference is very noticeable. Bugles from the author’s collection The popularity of bugling among American Boy Scouts meant there was a demand for bugles, and BSA met that demand. Bugles first appeared in BSA catalogs in 1913, and by the late 1910s some bugles sold by the BSA had the engraved inscription OFFICIAL BUGLE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA. While bugles with an engraved “Boy Scout” of “Scout” inscription were marketed to Scouts in several countries, I know of only two other national Scout associations that sold “official” Scout bugles to their members, the Girl Scouts of America, and the Boy Scouts of the Philippines.
Here is a link to the book Bruce has done
Bugles and Scouting