Scouts-L Mail Archive for August of 1999: Re: Origins of BSA troop flags
Re: Origins of BSA troop flags
Settummanque, the blackeagle
Sun, 1 Aug 1999 13:38:56 -0500
Red Dog asked us all:
>Does anyone have information concerning the origin of the troop flag as
>used by Boy Scout units?
I have some information here; I'll have to unfortunately keep this in my "in
bin" until I can give you some more information and some more reference
> Particularly, I am interested in when was the practice of using troop
Troop flags existed since the BSA was formed, although I can't find an exact
starting date for units to have a flag. Remember that a Troop is composed
of several Patrols, and patrols are required to have a flag. So some Troops
may not have had flags until later onward...
The first official flag following the current color scheme (red, white and
green) was back in 1922. The flag design was based on military flag
designs. I don't know who exactly came up with the actual colors and flag
The Troop flag would be in the BSA's colors of red and white. In the center
would be the BSA's seal, orginally the First Class Badge with the letters
"BSA" surrounding it. Later, I would have to say in the early 50s, the
Tenderfoot "universal emblem" was used in the place of the First Class
Badge. This is one way of telling the true age of a flag. The Cub Scout
Pack flag would be in Cub Scouting's colors of yellow (gold) and blue; the
Explorer Post and Ship flags would be in red and blue. The difference
between the Post and Ship flags would be the emblem in the center: the
Explorer Post flag featured the Compass, Anchor and Wings (CAW) emblem; the
Ship flag featured the First Class Anchor emblem.
Somewhere around 1960 or so, the BSA adopted two "sizes" of flags.
The small 2.5x3' flag and the larger 4.5x5' flag (I may be off on the sizes).
When Exploring changed, the "Big E" replaced the Compass, Anchor and Wings.
In 1985, the Exploring Post flags moved from red and blue to an all blue
flag with the modified "flying E" emblem. (stupid move I say!) The Ship
flags remained the way they are even to today (good for them!).
I haven't seen a Venturing flag yet, but the color scheme of red and blue I
understand will be carried over from the older Exploring Post and Ship
flags, with the Venturing emblem in the center.
Also note that until 1984, the BSA allowed individual units to create their
OWN flag, following the BSA's flag design or an earlier one. In 1977, the
BSA cracked down on this practice and insisted ALL flags be made by the BSA,
that ALL flags must have the same general design and the wording is
consistant on all flags. Also, the practice of selling just the lettering
and numbers for flags ended....all flags sold MUST be purchased to include
all appropriate lettering and numbers.
>what can be placed on the flag and what cannot
The top half of the flag must have the TYPE of unit (Pack, Troop, Team,
Crew, Ship) or the NAME of the District, Camp or Local Council and the
NUMBER (Unit number only). On a unit flag, the name of the chartered
organization can be added.
The bottom half of the flag must have the LOCATION of the unit or the
LOCATION of the District or Council's headquarters. On a camp flag, it is
the city and state (country) of the camp facility.
Venturing units can also add the name of their unit here (for instance, "SSS
McHenry" -- the SSS refers to "sea scout ship") if their Crew or Ship is
known by a different name than "Ship 222" or "Crew 14".
Jamboree flags (since we're getting close to one!) have the Jamboree patch
design in the center of the Troop flag, replacing the BSA universal emblem
and "BSA". The Troop number appears on the top; Council name and location
on the bottom.
Memorial gold stars (representing those former or present members of that
unit whom have died in the service of their country) may be placed on the
flag. They are placed along the staff edge (the left edge as you are
looking at the flag), with the bottom star 6 inches from the edge and 6
inches from the bottom edge; subsequent stars are placed above the first
star up to the midpoint of the flag.
Veteran insignia are placed midway between the top and bottom of the flag
and midway between the pole and the center emblem. The Veterans insignia
looks just like the tie-tac or lapel pin emblem.
Some Councils have special Friends of Scouting or Honor Unit emblems which
also may be attached to the flag; those are normally placed to the right
side of the flag midway between the top and bottom of the flag and midway
between the right edge (the flying edge) and the center emblem.
As far as I'm aware, those are the only things which can be attached to a
unit or Council's flag.
I tried to find where we've talked previously about flags, Red Dog, but I
could only come up with a discussion on why it's not a good idea to make
your own flag or to purchase one from some distributor outside the BSA's
Supply Division. Flags, like a lot of things in Scouting, are expensive.
The way I recommend those new units to get around that expense, is by having
the chartered organization purchase the flag. In the event the unit is
folded or merged, the flag would go to the chartered organization for
safekeeping (and eventually, someone will find it and say "Hey...we used to
have a Boy Scout Troop?" and reorganize the Troop).
It also maintains that relationship that the unit actually BELONGS to the
chartered organization body.
Hope this bit of information helps...I wished I could be more useful!!
(MAJ) Mike L. Walton (settummanque, the blackeagle)
Joint Information Bureau Deputy Director
US SOUTHCOM FCE (Enhanced New Horizons)
APO Miami, AA 34042 (Soto Cano AB, Honduras)
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