National Scout Jamboree: A Rich History

National Scout Jamboree: A Rich History

Hello everyone!  We are just days away now from the start of the 2013 National Scout Jamboree at our new Jamboree home, The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in the beautiful New River Gorge region of West Virginia.  While this is a pivotal time for Scouting as we venture into our second century of serving America’s youth, I thought it might be fun to turn back the clock to see how the National Jamboree got started.

I remember my first Jamboree. It was 1981.  I was looking out over the arena on the opening show and saw the thousands of Scouts in uniform and thinking to myself how the uniform puts everyone on an even playing field.  It did not matter the color of their skin, where they lived or the social status of their families.  They were all just Scouts having fun and experiencing the magic of Scouting.

Like anything, our Jamborees started a bit smaller than what we see today. Delayed from the original 1935 Jamboree date due to a polio outbreak in the nation’s capital, the first National Jamboree was in 1937 in Washington, D.C., and was opened with a camp fire beneath the Washington Monument ignited by flint-and-steel. Scouts from all 48 states brought wood to keep the fire burning. Just over 27,000 Scouts camped out for that first Jamboree, and received celebrity visits from President Franklin Roosevelt and radio broadcaster Lowell Thomas.




Since that time, 16 National Jamborees have been held, the last occurring in 2010 – the 100th Anniversary of Scouting. It’s now 10 straight days of fun and outdoor adventure unlike anything else our Scouts have experienced. These Scout cities spring up quickly.  We’re expecting about 40,000 Scouts, Venturers, volunteers and staff to take part in the 2013 Jamboree, with up to 50,000 visitors.

Through all those years of Scouting adventures and National Jamboree memories, there has been one common thread to connect the millions of young people served by Scouting – our values.  What we taught – and continue to teach today through the Scout Oath and Law – are the common principles that help our Scouts become Prepared. For Life. ™

How many of you have experienced a National Jamboree?  I’d really like to hear your stories. What you are doing to help others create their own Jamboree memories?

More soon on this year’s National Jamboree!



Nathan Johnson

As a member of the Communications team at Boy Scouts of America, Nathan Johnson enjoys finding and sharing the stories that inform, inspire, and delight the Scouting family.


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National Scout Jamboree: A Rich History
National Scout Jamboree: A Rich History
National Scout Jamboree: A Rich History
National Scout Jamboree: A Rich History