These Early 20th Century Movies and Ads Feature Scouts

These Early 20th Century Movies and Ads Feature Scouts

Last week when we tasked you with sharing pop culture Scouting references with us, you delivered big time! Two things became clear. One, you guys have great movie and television taste. And two, Scouting is a recurring theme in pop culture, signifying something distinct to different people during different periods of time.

Mention Scouting to our oldest living generation, for instance, and they’ll likely recall Norman Rockwell crafted images of Americana, reminisce about the program that made boys into men, and wax nostalgic for a time that seemed simpler for young boys, despite economic and wartime turmoil. These are the images of Scouts that first graced magazines and the big screen.

Scouts Steal the Screen

Scouting in the U.S. came to prominence around the same time another game-changing pastime was picking up speed in the nation: going to the movies. Since the two converged in the very early 20th century, Scouting has been a repeating theme on the silver screen. And before televisions entered the homes of Americans, nickelodeons (early exhibition spaces that charged five cents) and movie theaters were the prime spot to see Scouts in moving pictures. Representing brave, youthful zeal and resilient patriotism as the country faced the Great Depression and the first of two World Wars, the icon of the Scout in the BSA’s early years was a celebrated one. Let’s take a look at a few films featuring Scouts before 1940.

Charley Smiler Joins the Boy Scouts (Aylott, 1911)

This silent comedy short follows Charley, as he faces obstacles in the great outdoors after joining the Scouts. This short came out about 15 years after the first film was screened in a theater and a year after the Boy Scouts of America was established. This was just the beginning of Boy Scouts featured in film.

Good Scouts (King, 1938)

In this animated film, the iconic Donald Duck leads his Scout nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie on a hike. The woods put Donald to the test resulting in a series of classic slapstick bits prevalent in early comedies. Scouting in cinema became a convention, putting adults at odds with the outdoors while Scouts came to the rescue of their lesser prepared leaders.

Joy Scouts (Cahn, 1939)

For this short comedy in the “Our Gang” series (that’s the series that introduced the world to the Little Rascals), the gang sees adept Boy Scouts using their camping skills. While Our Gang is too young to join the Scouts, they decide to venture off on their own camping trip. The result? Let’s just say these kids should have waited to go camping with real Scouts.

Scouts to the Rescue (James, Taylor, 1939)


Jackie Cooper (The ChampSuperman) starred in this serial adventure that placed an Eagle Scout at the lead of his troop as they searched for lost treasure. The story spans 12 shorts that end with cliff-hanging finales that are resolved at the beginning of the following chapter. These kind of action-packed serial films often ran before feature films in the 30s. The country’s view of the Boy Scouts as highly-prepared adventure seekers made them the perfect subjects for nail-biters like this pre-main-attraction treat.

Scouting for Consumers

Scouts made frequent appearances in magazine and newspaper advertisements during this time. These images evoked a sentiment of having well-behaved, adventurous kids in the home, helping others, or relying on products for outdoor adventures. See a few of the earliest sights of Scouts in pop culture print in the slideshow below.

Boy Scouts in the Golden Years

As Scouts featured in pop culture only grew more common during World II and the 1950s, Scouting imagery took on a new meaning for viewers and consumers. Learn what this persona was and how Scouts factored into television classics next week when we continue this series.

For now, let us know, did we miss any of your favorite pre-1940 Scout appearances? What do you hope to see in next week’s post? Think about the 1940s to the 1960s.

Gina Circelli

Gina Circelli is the Digital Editor for Boys' Life. She loves sharing news about Scouts who shake up pop culture or contribute to their communities in a big way. If you have story ideas, reach out to the team at


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These Early 20th Century Movies and Ads Feature Scouts
These Early 20th Century Movies and Ads Feature Scouts
These Early 20th Century Movies and Ads Feature Scouts