THE SCOUTING MOVEMENT IS BORN
The history of Scouting in the San Francisco Bay Area Council cannot be written without first going back to October of 1899. For it was that year during the Battle of Mafeking at the Northern tip of Cape Colony in South Africa that Colonel Robert SS Baden-Powell of the British army used his skills as an army scout to hold the city of Mafeking against 7500 Boer warriors for over seven months until a British relief party could arrive. During this time Baden-Powell made numerous Scouting expeditions outside the city almost every night and organized the first band of "Boy Scouts" in the British Army. This purely military conception of the Scout that Baden-Powell had in mind gave way about eight years later to the broader and finer ideals of training boys through techniques in scout craft.
In 1906 Baden-Powell now a Lieutenant-General and very well known in England had met American Ernest Thompson Seton as well as Daniel Beard who both had ideas regarding boys and the outdoors. Baden-Powell had read Seton's book, The Birch Bark Roll of the Woodcraft Indians, and was greatly intrigued by it and the two men shared their ideas about teaching boys outdoor skills.
A year later in August of 1907 in Southern England on the island of Brownsea and seven miles from the English Channel, Robert Baden-Powell held a scout encampment which was attended by 21 scouts. During this week long encampment Baden-Powell taught scout craft and other scouting skills to the boys. The Brownsea encampment is recognized as the world's first Scout camp and is regarded as the origin of the worldwide Scouting movement. In 1908 Baden-Powell released his "Scouting for Boys" handbook that taught the skills of scoutcraft and the patrol method developed at Brownsea. The Scouting for Boys book has been used as the basis for many Scout handbooks around the world including the Boy Scout Handbook used here in the United States.
SCOUTING COMES TO AMERICA
In 1909 while passing through England on an expedition to Africa, Chicago businessman William Boyce had stopped in London for a meeting. In the thick morning fog of London, Boyce got disoriented and lost his way. A boy saw that Boyce was lost and asked if he could be of help. Boyce explained that he had an important business meeting to attend. The Scout offered, "If you'll give me the address I'll take you there." In return for his help Boyce wanted to give the boy a token for his appreciation, but the boy declined the offer. When he asked why, the boy replied, "Because I'm a Scout!" the boy explained. Later that day Boyce went to the Scout headquarters to meet Lieutenant-General Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the British Boy Scout movement. Boyce had an extended meeting with Baden-Powell who explained his Scouting program to him. Boyce was so impressed with the potential of a Scouting program for America that when he returned to America he brought back a trunk full of Scout literature, uniforms and insignia to America. Boyce had many dealings with boys, but nothing had impressed him as much as his first encounter with the unknown Boy Scout in the London fog.
THE BOYS SCOUTS OF AMERICA IS FOUNDED
A soon as Boyce returned home to Chicago from his expedition, he began working on an American Scouting organization. He discussed the idea with his friend, Colin H. Livingstone, of Washington, D.C., and with other people in Washington. Livingstone would later become the President of the National Scout Council. Only four months after his foggy encounter with the unknown Scout in London, William D. Boyce incorporated the organization, choosing Washington, DC, rather than Chicago to emphasize its national character. It was in Washington that the Boy Scouts of America was incorporated on February 8, 1910. The stated purpose of the Boy Scouts when the organization was incorporated was to teach (boys) patriotism, courage, self-reliance and kindred values. These values have changed little in the 100 years since its incorporation.
Later that year President Theodor Roosevelt placed his seal of approval on the Boy Scouts of America on September 23, 1910 at a banquet honoring Robert Baden-Powell by stating, "I believe in the movement with all of my heart". In March of 1912, World Scouting founder and leader Baden-Powell along with Chief Scout Executive James West on a promotional tour of the United Sates met in San Francisco at the Palace Hotel to discuss with Bay Area Scout leaders the Scouting movement. The fledgling Scouting movement was growing fast and furious across the Country.
OAKLAND AND SAN FRANCISCO COUNCILS ARE ORGANIZED
Newspaper articles show that as early as September of 1910, Scout troops were being organized in the cities of both Oakland and San Francisco. Influential city and private leaders from both Oakland and San Francisco had been discussing for some time the prospect of organizing local Boy Scout Councils. Days before the United States Congress granted a charter to the Boy Scouts of America, the Oakland-Piedmont Council was officially organized on June 2, 1916 and then six months later on January 15, 1917 the San Francisco Council was officially organized.
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA COUNCIL IS CREATED
In the early 1960's former United States Senator William F. Knowland chaired a study commission by the Western Region of the Boy Scouts of America regarding a plan to merge all nine of the Scout Councils in the Bay Area into one large council. Of the nine Bay Area Councils, only the Oakland Council and the San Francisco Council voted in favor of a merger. The Oakland Council was larger but even so its operating costs were much less than that of the San Francisco Council where the population of Scout age boys was shrinking. It still made practical sense to merge the two councils though. Almost fifty years after the Oakland and San Francisco Councils were first organized, these two councils would merge on Monday, February 10, 1964 atop Yerba Buena Island in a ceremony uniting the 30,000 Scouts and leaders of the former councils and creating the San Francisco Bay Area Council.
This year during the centennial celebration of the founding of the Boy Scouts of America, the San Francisco Bay Area Council celebrates 46 years as a combined council, 94 years since our original councils were formed and 100 years of Scouting in the Bay Area. To celebrate the centennial, in April of 2010, the San Francisco Bay Area Council had the honor of hosting the Northern California 100th Anniversary of Scouting Jamboree at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. Over 20,000 Scouts, Scouters, Scout families and the general public participated in a once in a lifetime event honoring the Boy Scouts of America. Thus begins the history of the San Francisco Bay Area Council and its predecessors the Oakland Area Council and the San Francisco Council.