The Boy Scouts of America's Good Turn traces back to American businessman
William D. Boyce who was lost in a London fog. A boy offered to take Boyce to
the address he wanted and refused a tip, saying he was a Boy Scout. Boyce's
curiosity was aroused. He later had the boy take him to Scouting's British
founder, Lord Baden-Powell. From this chance meeting, the Boy Scouts of America
Among many references to the Good Turn in BSA literature is this comment from
the Boy Scout Handbook: "To people who know about Scouting, the daily Good
Turn is one of the finest features of our movement. The record of Good Turns,
small and large, that have been done by Scouts since the day Scouting was
founded is truly impressive."
NATIONAL GOOD TURNS
The following list is compiled from the BSA's historical fact sheet and from
Bob Peterson's book The Boy Scouts, An American Adventure. There is some
inconsistency, and, on many of the earlier Good Turns, there is a certain degree
of uncertainty as to whether the event was planned as a national program or just
developed that way. In any case, here is a chronological listing.
- 1912-The first Boy Scout Good Turn promoted a "Safe and Sane Fourth of
- 1917-The day after war was declared on Germany, under the slogan "Every
Scout to Feed a Soldier," BSA members were urged to plant vegetable
gardens. In two plant-growing seasons, 12,000 Scout farms were established. At
the same time, the BSA pledged to aid the American Red Cross and promised
cooperation with the U.S. Navy by organizing Scout coastal patrols to watch for
- The BSA's most significant service during WWI was the sale of Liberty Loan
bonds to help finance the war effort. Five bond drives were held, and, in each
case, Scouts were called upon to follow up the regular canvas by adult volunteer
salesmen. They sold a total of 2,238,308 bonds worth either $147,876,902 or
$355,000,000, depending on the information source. Scouts also sold war savings
stamps to a value of either $3 million or $53 million, again depending on the
- During WWI Boy Scouts collected peach pits and nut hulls which were burned
to make charcoal for gas mask filters. More than 100 train carloads were
- Another WWI Good Turn involved a national census of standing black walnut
trees. Its wood was prized for gunstocks and airplane propellers. The BSA
located 21 million board feet, or enough to fill 5,200 railroad cars.
- Scouts served as dispatch bearers for government agencies and delivered 30
million (or 300 million, depending on source) pamphlets during WWI. Scouts also
aided the American Red Cross and the United War Work Committee.
- 1934-President Roosevelt called on Boy Scouts to collect household
furnishings, clothing, and other items to help the needy during the Depression.
More than 1.8 million articles were collected.
- During WWII the BSA responded to 69 requests for help from the government.
These requests included:
- 1941-Scouts distributed 1.6 million defense bonds and stamp posters; began
the collection of aluminum and waste paper; conducted defense housing surveys;
planted victory gardens; distributed air-raid posters; cooperated with the
American Red Cross; and, by agreement with the Office of Civil Defense
Mobilization, formed an Emergency Service Corps composed of older Scouts who
served in three capacities: messengers, emergency medical unit assistants, and
- 1942-Scout projects included: delivery of millions of war-bond pledge
cards-it was estimated they were indirectly responsible for sales of $1.8
million worth of bonds and stamps; collection of a vast amount of rubber,
primarily old tires, estimated at either 5,898 tons or 30 million pounds; and
continuation of scrap and paper drives. During the first drive, Scouts collected
5,000 tons of aluminum; other sources added another 17,400 tons of tin cans and
20,800 tons of scrap metals.
- 1944-Boy Scouts were sent to collect milkweed floss as a substitute for the
kapok used in life jackets-total collection was 750 tons.
- 1944-An estimated 184,000 victory gardens were planted by Scouts.
- 1944-An estimated 126,000 Boy Scouts helped farmers with their harvests.
- The largest single war-effort project conducted by the BSA was the 1945
General Dwight D. Eisenhower Waste Paper Campaign. More than 700,000 Boy Scouts
and Cub Scouts gathered 318,000 tons of paper; this brought the total paper
collected during WWII to more than 590,000 tons.
- Scouts collected 10 million used books for military personnel.
- Scouts collected 7,000 tons of used clothing that was distributed to
refugees in Europe and China.
- 1950-51-Two million pounds of clothing for overseas relief was collected at
the request of the American Council of Voluntary Agencies for Foreign Service
and the United Nations.
- 1952-More than 1 million boys went house-to-house and placed 30 million
Liberty Bell doorknob hangers and a million posters (in businesses) to remind
citizens to vote in the presidential election. Scouts also cooperated nationally
in securing blood donor pledges, collected clothing for worthy causes,
distributed seeds for Asia, and aided in conservation projects and civil
- 1954-A National Conservation Good Turn involved the distribution of 3.6
million copies of a conservation poster. In parks, rural areas, and wilderness
areas, Scouts planted 6.2 million trees; built and placed 55,000 bird-nesting
boxes; and arranged 41,000 conservation displays.
- 1956-The second national get-out-the-vote campaign was launched with 36
million doorknob hangers and 1.4 million posters distributed.
- 1958-National Safety Good Turns were conducted. The BSA delivered 40 million
emergency handbooks prepared by the Office of Civil Defense Mobilization. Also,
50,000 posters were placed in post offices.
- 1960-The third national get-out-the-vote campaign was conducted.
- 1970-Project SOAR (Save Our American Resources) was initiated as an ongoing
BSA project. It's estimated that during the year, 60,000 BSA units took part in
SOAR-related conservation projects.
- 1980-Scouts distributed fliers urging support of the national census.
- 1986-An estimated 600,000 youth members distributed 14 million brochures to
families informing them of the need for donated human organs and tissue and
urging them to make a commitment to donate. Millions of other homes were reached
through publicity and other promotional efforts.
- 1988-The first Scouting for Food collection was completed. One million
Scouts collected an estimated 65 million cans of nonperishable food.
- 1989-1991-The continuing Scouting for Food collection resulted in a combined
total of an additional 209 million cans of food for people in need.