Robert Baden-Powell [beyd-n-poh-uhl] (1857-1941) was a British army officer who became a national hero as a result of his resourceful maneuvers during the seven-month Siege of Mafeking during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). He’s best remembered internationally as the founder of the Boy Scouts.
Baden-Powell was a writer and an artist. While in the army, he wrote several books about military techniques. One of them, called Aids to Scouting, became unexpectedly popular with boys in England. Britain already had a youth organization called the Boys’ Brigade that was established by William Alexander Smith in 1883 with the purpose of developing
“Christian manliness” by the use of a semi-military discipline and order, gymnastics, summer camps, and religious services and classes.
A great believer in disciplined outdoor activities for boys, Baden-Powell was already a supporter of the Boys’ Brigades. In 1906 he met American naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton, who had founded a group for boys called the Woodcraft Indians and had written a guidebook called The Birch Bark Roll of the Woodcraft Indians.
When Baden-Powell discovered the popularity of his military scouting handbook he decided to rewrite it expressly for boys. To test his ideas, he held a camp in August 1907 for twenty-two boys from local Boys Brigade companies. In 1908 he published Scouting for Boys, a guide for scouting that became the fourth best selling book of the 20th century and led to the formation of scout troops all over the world.