Historical Merit Badges

The original 1910 BSA handbook listed 14 merit badges, eight of which were pictured with drawings. The original 14 merit badges were Ambulance, Clerk, Cycling, Electrician, Fireman, Gardner, Horseman, Marksmanship, Master-of-Arms, Musician, Pioneering, Seamanship, Signaling, and Stalker. None of these are known to actually exist, and they probably were never made. The 1911 handbook named the first 57 merit badges that were actually awarded. Early Scouts sewed their badges on sashes, like today, but the first sashes were homemade, and that is not the only way that merit badges were worn. Some Scouts wore their merit badges on their right sleeve. Other Scouts wore their badges on a removable sleeve, or false sleeve, that they wore over their regular sleeve on special occasions. In the early days, many Scouts sewed rank patches and other patches on their sash as well, sometimes even on the back. Some sashes were two badges wide and some (like today) were three badges wide.

Today, any Boy Scout under the age of 18 may earn merit badges. It was not always that way. During various times in Scouting’s history, you had to be at least Second Class to work on merit badges, and at other times, you had to be at least First Class. At first, any Scout or Scouter could work on merit badges and advance to Eagle.  Adults in some councils could earn merit badges and become Eagle Scouts up until 1965.
1910 BSA Handbook Merit Badges
2010 Historic Merit Badge Program
In the last 99 years, there have been many changes in the merit badge offerings. As society has changed, the Boy Scouts of America has adapted by revising the requirements, implementing name changes, adding new merit badges, and in some instances, eliminating some badges altogether.

For the 100th Anniversary Celebration, four vintage merit badges are being released for the centennial celebration year only, giving Boy Scouts the hands-on opportunity to experience the exciting past of Scouting while learning how our world has changed in that 100 years.

Carpentry Merit Badge Pamphlet.pdf
Pathfinding Merit Badge Pamphlet.pdf
Signaling Merit Badge Pamphlet.pdf
Stalking Merit Badge Pamphlet.pdf
Arthur Eldred 1912
BSA's 1st Eagle Scout
There are 57 merit badges in the 1911 "Boy Scout of America Handbook for Boys" which is sometimes recognized as the first BSA handbook, ignoring the 1910 Handbook. Over the years some patch designs have changed.
Agriculture 1911-1975
Angling 1911-1951
Archery 1911-Present
Architecture 1911-Present
Art 1911-Present
Astronomy 1911-Present
Athletics 1911-Present
Aviation 1911-1942
Automobiling 1911-1963
Beefarming 1911-1914
Blacksmithing 1911-1952
Bugling 1911-Present
Business 1911-1966
Camping 1911-Present
Carpentry 1911-1952
Chemistry 1911-Present
Civics 1911-1946
Conservation 1911-1952
Cooking 1911-Present
Craftsmanship 1911-1926
Cycling 1911-Present
Dairying 1911-1975
Electricity 1911- Present
Firemanship 1911- 1995
First Aid 1911- Present
First Aid to Animals 1911- 1972
Forestry 1911- Present
Gardening 1911- Present
Handicraft 1911- 1942
Horsemanship 1911- Present
Interpreting 1911- 1952
Invention 1911- 1917
Leather Working 1911- 1927
Lifesaving 1911- Present
Machinery 1911- 1995
Marksmanship 1911- 1966
Masonry 1911- 1995
Mining 1911- 1937
Music 1911- Present
Ornithology 1911- 1913
Painting 1911- Present
Pathfinding 1911- 1952
Personal Health 1911- 1952
Photography 1911- Present
Pioneering 1911- Present
Plumbing 1911- Present
Poultry Farming 1911- 1913
Printing 1911- 1981
Public Health 1911- Present
Scholarship 1911- Present
Sculpture 1911- Present
Seamanship 1911- 1964
Signaling 1911- 1992
Stalking 1911- 1952
Surveying 1911- Present
Taxidermy 1911-1952
Swimming 1911-Present
Bird Study 1914- Present
Physical Development 1914- 1952
Poultry Keeping 1914- 1975
Bee Keeping 1915- 1955
Safety First 1916- 1926
Wireless 1919- 1923
Botany 1921- 1995
Hiking 1921- Present
Foundry Practice 1923-1952
Insect Life 1923-1986
Radio 1923-Present
Basketry 1927-Present
Bookbinding 1927-1987
Canoeing 1927-Present
Cement Work 1927-1952
Journalism 1927- Present
Leathercraft 1927- 1952
Metalwork 1927- Present
Pottery 1927- Present
Reptile Study 1927- 1993
Safety 1927- Present
Salesmanship 1927- Present
Textiles 1927- 1972
Weather 1927- Present
Wood Carving 1927- Present
Woodwork 1927- Present