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Modern Manhood and the Boy Scouts of America

Benjamin René Jordan

Published by University of North Carolina Press

Published in print April 2016 | ISBN: 9781469627656
Published online September 2016 | e-ISBN: 9781469627670
Modern Manhood and the Boy Scouts of America

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Contrary to works arguing that both Boy Scouting and mainstream American manhood emphasized primitive virility and martial aggression in the early twentieth century, this book demonstrates that the Boy Scouts of America widely promulgated a popular new construct of “modern manhood.” It combined nineteenth century men's virtues such as self-control and a diligent work ethic with the scientific efficiency, expert management, and hierarchical loyalty that boys in their adolescence and men needed to adapt to a rapidly urbanizing and industrializing society. Scout leaders utilized a scientific, constructive engagement with nature and natural resource conservation to teach members such values, and to partner with reformers and businessmen to advance a modern vision of “practical citizenship” and nonpartisan service leadership. The book analyzes a wealth of Scout texts and images, policy and membership debates, and local practices as well as surveys and memoirs of boys and leaders reflecting on their experiences in the 1910s and 1920s. By insisting that modern manhood and practical citizenship represented universal values while actively incorporating European immigrant Catholics, Jews, and labor unionists, BSA administrators helped redraw the bounds of mainstream American manhood and leading citizenship to include light-skinned, working class urban dwellers and corporate-industrial employees while marginalizing traditional rural farmers of all ethnicities.

Keywords: Boy Scouts; Modern manhood; Primitive virility; Work ethic; Efficiency; Practical citizenship; Nonpartisan; Adolescence; Conservation; Nature

Book.  306 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Gender and Sexuality

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Table of Contents

Introduction in Modern Manhood and the Boy Scouts of America

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The BSA’s Triumph in Modern Manhood and the Boy Scouts of America

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Scout Character in Modern Manhood and the Boy Scouts of America

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Practical Citizenship in Modern Manhood and the Boy Scouts of America

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The Right Sort of Colored Boy and Man in Modern Manhood and the Boy Scouts of America

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Epilogue in Modern Manhood and the Boy Scouts of America

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