Arthur Rose Eldred Becomes the first Eagle Scout

Eldred completed the required 21 merit badges for Eagle in April of 1912.

In the August 1912 issue of Boy’s Life, Eldred was listed in the Honor Roll section as having received the following merit badges: Civics, Cooking, Cycling, Electricity, Firemanship, First Aid to Animals, Gardening, Handicraft, Horsemanship, Interpreting of French, Life Saving, Painting, Pathfinding, Personal Health, Poultry Farming, Public Health, Swimming, Chemistry, Dairying, Business, and Plumbing.

In a letter dated August 21, 1912, James E. West formally notified Arthur Eldred that he had the honor of being the first Eagle Scout of the Boy Scouts of America. In this letter, West informed him that the Eagle badge would be presented at a later date. A primary reason for this was that the dies for the badge had not yet been made. Eldred received the actual badge on Labor Day 1912.

Eldred was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Oceanside, Long Island, New York by his mother after his father died. Eldred’s older brother, Hubert W. Eldred, was instrumental in starting Troop 1 of Rockville Centre, Oceanside, Long Island, New York in November 1910. Troop 1 was fully uniformed and their appearance so impressed Chief Scout Executive James E. West that he asked the troop to serve as honor guard for the visit of Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting. West paid the expenses for the troop to travel to New York on January 31, 1912. Baden-Powell inspected Troop 1, and spoke with Eldred at some length.

In March 1911, Eldred earned First Class rank. In April 1912, he completed the 21 merit badges required for Eagle Scout. Merit badges are awards for mastering skills taught in the Scouting program. At the time, only 141 merit badges had then been earned by about 50 Scouts. As originally implemented, Eagle Scout was part of the merit badge system and was not a rank. Thus Eldred, like several of the early Eagles, did not earn the Life or Star awards that later preceded Eagle Scout. Eldred's merit badges were noted in the Honor Roll of the August 1912 edition of Boys' Life.

Eldred did not have a troop board of review, a review by the adult troop leaders to ensure eligibility. Instead, Eldred had a thorough National Board of Review consisting of Chief Scout Executive James E. West, Chief Scout Ernest Thompson Seton, National Scout Commissioner Daniel Carter Beard, and Wilbert E. Longfellow, who had written articles on life-saving and swimming in the Handbook for Boys. West informed Eldred of his Eagle award in a letter dated August 21, 1912. This letter also informed Eldred of the delay in the medal, caused by the fact that the design of the Eagle Scout medal had not been finalized. Eldred was awarded Eagle Scout on Labor Day, September 2, 1912, becoming the first to earn Scouting's highest rank, just two years after the founding of the BSA itself.

On August 21, 1912 Arthur R. Eldred of Oceanside, New York, achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America. He was the first person to earn the award. He did not receive the actual badge until September 2 (Labor Day), as the badge had not yet been made.