Modern Manhood and the Boy Scouts of America

Citizenship, Race, and the Environment, 1910-1930

By Benjamin René Jordan

306 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 17 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2765-6
    Published: April 2016
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2766-3
    Published: March 2016
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5045-4
    Published: March 2016

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In this illuminating look at gender and Scouting in the United States, Benjamin René Jordan examines how in its founding and early rise, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) integrated traditional Victorian manhood with modern, corporate-industrial values and skills. While showing how the BSA Americanized the original British Scouting program, Jordan finds that the organization’s community-based activities signaled a shift in men’s social norms, away from rugged agricultural individualism or martial primitivism and toward productive employment in offices and factories, stressing scientific cooperation and a pragmatic approach to the responsibilities of citizenship.

By examining the BSA’s national reach and influence, Jordan demonstrates surprising ethnic diversity and religious inclusiveness in the organization's founding decades. For example, Scouting officials’ preferred urban Catholic and Jewish working-class immigrants and "modernizable" African Americans and Native Americans over rural whites and other traditional farmers, who were seen as too "backward" to lead an increasingly urban-industrial society. In looking at the revered organization’s past, Jordan finds that Scouting helped to broaden mainstream American manhood by modernizing traditional Victorian values to better suit a changing nation.

About the Author

Benjamin René Jordan is associate professor in history and political science and director of the Living Learning Communities at Christian Brothers University.
For more information about Benjamin René Jordan, visit the Author Page.


“An accessibly written and delightfully illustrated history of America’s largest and most enduring youth organization.”--Journal of American History

“In his splendid new book . . . Jordan explores how the Boy Scouts of America stepped into this realm of gender formation and forged a new sense of American masculinity for the modern age.”--American Historical Review

“Benjamin René Jordan delivers well on his central thesis, complicating previous arguments that Scouting was centrally about primitive virility and martial aggression.”--Journal of Southern History

“Jordan’s story of a transforming and adopting masculinity is compelling. His work will reward scholars of gender, of the early twentieth century, and of the ways that popular organizations managed the transition to industrial modernity.”--Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

“An extensively-researched book that should be essential reading to anyone interested in early-twentieth-century American masculinity.”--Journal of Social History

"A splendid reinterpretation of the BSA's early years and growth."--H-Net Reviews

Multimedia & Links

Watch: Jordan talks about the early days of the Boy Scouts. (2/12/2016, running time 10:31)

Read: Jordan's article "What History Tells Us about Boy Scouts and Inclusion," at (3/27/2017)

Read: Jordan's article "How summer camps and Scout groups turn children into citizens," at Aeon. (9/26/2016)

Read: Jordan writes at History News Network: "The Boy Scout Litmus Test Both Veep Candidates Had to Pass". (9/12/2016)