The Korea Scout Association (KSA) will host the 25th World Scout Jamboree in 2023. Image used under Creative Commons licensing from World Scouting.

Jamboree Origin Story, Part II

Earlier in our Jamboree Origin Story series, we looked at how scouting spread out of the UK across the globe. The stage was set for World Scouting, but before we could have a World Jamboree, Baden-Powell had to develop the idea of a jamboree itself.

Early on, Baden-Powell knew he wanted to bring scouts together to share in the joys of Scouting. Originally, he thought that meant bringing scouts from across the British Isles. Little did he know that in just over ten years he would be bringing scouts together from across the globe.

In 1909, Baden-Powell organized the first of several “rallies” and “exhibitions.” The Crystal Palace rally, held on September 4, 1909, at the Crystal Palace in London saw 11,000 scouts from across the UK compete in scoutcraft competitions. It was at that rally that Baden-Powell came across a patrol of seven girls who announced themselves as the Girl Scouts, inspiring Baden-Powell to look into creating a scouting program for girls which became the Girl Guides (and the Girl Scouts in the US).

On July 4, 1911, B-P organized another rally at Windsor Park. That day 30,000 scouts performed different drills and feats of scoutcraft in front of King George V and a collection of princes, princesses, dukes, and duchesses.

B-P wanted to continue having big scout gatherings every two years and he wanted to continue making them larger and larger affairs. In 1913, he gathered scouts for a week, from July 2 to July 9, rather than the day-long rallies he had had earlier. This Imperial Scout Exhibition was held outside Birmingham, England and brought scouts from across the UK as well as delegations from the now numerous foreign scout associations. “Mingling with the British Scouts from every part of the United Kingdom and from Canada, Australia, South Africa, India and Gibraltar,” Green Bar Bill Hillcourt describes in his biography of Baden-Powell, “were patrols or representatives from an even dozen foreign countries: France, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Austria (with Scouts from Bohemia and Austrian Poland), Hungary, China, and the United States.” This gave Baden-Powell an idea…

B-P’s next exhibition would have fallen in 1915 had it not been for the First World War. Instead, he and his team started planing a 1917 exhibition, hoping the war would be over by then. In this time, Baden-Powell decided the exhibitions needed a new name: a Jamboree. As with many changes to scouting, this came with some level of controversy. Hillcourt describes: “‘But you can’t possibly use that word for a Boy Scout event!’ Someone told him. ‘And why not?’ Baden-Powell wanted to know. ‘Have you looked it up in the dictionary?’ B-P hadn’t. Now he did:

jamboree (n.) [A stand word, prob. arbitrary.] A carousal; a noisy drinking bout; a spree; hence any noisy merrymaking. [Slang].”

B-P decided to use it anyway. Now if you look up “jamboree” in the dictionary, you’ll find a form of that definition side-by-side with Baden-Powell’s definition, “a Scout rally.”

Unfortunately, Baden-Powell would have to wait to create the first Jamboree. By November 1917, the war was still ravaging Europe. It wouldn’t be for another year, in November 1918, that the war would finally end and Baden-Powell’s Jamboree plans could be laid. The date for the first Jamboree was set for 1920.

The post was originally posted on August 13, 2018 by

Ben Beese

US Contingent Webmaster

The post was originally posted on August 13, 2018 by

Ben Beese

US Contingent Webmaster

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