What Were the Most Popular Girl Scout Badges?

GSUSA recently announced the new Girls’ Choice outdoor-themed badges that will be available this fall. They are: Outdoor Adventure (Brownie), Horseback Riding (Junior), Archery (Cadette), Paddling (Senior), and Ultimate Recreation Challenge (Ambassador).

The results made me wonder what were the most popular badges of the past?

I used the sales figures reported in the 2005 edition of the Girl Scout Collector’s Guide by Mary Degenhardt and Judith Kirsch to find out. (I assume those numbers only go to 2004, and the book has not been updated.)  The results are grouped into the Worlds to Explore Era (1980-1999) and post-Worlds to Explore, when the border colors changed but most of the designs did not.

As I’ve previously written, for Cadettes between 1963 and 1980, the clear winner was Social Dancer.  Juniors in the same period, went for Troop Camper followed closely by Cook.

Brownies: 1986-1998

Brownie Try-Its were introduced in 1986 with 15 awards. They program was a huge hit, so additional Try-Its were added in 1989, 1993, and 1997. That makes it hard to compare overall totals, since some were available for more years than others. (Some names changed along the way, too.)

The top five Try-Its of the Worlds to Explore era.

The top five Try-Its of the Worlds to Explore era.

The top five were Girl Scout Ways (5.8 million), Playing Around the World (4.2 million), Food Fun/Make It, Eat It (3.8 million), Making Music (3.6 million), and Dance/Dancercize (3.6 million).  The top outdoor-themed Try-It ranked seventh: Outdoor Fun/Eco-Explorer, with 3.2 million.

Juniors: 1980-2001

The Worlds to Explore program, introduced in 1980, divided badges into five categories. Badges for each category had a specific border color: Arts (purple), Out-of-Doors (yellow), People (blue), Today and Tomorrow (orange), and Well-Being (red). Four of the top five Junior badges were from the World of the Out-of-Doors:

The all-time favorite of Juniors in the 1980s and 1990s was First Aid, with nearly 3 million sold. Followed close behind were Troop Camper (2.9 million; the design changed in 1990); Horse Lover (1.8 million), Swimming (1.4 million), and Wildlife (1.4 million).

The top five Junior badges from the Worlds to Explore era.

The top five Junior badges from the Worlds to Explore era.

Cadettes & Seniors: 1980-2004

Cadettes and Seniors were a remarkably consistent group, with nearly identical results in both time periods.

The most popular Interest Projects from 1980-1996 (top) and 1997-2005 (bottom).

The most popular Interest Projects from 1980-1996 (top) and 1997-2005 (bottom).

Under Worlds to Explore (1980-1996), teens chose Fashion, Fitness, and Makeup (301,391; it had a purple border its first year), Creative Cooking (262,163), Camping (204,851), Games (167,056), and Child Care (160,052).

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the favorites were Cookies and Dough (153,989), Creative Cooking (111,638), From Fitness to Fashion (97,469), Camping (93,923), and Child Care (86,509).

Juniors: 2001-2004

Juniors of the early twenty-first century were evidently a patriotic group, interested in good grooming, and still happy to go camping.

Popular Junior badges, 2001-2004.

Popular Junior badges, 2001-2004.

Top selling Junior badges were Cookie Connection (290,165), Looking Your Best (198,647), Girl Scouting in the USA (197,634), United We Stand (186,761), and Camp Together (171,069). Past favorites remained popular, including First Aid (6th), Horse Fan (11th), Outdoor Fun (12th), and Outdoor Cook (13th).

I was surprised at how popular United We Stand was. It was part of the trio of badges, including Wave the Flag for Brownies and American Patriotism for Cadettes and Seniors, issued following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. These three were not included in the handbooks; leaders had to download the requirements themselves.

Brownies: 1999-2004

Brownies at the turn of the century also stuck with some favorite topics, including Cookies Count (1.6 million), Girl Scout Ways (1.55 million), Manners (1.2 million), Art to Wear (1.17 million), and Caring and Sharing (1.08 million)..

Top Brownie Try-Its, 1999-2004.

Top Brownie Try-Its, 1999-2004.

Cookie-themed awarded topped all three post-Worlds to Explore badge categories.

Top of the Charts

Drumroll, please, the most popular Girl Scout badges between 1963 and 2004 were:

The most popular badges between 1963 and 2004.

The most popular badges between 1963 and 2004.

 

Empty Mansions and Camp Connections

I just finished reading a delightful book, Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr., and was surprised to find it had a Girl Scout connection.

Empty_Mansions

 

The enigmatic Huguette Clark in 1943.

The enigmatic Huguette Clark.

 

The book tells the life story of Huguette Clark, one of America’s wealthiest women, who died in 2011 at age 104.  Huguette was decidedly eccentric. She was rarely seen in public, never met face-to-face with the lawyers, accountants, and household staff that she employed for decades, and spent the last 20 years of her life living in a hospital room, despite being quite healthy. She married briefly — it lasted barely a year — and never had children of her own. Her father, copper and railroad baron W.A. Clark, was nearly 70 years old when she was born and had five children from his first marriage. However, she insisted she had a contented life, filled with painting, music, developing exquisite dollhouses for her huge antique doll collection, and sharing her wealth with a variety of charities and friends.

Huguette's childhood home had art galleries, a pipe organ, and an infirmary.

Huguette’s childhood home had art galleries, a pipe organ, and an infirmary.

She left an estate of $300 million that triggered a huge rush for treasure among her far-flung relatives, lawyers, accountants, and private nurses. Clark also left three luxury apartments (42 rooms) on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan; Bellosguardo, a 22,000 square foot estate in Santa Barbara that was kept staffed and ready for a visit at 48 hours’ notice, although she hadn’t been there since the 1950s; and Le Beau Chateau, a 42-room mansion in New Canaan, CT, that she never bothered to furnish, much less visit.

Bellosguardo, the Clark summer home in California.

Bellosguardo, the Clark summer home in California.

The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington also became ensnared in the complicated estate. Huguette and her father both were patrons of the gallery and serious art collectors. Clark left his enormous collection to the Corcoran upon his death.  She left a portion of her estate to the Corcoran as well as the proceeds ($24 million) of the auction of Claude Monet’s Nympheas water lilies painting, which had hung in her home since 1926.

Claude Monet's Nympheas hung in Huguette's living room for decades.

Claude Monet’s Nympheas hung in Huguette’s living room for decades.

What is the Girl Scout connection?

I bought the book while I was in New York doing research at GSUSA. This was during the great blizzard of January 2015 and with all the dire warnings of lost power, I realized I had no actual book with me. If my computer lost power, I would be bored silly in my hotel room.  I left GSUSA and walked up Fifth Avenue to a Barnes and Noble, where I purchased Empty Mansions.  Little did I know that I had passed Huguette’s apartment building at 907 Fifth Avenue and came near the site of her childhood home at 77th Street and Fifth Avenue.

Pretty weak Girl Scout ties so far, right?

Agreed.

But perhaps you are familiar with Huguette’s older sister, Andrée Clark? As in Camp Andrée Clark, the first national Girl Scout camp?

Andree Clark, Huguette's older sister.

Andree Clark, Huguette’s older sister, died of meningitis in 1919.

It is the very same girl. As the story goes, Andrée was a quiet and withdrawn girl who joined the Girl Scouts. She’d had a hard time adapting to New York after living in Paris for many years. When she died a tragic death just shy of age 17, her parents read her diary and discovered how much Andrée loved her troop and the friends and activities it offered. In her memory, Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Huguette donated 135 acres of land in Briarcliff Manor, NY, for a camp.

Huguette, left, watches her father, W.A. Clark present the deed for Camp Andree Clark to Jane Deeter Rippin, National Director.

Huguette, left, watches her father, W.A. Clark present the deed for Camp Andree Clark to Jane Deeter Rippin, National Director.

As for Huguette, she never joined the Girl Scouts, and the biography does not explain why. Perhaps her life would have taken a different turn had she been a Girl Scout.

For more about Huguette and photos of her homes and artwork, see the ongoing series of articles by NBC or the book’s website.

Lady Baden Powell Find

Phyllis Gay of Arizona Cactus Pine recently offered me a box of color slides of Lady Baden Powell. She said the World Chief Guide appeared to be having tea in Washington, DC.

Of course, I said yes! When the package arrived, I pulled out my slide scanner and found a delightful moment in time.

The slide frames are dated March 1962, so I assume they are from the Girl Scout 50th Birthday Celebration.  That was an enormous event, held at the US Government Departmental  Auditorium on March 11, 1962. Ambassadors from 51 countries attended, with Lady BP as the keynote speaker. The coveted event tickets for “A Salute to Youth” were carefully rationed among the five councils in the Washington area: National Capital; Arlington County, VA;  Alexandria, VA; Southern Maryland; and Northern Virginia. The five combined forces into Nation’s Capital in 1963.

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The photos show a very animated Lady BP at a tea for leaders, possibly held at the Rockwood National Camp just outside Washington.  The reception might also have been at the home of Gertrude “Bobby” Lerch, who was president of the National Capital Council at the time.

LadyBP&BL

Lady Baden Powell and Gertrude “Bobby” Lerch

Lady BP stayed with the Lerch family during her visit. Bobby passed away in 2014 (age 104), but she often recalled that visit; Lady BP apparently could be a somewhat high-maintenance house guest!

Does anyone recognize the other guests?

 

GSUSA Focus on Western Kentucky

Who remembers Bear Creek Girl Scout Council?

Show of hands? Anybody?Bear Creek patch

I certainly do!  I grew up in Paducah, Kentucky, the headquarters of the council. I joined Bear Creek council as a Brownie in 1973.

Five years later, in 1978, the Bear Creek, Caveland, Pennyroyal, and Kentuckiana councils merged into one large council, Kentuckiana. My Cadette troop took a spring break trip to Louisville soon after and camped out in the loft of the council’s main office at 730 West Main St. While most of my troop spent summers as staff at nearby Camp Bear Creek, I worked at day camps and the field office in Paducah.

Flash forward several decades…..I found a copy of the 1951 GSUSA Annual Report to Congress recently and was thumbing through it.  I was stunned to find a page devoted to Paducah and Bear Creek Council!

The 1951 GSUSA Annual Report

The 1951 GSUSA Annual Report

According to the report, the federal government had defined 277 “critical defense areas”; that is, regions where a sudden, massive influx of new residents working in the defense industry had overburdened the local infrastructure. Shortages were everywhere: housing, classrooms, sanitation, health care, milk, day care for working mothers, and recreation. Paducah made the list as it was the home of a new $505 million atomic energy plant.

GSUSA noted that one of its main challenges in 1951 was bringing Girl Scouting to girls living in such crowded conditions. The report highlighted efforts in four areas: San Diego, Colorado Springs, Savannah River, and Paducah, Kentucky, where the population had suddenly doubled:

One of the largest critical areas is that centering on Paducah, Ky. … By November 1951, some 20,000 workers and their families had moved into the area.  Schools were overflowing, living quarters were at a premium, and workers were commuting from 100 miles away.

To provide desperately needed recreation services for these families, GSUSA merged the Paducah and nearby Mayfield councils, as well as lone troops from seven surrounding counties, creating Bear Creek Council. Girl Scout professionals were busy organizing troops and training leaders for the teeming population.

Postcard from the 1950s.

Postcard from the 1950s.

The impact of the plant on Paducah was not news to me. Growing up, I knew of numerous neighborhoods, schools, stores, churches and more that dated to “the boom.” Many of my friends’ parents worked at “the plant.” And, since my father is Paducah’s unofficial historian, I’d heard plenty about the plant over the dinner table, too.

Some of my father's books on Paducah's history.

Some of my father’s books on Paducah’s history.

But the connection between the plant and the Girl Scouts was new to me.

The Paducah gaseous diffusion plant and the better-known Oak Ridge, TN, plant were part of the same project. I know the Tanasi (now Southern Appalachia) council did badge and patch programs related to their plant, I don’t believe the same was done for the Paducah plant. Perhaps it’s time to write one!

Tanasi Council's Own and current Southern Appalachia programs.

Tanasi Council’s Own and current Southern Appalachia programs.

Behind the Box: An Exhibit about More than Just Cookie Crumbs

We all know about cookie patches and profits, but what other prizes come with cookie sales?

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To earn their Museum Discovery Interest Project (an old teen badge), my troop of Seniors and Ambassadors created the new exhibit at the Nation’s Council’s main office. They decided to focus on four types of cookie awards: to girls, to adult volunteers, to councils, and to the entire Girl Scout movement.

The girls visited the council storage facility to select items from the council collection, searched their own rooms, borrowed from older and younger sisters, contacted one of the council’s top 100 sellers, and sorted through items loaned by members of the council Archives and History Committee. I loaned a few items, such as mugs from when I was a troop cookie manager in the dark ages, and the girls made thorough use of my cookie patch collection, too.

Weston Lodge at Rockwood National Center (demolished in early 1980s).

Weston Lodge at Rockwood National Center (demolished in early 1980s).

They came up with a wonderful assortment of patches and stuffed animals (naturally), but also puppets, t-shirts, dolls, mugs, and jewelry. They included a plaque of appreciation presented to Nation’s Capital by Little Brownie Bakers, as well as an old Weston Bakery box and photo of Weston Lodge from Rockwood National Center. In the early 1950s, W. Garfield Weston gave $25,000 to kick-start a $200,000 expansion program for the national camp.

Pewter-like incentives from 1999, 2000, and 2002.

Pewter-like incentives from 1999, 2000, and 2002 (eBay photo).

Installing the exhibit down at council on a Saturday, the set up team met the council’s product sales manager, who gave them an insider view on the process. They discovered that Nation’s Capital did not offer the adorable puppy hat from 2006—but decided it was too cute to leave out. They also learned that the pewter animal prizes (and every girl in the troop seemed to still have at least one) were actually not real pewter. What’s more, when they were discontinued, the girls didn’t complain—but parents did!

 

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The display will remain in the lobby of the council main office at 4301 Connecticut Avenue NW through March.

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A Warehouse? On Winter Break?

I have the greatest troop of Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts.

They are unfailingly kind, generous, smart, funny, and always willing to be guinea pigs in whatever crazy scheme I come up with.

Over the years we’ve rung in the New Year with movie marathons at our local camp, gone to DC Roller Girls matches, walked the length of the National Mall on the hottest day of the year, debated proper attire for vampires, and collected nearly 200 bras for victims of domestic violence.  They have gamely tried out possible activities for my patch programs about princesses, Barbies, and the Hunger Games.

Since I became chair of the Nation’s Capital Archives and History Committee in 2012, they have become Girl Scout historians, too. They have visited local sites with Girl Scout history ties, such as Peirce Mill and Rockwood Manor. They spent one meeting arranging a suitcase full of old teen uniforms in chronological order and critiquing the style and fabric. Last year, over winter break, a group dismantled, relocated, and reassembled the Committee’s storage area when the council headquarters received new carpet.

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Yesterday, I took a carload of girls to the warehouse in Northeast Washington, DC, where the majority of our collection is housed. Our two storage units are packed to the brim, so I limited the trip to four girls. Would you believe I had a waiting list? Let’s review: I had teenage girls on winter break clamoring to go to a warehouse. A warehouse!

I didn't know we had old GS bathing suits!

I didn’t know we had old GS bathing suits!

We spent about two hours at the warehouse, carrying out several missions. I had old Leader magazines to return and needed to borrow some Rockwood materials for research. We also had a request requiring some old camp uniforms and a roundup hat, so we located those and talked about what roundups were.

Everyone loves old hats!

Everyone loves old hats!

 

Our main goal was to locate items for an upcoming display about cookie patches and prizes over the years. The girls are working on the old Museum Discovery Interest Project, and the display will satisfy some of those requirements. But there’s more to the cookie display project than just earning a badge.

 

The Museum Discovery Interest Project

The Museum Discovery Interest Project

Next year Nation’s Capital will open a dedicated history program center at a former field office in Frederick, Maryland. I am beyond excited by the prospect of permanent displays and being able to better share our collection with our members and the community.

We’re still working out what types of programs will be offered in Frederick, but I hope there will be a mix of “for girls” and “by girls” on the menu.  I visited the First Headquarters in Savannah last summer and was so impressed that teens from the Historic Georgia Council work at the museum and lead most of the programs.  pa_pinI would love to implement a similar model for Nation’s Capital, perhaps even creating a History Program Aide specialty.

Working with my own troop has confirmed that, with proper instruction, girls can handle artifacts appropriately and responsibly. I try to reinforce with my girls that there is a huge, wonderful world of Girl Scouting out there beyond our troop. They enjoy seeing how they fit into our timeline, discovering what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Above all, they prove that Girl Scouts want to learn more about Girl Scout history.  I can’t wait to give them and other troops that opportunity.