God Bless America and the Girl Scouts

Today musicians across the country will play both the “Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America.” Over the years, many people have called for making “God Bless America” our national anthem. Among other arguments, it is a much easier song to sing.

I happen to agree, but I have an ulterior motive. I want the royalties.

Written in 1917, “God Bless America” debuted on Kate Smith’s radio show in 1938.  It was an instant hit.  Irving Berlin’s lyrics captured his love of the United States, the country that had welcomed his family when they fled Russia in 1893.  He decided to use the royalties from this song to invest in the country’s future, especially its youth.

A Gift to the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts

Cover of book God Bless America
Sheryl Kaskowitz, God Bless America (2013)

In July 1940 Berlin set up the God Bless America Fund and instructed its trustees to equally distribute all royalties to two all-American organizations: the Girl Scouts of the USA and the Boy Scouts of America (Note: We are NOT the Girl Scouts of America).

Berlin sat on the board of directors of the Boy Scouts and his wife on the board of the Girl Scouts.  The Fund’s trustees explained the selection of beneficiaries: “It was felt that the completely nonsectarian work of the Boy and Girl Scouts was calculated to best promote unity of mind and patriotism, two sentiments that are inherent in the song itself.”

At the time, right-wing fringe groups attacked the Girl Scouts for accepting Berlin’s gift. Noting that the composer was Jewish, they denounced the song as being part of a Jewish conspiracy to replace the “Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem. Historian  Sheryl Kaskowitz reprints excerpts from some of these startling letters, including one that claimed the Girl Scouts had accepted $15,000 from Berlin as part of the conspiracy. “Millions of Christian Americans resent certain forces using a great Patriotic organization such as yours to further their own selfish interests, and further the lid is about to be blown right off this slimy trick.”

The Girl Scouts persevered despite its critics, and ten years later, in 1950, Fund president Herbert Bayard Swope cited the movement as “a leading factor in the fight to end race, color, and religious discrimination in the United States.”

Focus on Greater New York City

Originally the royalty funds were distributed to councils across the country, but since the 1990s the fund has focused on the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York and the Greater New York Councils: Boy Scouts of America. Both organizations have used the funds to provide programs in low-income neighborhoods of New York City.

According to a 1996 article in Billboard, other patriotic Berlin songs have been added to the Fund’s catalog, including “This Is the Army” and “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor.”  The bulk of the royalties still comes from “God Bless.”

According to the Chicago Tribune (November 7, 2001), the song generated about $200,00 per year, prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Royalties swelled to $800,000 for 2001.  By 2011 some $10 million had been distributed to both organizations.

Boy Scout Royalties Withheld

However, Fund trustees became increasingly uncomfortable with the Boy Scouts’ official policy of discrimination against homosexual members. Fund publications began to stress that royalties went to the Greater New York Council, not the national organization.  Each year the Greater New York Council had to assure the Fund of its non-discrimination policy. (Boy Scouts ended this restriction in 2015.)

The Fund was not satisfied by the council’s statement in 2012, and it refused to cut a check to the Boy Scouts for several years. However, eventually the Fund was satisfied and donations resumed. I cannot pin-point the resumption date as the council’s website has dead links for all annual reports between 2014 and 2017.

For 2018, the Greater New York Boy Scouts received a donation of at least $100,000.

Uncle Sam greets a Girl Scout in 1917.
Uncle Sam greets a Girl Scout in 1917

The Fund has never had a problem with the Girl Scouts. For 2020, Girl Scouts of Greater New York reported a donation from the God Bless American Fund of between $50,000 and $99,000, twice the level received in 2015. (See Girl Scouts of Greater New York 2020 Annual Report.)

The Girl Scouts of the USA has long advocated inclusion and maintained a strict policy of “For All Girls.” Period.  We know there is always room for one more around the campfire.

God Bless the Girl Scouts, indeed.

©2021 Ann Robertson

Happy Flag Day from the Girl Scouts!

Happy Flag Day from the Girl Scouts!

Flag Day is celebrated in the United States on June 14.

On this date in 1777 that the Continental Congress passed a resolution that

the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white … the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation

Lady Columbia from the Library of Congress
LC Image of Lady Columbia

Flag Day became an official holiday in 1916.

I wanted to write something profound, extolling Girl Scouts for creating generations of loyal citizens, but ideas were just not coming.

I searched through back issues of Girl Scout Leader magazine and BA-BAM. Then Destiny spoke and decreed that I must share this pageant. Because this play was not written by Girl Scout “pageant lady” Oleda Schrottky, but by a troop in my hometown, Paducah, Kentucky.

This splendid pageant teaches flag history, which early Girl Scouts had to learn for their Second-Class Test.

The cast calls for one girl in uniform; one dressed as Columbia, described as the personification of the United States; and the rest of the troop costumed as various flags.

Click on the pages to enlarge and enjoy. (Too blurry? Try this link to the whole magazine.)

©2021 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Little House Welcomes Princess Martha

In 1940, four members of the Norwegian royal family escaped German occupation of their homeland. Crown Princess Martha and her children: Princess Astrid, Princess Ragnhild, and Prince Harald took refuge in the United States. The struggle to recapture Norway is chronicled in the current PBS miniseries Atlantic Crossing.

Only one year earlier, Martha and her husband, Crown Prince Olav, had toured the United States, by train, traveling from Boston to California and back to Washington DC. One stop in Washington was the Girl Scout Little House.

The royal couple captured many hearts across the country, as their public appearances provided a welcome diversion from the Great Depression. Atlantic Crossing began just as their tour wrapped up.

Entire towns turned out to see the Norwegian royals, especially marching bands, flags, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and flocks of little girls in Norwegian national dress.

President Roosevelt, his wife and mother greet Norwegian royals at Hyde Park.
Eleanor Roosevelt, Crown Prince Olav, Sara Roosevelt, Crown Princess Martha, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, PBS

Smitten with the lovely princess, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt invited the royals to his Hyde Park home as well as at the White House.

This remarkable friendship prompted FDR to have US forces spirit Princess Martha and her three children out of Scandinavia to safety in the United States. Upon arrival, the four Norwegians stayed in New York, but they soon relocated to Washington DC.

Two Girl Scout princesses

To help her daughters make new friends, Princess Martha enrolled them in Girl Scouts.

She had learned about the Girl Scouts during her 1939 tour. Like many visiting dignitaries, Martha visited the Girl Scout Little House, where she learned about the various programs offered to girls and adult volunteers.

two teenagers in Girl Scout dresses present woven towels to a royal woman in a floral dress and pearls
Princess Martha receives guest towels at Girl Scout Little House

As she prepared to depart from the Little House, she was given a pair of guest towels, hand-woven by members of Troop 22. Kari Galbe, daughter of a Norwegian diplomat, wore her Norwegian Girl Guide uniform for the occasion.

©2021 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Halston Designs for the Girl Scouts

Halston Designs for the Girl Scouts

I’ve written about the Girl Scout tie-ins to the PBS mini-series Atlantic Crossing. But wait …. that’s not the only current TV series with a Girl Scout connection.

Netflix has released a series about fashion designer Halston. Ewan McGregor plays the titular character.

The PR folks at Netflix have done a splendid job of drumming up interest in a man who died in 1990.

portrait of Roy Halston
Halston, 1978

The New York Times, Washington Post, Esquire, The New Yorker, Variety, and other news outlets took the hint and have recently published features about Halston’s career. Much is made of his glamorous friends and wild nights at Studio 54. Liza, Liza, Liza.

As far as I can tell, one major project has been overlooked in the accompanying Halston media campaign–and I highly doubt it will be mentioned in the TV series.

Believe it or not, Halston designed uniforms for adult Girl Scouts. Girl Scout executives approached him about the project, and he agreed to do so on a pro bono basis. Normally, his fee would have been between $50,000 and $100,000.

He was enthusiastic about the Girl Scout project.

The Girl Scouts are a terrific organization and anyone who could help them should.

Bernadine Morris, “No Sequins This Time,” New York Times (May 17, 1978): C9.

Young Roy Halston Frowick was an Eagle Scout himself.

Why did the Girl Scouts seek a high-end fashion brand, such as a Halston design?

This was not the first time. Earlier adult uniforms were designed by Mainbocher (left) and Stella Sloat (center). In the 1980s, Bill Blass created a wardrobe for leaders (right).

GSUSA gave its own answer in Leader Magazine:

Why? Because you wanted a uniform that was high-fashion, but not too “way out”–a uniform for today’s woman. Involved. Efficient. Alive!

Leader, May/June 1978.

The results debuted in May 1978.

The collection was made of sage green polyester gabardine fabric with mix and match pieces. An ivory blouse and scarf completed the look.

Braniff airlines flight attendant uniform by Halston
Braniff uniform by Halston

The design was quite similar to the brown Braniff flight attendant uniform that Halston designed one year before the Girl Scout ensemble.

Some of the headwear, however, seems out of place. The woman on the right in the Girl Scout photo is wearing a pillbox hat. That makes sense as Halston’s big break came in designing the pillbox hat Jacqueline Kennedy wore at the 1961 Presidential Inauguration.

But what IS that headgear on the left? It appears to be a visor, and indeed it is a visor. There is no good explanation for the visor. Visors are worn on tennis courts and golf greens, not in board rooms or committee meetings. The whole visor idea must have been conceived during one of Halston’s cocaine-booze-rent boy binges. Or, perhaps it came during a hangover, as it certainly is nausea-inducing.

Adult Girl Scouts model the Halston pillbox hat and visor
Look at those hats!

It must not have been popular, either. When the Nassau County (NY) Museum of Art held a Halston retrospective in 2017, finding a visor for the Girl Scout exhibit took all of the king’s horses and all of the king’s men to locate.

Given the, um, colorful life of Halston depicted in the Netflix series, perhaps it is just as well that there isn’t a scene with the Girl Scouts.

©2021 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Federations, Charters, Dissent

Let’s talk about the administrative structure of Girl Scouting!!

Whenever I give talks about Girl Scouting, I quickly realize that the audience does not understand how councils relate to our national organization, Girl Scouts of the USA.

Let me put on my political scientist hat and explain. I’ll explain the structure first, then look at examples of recalcitrant councils of the past.

Subsidiary? No.

Girl Scouts is not a monolithic corporation. The councils are not subsidiaries of GSUSA, but independent 501(c)(3) companies governed by separate boards of directors.

Federated National Movement

The more accurate description is a federated national movement. These are:

characterized by autonomous local member organizations that share a common purpose, mission, and history and that have joined together under the auspices of a national organization that articulates this mission at the national level and provides leadership for the movement. 


Dennis R. Young, “Local Autonomy in a Franchise Age: Structural Change in National Voluntary Associations,” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 18, no. 2 (Summer 1989): 104.

Federated organizations, especially multi-site nonprofits, tend to suffer from tensions between national offices and affiliates, which vary in degree and intensity but rarely vanish entirely.

If poorly managed, they suffer from uneven performance among local organizations, costly administrative duplication, and cumbersome national offices that deliver insufficient value.


Stephanie Myrie, “The Girl Scouts: Uncharted Territory,” Nonprofit Quarterly (September 21, 2007).

Charters

However, the more accurate description of the relationship between GSUSA and councils is an asymmetrical federation: power is distributed between headquarters and councils, but not equally. GSUSA holds the ultimate trump card—the council charter. Without a charter, no group can legitimately claim to be part of Girl Scouting.

The national organization, Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) grants charters to local councils, typically for three years at a time. In return, local councils become the designated, sole providers of Girl Scouting in a specific geographic area. Councils use the official name, logo and other branding elements, to participate in national product sales, and to sell the uniforms, handbooks, badges, and other insignia developed by the national office. They also may send delegates to the National Council, the main governing structure, which meets every three years.

Councils, in turn, must adhere to administrative, program, and camping standards set by GSUSA. If a council ignored the national guidelines, such as admitting boys, its charter could be revoked or renewed on a probationary, year-by-year basis.

The GSUSA “Blue Book” contains the organization’s Constitution, Bylaws, Policies, Credentials, the Criteria and Standards for an Effective GS Council, and the Congressional Charter granted in 1950.

The 2020 edition of the Blue Book states the purpose of granting a charter and the rights and obligations imposed on a chartered council:

A Girl Scout council charter is issued by the National Board of Directors of Girl Scouts of the USA to an organization exclusively devoted to the Girl Scout Movement in the United States, granting it the right to develop, manage, and maintain Girl Scouting in a specified area of jurisdiction, which is established by the National Board of Directors, and to call itself a Girl Scout council. A Girl Scout council charter is issued for no more than four years.

Council without Charters

By definition, charter revocations redraw council boundaries. The dissolved council–including its members, assets, and debts–will be absorbed by one or more neighboring councils. Action may be taken on a case-by-case basis, such as councils in financial peril, or toward dozens of councils, such as during a campaign to redraw (or realign) all council borders.

Given the profound impact of a charter revocation, they are a rare, out-of-other-options, action. It would be highly unusual for GSUSA to revoke the charter of a financially stable council, for example. Instead, they would likely be invoked for violations of national policies that could have a ripple effect across the movement.

I won’t go into further detail here about revocation versus non-renewal, as the outcome is the same. (For a deep dive, explore the Girl Scout Governance site.)

As this site explores history, let’s look at how councils resisting the Council Coverage program were disciplined.

Council Coverage

In 1945 the GSUSA board of directors authorized the “Council Coverage” program to create a seamless network of councils spanning the entire country. Existing councils could be expanded geographically or consolidated into a larger, new unit to combine human, financial, and property resources to provide better, more consistent services for girls. The consolidation program, popularly known as the “Green Umbrella” movement, lasted nearly 20 years, ending officially in 1963 with 696 councils.

Penn Laurel Council was formed during Council Consolidation

While the “Green Umbrella” name suggests welcoming fellow Girl Scouts into the efficient, protective arms of professional staff, many volunteers did not see it that way. They believed they had been running their local councils just fine, thank you, and did not want a distant national organization butting in on local affairs.

To prevent GSUSA from seizing local camps and properties, some councils took extreme actions. Such as divesting

themselves of properties and transfer[ing] them into citizens’ trusteeships so that if they are forced to join in a district council, they can withdraw from National Girl Scouting and remain an organization on their own.


“Girl Scout Leader Defends Councils,” Daily Herald [Chicago] (July 11, 1963): 99

Council-owned property was a particular sticking point; local citizens had built and funded local camps, and they did not want to turn them over to outsiders. At least 20 councils chose to affiliate with the Camp Fire Girls instead.

Thank you, but we’ll pass.

Even more problematic, the Council Coverage program was not optional. Dissenters could end their affiliation with the Girl Scouts, but they could not take assets with them.

The unilateral mandate was not well received, and the program was reviewed at the 1957 National Council Session. Delegates passed a motion that gave councils the right to present their concerns to the National Board of Directors before a final decision on combining councils.

We are not against council coverage as plan, but we object to the compulsion here.

Virginia Schoof, “Delegates Vote Council Plan for Scout Units,” Philadelphia Inquirer (November 15, 1957).

Among the unhappy campers, the Mount Vernon (Illinois) and Donora (Pennsylvania) Councils sought to preserve their independence through the judicial system.

Donora, Pennsylvania

Donora Council, located near Pittsburgh, served just the city of Donora. Plans were to combine it with the surrounding Allegheny County council and nearby community. Donora’s president appeared before the National Board’s Executive Committee on September 20, 1962. The Committee rejected Donora’s case and pulled its charter. The council filed suit, demanding that GSUSA explain its decision. The court ruled for GSUSA, but Donora appealed, arguing that National Board should not have delegated National Board Executive Committee to hear their objections, thus the revocation of their charter was not valid. The Supreme Court of New York rejected Donora’s complaint in December 1962. To continue in Girl Scouts, Donora’s 500 members must join the new council.

Mount Vernon, Illinois

Mount Vernon also went to New York to argue its position before the National Board. But GSUSA canceled Mount Vernon’s charter, too. The council filed suit in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Illinois, which issued an injunction that kept Mount Vernon’s charter in place until the lawsuit was settled.

The status of these two councils became an issue at the 1963 National Council session in Miami. With the injunction—and therefore its charter—in place, Mount Vernon’s delegate was admitted to the session. But Donora, whose charter had expired, was denied delegate status. A motion to seat the Donora delegate failed, 1406-1248.

Aware of the mounting tensions around Council Coverage, the president of the Scarsdale, NY, council suggested a proposal for consideration at the 1963 National Council session in Miami:

Remove the disturbing distrust of the national volunteers and staff and the general indignation that is sweeping the country over the threatening nature of the national [leadership] directives.


“Girl Scouts Anticipate Council Coverage Clash,” Oshkosh Northwestern (October 21, 1963): 9.

The question was not put on the agenda.

Two Councils Bite the Dust

Mount Vernon ultimately was granted a new charter in 1966. But their victory was short-lived. GSUSA refused to renew that charter, and Mount Vernon ultimately joined Shagbark Council in 1968, as the Council Coverage plan had originally intended.

Donora joined the Allegheny Council, which soon became the Southwestern Pennsylvania Council.

Sometimes the smallest councils make the biggest waves.

©2021 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Princess Martha of Norway, part 3

Before Atlantic Crossing aired on PBS, I had stumbled upon the story of Crown Princess Martha of Norway while I researched the Girl Scout Little House in Washington DC.

I had searched “Little House” through the US Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division and a photo of her 1939 visit popped up.

When a related photo appeared on eBay, I purchased it. I usually do not waste money purchasing an overpriced reprint of an image that may be downloaded for free from the Library of Congress.

But if the photo offered for sale is an original, that’s another matter entirely. Vintage press service photos typically have a long caption that includes the date and names of the individuals. As the image is copied and widely distributed across the Internet, those details are usually lost. This is literally a rare chance to attach names to faces.

I purchased this photo, which appeared in part 1 of this series without the caption.

Atlantic Crossing omitted the Girl Scout birthday party at the Norwegian Embassy.

The caption noted that it was from a Girl Scout birthday party held at the Norwegian Embassy in Washington DC in 1945. The celebration was not part of the Atlantic Crossing retelling. End of story, right?

Hardly.

The Archives and History Committee of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital (like all councils) frequently receives donations. Old uniforms, badge sashes, and handbooks are typical, but photos, scrapbooks, and other one-of-a-kind items also appear. Sometimes the donor contacts the council office first, but others just arrive. A council staff member acknowledges receipt, then transfers it to the archives.

A few months back, I opened a large mailing envelope forwarded by staff and found several folded sheets of typewritten paper. A Post-It note was attached:

One of our leaders didn’t know what to do with these–found in her mother’s attic!

The obvious answer, of course, was to send it to the Girl Scouts.

The papers were folded around a smaller envelope, which I discovered contained photos. Specifically, 16 extremely well preserved photographs of the Norwegian Embassy event!!! The typed pages contained captions for each photo.

Nothing I’d found to date reflected the size of the event–over 400 girls attended!!

Here is a selection to enjoy:

Norwegian Ambassador Wilhelm Morgenstierne addresses the 400 girls present:

Many of the activities related to a service project helping a Norwegian Girl Guide troop that was meeting at a castle in Scotland. The Girl Scouts sent a scroll and gifts to the troop.

Sharing birthday cake with friends:

Talking to Princess Ragnhild and Prince Harald (on right, third photo)

Leaving the Embassy … with memories to tell their own children and grandchildren.

Atlantic Crossing omitted the Girl Scout birthday party at the Norwegian Embassy.

The donated photographs appear to have been professionally taken. A note on the page of captions says:

These are file pictures which could be used to help build up the feature. The Norwegian Embassy has cabled to see if they can get pictures of the troop there but don’t know when they can get the pictures or even if they have uniforms in war-weary Scotland.

The moral of this story? Don’t toss photos found in grandma’s attic!

(for the full story, see part 1 and part 2)

©2021 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Princess Martha visits the Little House

continued from part 1

In 1940, four members of the Norwegian royal family escaped German occupation of their homeland and took refuge in the United States: Crown Princess Martha and her children: Princess Astrid, Princess Ragnhild, and Prince Harald. The struggle to recapture Norway is chronicled in the current PBS miniseries Atlantic Crossing.

Only one year earlier, Martha and her husband, Crown Prince Olav, had toured the United States, crossing the country by train, from Boston to California and back to Washington DC. The royal couple captured many hearts across the country, as their public appearances provided a welcome diversion from the Great Depression.

Entire towns turned out to see the Norwegian royals, and the local hospitality included bands, flags, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and flocks of little girls in Norwegian national dress.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Crown Prince Olav, Sara Roosevelt, Crown Princess Martha, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, PBS

US President Franklin D. Roosevelt was particularly charmed by Martha. He hosted the royals at his Hyde Park home as well as the White House.

This remarkable friendship prompted FDR to have US forces spirit Princess Martha and her three children out of Scandinavia to safety in the United States. The four Norwegians initially stayed in New York but soon relocated to Washington DC.

To help her daughters make new friends, Princess Martha enrolled them in Girl Scouts.

She had learned about the Girl Scouts during her 1939 tour. Like many visiting dignitaries, Martha visited the Girl Scout Little House on June 30 and learned about the various programs offered to girls and adult volunteers.

two teenagers in Girl Scout dresses present woven towels to a royal woman in a floral dress and pearls
Princess Martha receives guest towels at Girl Scout Little House

As she prepared to depart from the Little House, she was given a pair of guest towels, hand-woven by members of Troop 22. Kari Galbe, daughter of a Norwegian diplomat, wore her Norwegian Girl Guide uniform for the occasion.

©2021 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Who’s That Princess? Martha of Norway, part 1

Have you seen Atlantic Crossing, the latest drama on PBS?

It tells the story of Crown Princess Martha of Norway and her family. When Germany invaded neutral Norway in April 1940, Martha and her three children were spirited out of Norway, first to Sweden, then to the United States. Her husband, Crown Prince Olav, took refuge in London.

a woman holds her son as he waves good bye to Norway and they begin their Atlantic Crossing
Prince Harald and Crown Princess Martha, Atlantic Crossing publicity

The royal couple had toured the United States in 1939, where President Franklin Roosevelt was immediately charmed by Martha. He welcomed the Princess and her children to Washington DC in August 1940, where they remained for the duration of the war. The four returned to Norway after VE Day, arriving June 7, 1945.

While in Washington, the Princess was active in charitable work, particularly the Red Cross relief effort.

But what would she do with with her children? As far as her two daughters, the answer was enroll them in the Girl Scouts!! (Alas, no Atlantic Crossing episode mentions this fact.)

Crown Princess Martha and the Norwegian diplomatic corps developed a deep connection with the Girl Scouts during the war years. Future posts will feature details of this relationship.

Martha and her children celebrated the 33rd birthday of Girl Scouts with a reception at the Norwegian embassy in March 1945. Even Crown Prince Olav attended, during one of his overseas visits.

A group of well dressed children and adults prepare to cut a birthday cake.
Girl Scout Birthday Reception at Norwegian Embassy

The photo shows the real-life counterparts of the cast of “Atlantic Crossing”:

In front: Princess Ragnhild (age 14), Prince Harald (8), Miss Chloe Anderson (11) of Chevy Chase, Maryland, and Miss Ellen MacEwen of Bethesda, Maryland.

In back: Madame Morgenstierne, Ambassador Wilhelm Morgenstierne of Norway, Crown Princess Martha, and Crown Prince Olav. Princess Astrid is not shown.

As part of the birthday celebrations, the Girl Scouts of Montgomery County, Maryland, on the border of Washington DC, and represented by Chloe and Ellen, declared that they would act as “special sisters” to the first Girl Scout troop to be reestablished in Norway after liberation.

Stay tuned…

(No, I haven’t found proof that Martha ever visited Rockwood, the national Girl Scout camp near Washington–but I’m working on it.)

©2021 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian

Who’s That Girl Scout? Julian Salomon

Julian Salomon was a leading expert in camp development. Over his long career, Salomon worked with the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and the National Park Service.

In fact, Salomon wrote the book on camp development–literally.

His 1948 book, Camp Site Development, covers every possible aspect of camping facilities, from roads to sewage to waterfront. The illustrations, of actual buildings, are stunning:

Julian Salomon wearing Roundup cap

Born in 1896 and educated as a landscape architect, Salomon focused on planned parks and camping facilities. He worked for the National Park Service from 1935 to 1941. He and his family lived in the Washington DC area at that time and were active with local Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. His wife had her own Brownie troop.

His best-known project during this time was a wooded retreat near Thurmont, Maryland. Readers likely will recognize the site’s current name: Camp David.

During World War II, he served with the USO, planning recreational facilities for troops. (That’s military troops, not Scout troops.)

Post-war, Salomon became a professional Girl Scout, working in the National Camping Division until retiring in 1965. His primary responsibility was to work with local camping committees, advising councils how best to acquire and develop land for permanent campsites. In this capacity, he helped the Washington Council in 1949, following a flood that devastated its Camp May Flather. He visited the camp, surveyed the wreckage, and offered advice about what to re-build and what to replace.

He photographed the damage, and a staff member snapped this marvelous photo. Salomon, seated in the washed-out remains of the Boone latrine, which had landed in the Sherando unit, nevertheless looks quite dapper in his straw hat, bowtie, and spotless white dress shirt.

Julian Salomon found the Boone latrine in the Sherando unit.

His other responsibility at GSUSA was to manage the two national camping facilities in use at that time: Edith Macy in New York, and (you knew this was coming) ROCKWOOD National Girl Scout Camp, in Potomac, Maryland. Salomon created the first master plan for Rockwood in 1946. He especially enjoyed the task as he and his wife had been among the local Girl Scouts who built the first two units (The Oaks and Tall Timbers) in the late 1930s.

Rockwood, national Girl Scout camp outside Washington DC, 1936-1978. GSUSA sold it to a residential developer, but nine local Girl Scouts filed a lawsuit to block the sale, arguing that selling violated the terms set out by the woman who donated the property. The lawsuit was settled out of court, with one-third of the camp preserved as a local park and conference center. My book on the camp should be published by the end of 2021.

When the Rockwood camp was sold, GSUSA largely locked the front gate and left. Thousands of dollars worth of equipment, office files and an entire commercial kitchen were abandoned. Many items, um…. well…. nobody else wanted them … wound up with the local Girl Scout council.

As I reorganized and refiled research materials recently, I found a gem that I had somehow overlooked. This is his hand drawn diagram for his 1946 master plan. Unfortunately, it had been folded for 60 years. I brightened the colors a wee bit in PhotoShop. (Note: Conduit Road is now MacArthur Boulevard.)

1946 Master Plan for Rockwood National Girl Scout Camp
Salomon as “White Eagle” (Yikes!)

Salomon’s caption, Rockwood National Girl Scout RESERVATION,” is hard to miss. On the Boy side of Scouting, Salomon is also known for his “celebration” of Native American culture that permeated early Boy Scout lore. He published a 400-page Book of Indian Crafts and Indian Lore, and performed a one-man show as “White Eagle.” Salomon strongly believed that his “Indian activities” helped destroy stereotypes, but today he is often criticized for cultural appropriation. His publicity photo for his performances is cringeworthy today.

But back to the Girl Scouts …

In honor of his work at Rockwood, one of the conference rooms in the main Manor House is named for him. When the new Rockwood Manor Park was dedicated in 1987, Salomon, at age 91, attended and shared some of his Rockwood recollections. He passed away five months later.

©2021 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian