Roaming around Rockwood, part one

The Manor House.
The Manor House.

As I wrap up the manuscript for my book on the history of Girl Scouting in the Washington, DC, region, I realized that I did not have a good photo of the exterior of the Rockwood Estate.  So one recent Sunday my husband, daughter, and I headed down MacArthur Boulevard with our camera. Erin had camped there once as a Brownie, but that was eight years ago.

Rockwood is located at 11001 MacArthur Boulevard in Potomac, Maryland, about 15 miles northwest of the U.S. Capitol. The 93-acre property was bequeathed to the Girl Scouts by socialite Carolyn G. Caughey in 1936. Caughey’s gift was inspired by the bravery of Helen Hopkins Zelov, a Girl Scout leader whose strong voice and calm reaction had guided rescuers to save 11 victims when Washington’s Knickerbocker Theatre collapsed under a heavy snowfall on January 28, 1922. Seriously injured herself, Zelov was presented with a medal for her bravery.

Manor House from the side.
Manor House from the side.

I did not know about the Knickerbocker Theatre link until I began researching Rockwood. Washingtonians know of the tragedy, as it still is used as the benchmark for measuring snowstorms in the area.

Helen Zelov, with her mother and son.
Helen Zelov, with her mother and son.

I got in contact with meteorologist Kevin Ambrose, who has just published a history of the Knickerbocker snowstorm. Kevin graciously sent me this photo he’d found of Helen, the heroic Girl Scout leader. He also mentioned that he was working on a second project, gathering stories from the survivors.

A few weeks later, I discovered that Helen had been interviewed by two members of the GSCNC History and Archives Committee in 1981, one year before her death. The transcript tells of the chaos that night in the theatre, and it reveals that Helen had had spat with her fiance (Mr. Zelov) that day and had actually gone to the show that night with a male friend…who was killed in the roof collapse. Helen and her fiance made up and married a few months later.

Erin is not impressed by my Rockwood knowledge.
Erin is not impressed by my Rockwood knowledge.

Helen’s interview also contains some other interesting details. I knew she was part of the famous Troop 8, formally led by Lou Henry Hoover. But I didn’t know that the daughters of Amos Fries were in Helen’s troop. He is the man who arranged for Camp Bradley, the resident camp at Edgewater (Aberdeen) Arsenal used by Washington and Baltimore Girl Scouts in the 1920s. Those are Camp Bradley Girls in the blog header!

Archives Receives Copy of Trefoil Patent

The GSCNC Archives received an unexpected treat at our April 13, 2013, Annual Meeting.

Page from Trefoil patent application
Page from Trefoil patent application

Council President Diane Tipton had recently returned from a visit to her childhood home, where she ran into an old neighbor and friend.  He’s an avid collector of Boy Scout memorabilia who had also accumulated some Girl Scout items over the years. When he heard how involved Diane still is in Girl Scouting, he wanted her to have his Girl Scout items.  Diane then presented them to the committee.

GSCNC CEO Lidia Soto-Harmon (L), Archives Chair Ann Robertson, and GSCNC President Diane Tipton
GSCNC CEO Lidia Soto-Harmon (L), Archives Chair Ann Robertson, and GSCNC President Diane Tipton

Along with pins, badges, and a handbook, the donation included a copy of Juliette Gordon Low’s application to patent the trefoil symbol.  She applied for the patent on November 23, 1913, and received it on February 10, 1914.  Our donation includes the signature page; the original, two-page document is held at the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace in Savannah, Georgia.

When Low decided to step down from the day-to-day operations of Girl Scouting in 1921, GSUSA asked that she surrender the patent to the organization.  She agreed, but on her own terms.

Stacy Cordery, Low’s recent biographer, recounts how Daisy shrewdly agreed to assign the patent to GSUSA in exchange for keeping her name on the organization’s Constitution, stationery, and membership cards in perpetuity.

Daisy actually had two patents. The other is for the “Pluto Bag,” a stand-up trash bin for liquids. It reminds me of an origami project that got way out of control!

In honor of our founder’s two patents, GSCNC has been an exhibitor at the annual U.S. Patent and Trademark Expo held at the Patent Office in Alexandria, Virginia, each fall.  Last year we had directions for the trash bin at our booth, and dozens of girls and adults valiantly tried to make one.

The trefoil patent application will certainly be part of our booth display at the next Patent and Trademark Expo this fall.  Who knows, perhaps “Daisy” will make make another surprise visit to our booth this year!

Susan "Daisy" Ducey at the Patent and Trademark Expo, 2012
Susan “Daisy” Ducey at the Patent and Trademark Expo, 2012

GSCNC Antiques Road Show

The GSCNC Annual Meeting on April 13, 2013, included the council’s first Girl Scout Antiques Road Show. Members were invited to share their Girl Scout treasures and the stories behind them. The Archives and History Committee helped identify a few curious objects. We hope to repeat the Road Show next year and have better audio for the 2014 video!

Juliette Gordon Low Gets Another “Wax” Likeness

Girl Scout CEO Anna Maria Chavez visits Juliette Gordon Low at Madame Tussaud’s museum.

Madame Tussaud’s museum isn’t the only place near Washington, DC, to see a lifelike image of Juliette Gordon Low.

Cadette Leah T. of Troop 5576 portrayed Juliette Gordon Low at the Greenbriar East Elementary School’s Wax Museum in late February.  The Fairfax County sixth grader wrote to the GSCNC Archives and History Committee, asking if she could borrow an appropriate uniform.  Naturally, we said, “Of course!”

Juliette Gordon Low at Greenbriar East Elementary

The Committee has uniforms from various decades and age levels that troops can borrow.  For the very earliest years of Girl Scouting, we have reproduction uniforms to lend.

Leah completed her Daisy look with a badge book, a strand of pearls, several boxes of Girl Scout cookies, and a small horse and dog to indicate Daisy’s love of animals.  She obviously has done her homework on our founder.

Update: April 2, 2014

Due to high demand, the Committee has revised its lending policy.  Please see the “Dress Like Daisy” page on this website.

Metal Arts and Graphic Arts: Two Elusive Cadette Badges


That recent “lot of assorted Cadette badges” that I bought on eBay contained both a Metal Arts and a Graphic Arts, the two least popular badges from 1963 to 1980.

These gold-edged badges debuted in 1963, when the Intermediate level was split in Juniors and Cadettes. They originally sold for 30 cents each; I paid about 77 cents each for this lot, not bad at all.

According to the Degenhardt and Kirsch Girl Scout Collector’s Guide (2nd ed.), only 56,270 Metal Arts and 70,205 Graphic Arts were sold.  Those figures are pretty paltry,  considering that Social Dancer sold over 1 million, followed closely by 876,644 First Aid.

With a snow storm predicted and cabin fever setting in early, I took a closer look at the numbers for the Cadette series.

The five most popular were:IMG_0238

  1. Social Dancer
  2. First Aid
  3. Good Grooming
  4. Child Care
  5. Hostess

and the five least popular were:IMG_0234

  1. Star
  2. Science
  3. Reporter
  4. Graphic Arts
  5. Metal Arts

Then I took the plunge and entered all of this series into Excel and came up with a spiffy chart ranking all of the Cadette badges:

Cadette 1963 chart 3

I only earned six of these myself (Conservation, Clerk, Sports, Stamp Collector, Photography, and First Aid to Animals), as the World to Explore program began when I was a Cadette.

Some of them, like Stamp Collector, seem rather quaint now, but others taught skills that are still valuable today.  First Aid to Animals has some connection to the new Animal Helpers. Night Owl shows the Intermediate version of the Star badge, while Book Artist references Clerk.

I like how many of the new badge packets have “More to Explore” or “Page from the Past” sidebars that show links to older badges, but I wish more of the old designs had been retained.  Girls always get excited when they find one of “their” badges on their mother’s — or grandmother’s — old sash.

What badges would you like to see revived?

Shawnee Council Treasures

I took a snowy drive to Winchester, VA, on January 31 to meet with the curators of the GSCNC Shenandoah Region archives.

Sandy Jones and Patsy Campbell have items on display in two rooms of the Youth Development Center off Battaile Drive.

They have uniforms, pins, patches, photos, mugs, and many other items that any Girl Scout will recognize, along with artifacts unique to Shawnee Council, which merged with GSCNC in 2009.  The collection also covers Camp White Rock and the councils that merged to create Shawnee in 1963: Blue Ridge (Virginia), Eastern Panhandle (eastern West Virginia), Washington County (Maryland), and Shawnee (Allegany and Garrett Counties, MD, and Bedford County, PA).

Troops wanting to learn more about Girl Scout history, perhaps for their Girl Scout Ways badges, should consider a visit.  Contact Sandy at to schedule a tour.

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The Road to the White House Is Lined With … Girl Scouts!

In honor of President Barack Obama’s second inaugural on January 21, the display cases at GSCNC headquarters feature items from past inaugurations and photographs donated by former First Ladies.

Click image to enlarge.

Girl Scouts have had close ties with the White House from the movement’s earliest days. Every First Lady since Edith Wilson has served as Honorary National President.

Lou Henry HoIMG_5996over is doubly tied to Girl Scouts, serving as both Honorary President while First Lady (1929–33) and as National President twice (1922–25 and 1935–37). We have original photos personally inscribed to the Girl Scouts from Mrs. Hoover, Grace Coolidge, Mamie Eisenhower, and Bess Truman, among others, as a wonderful portrait of Mrs. Coolidge wearing her Girl Scout uniform outside the White House.

Girl Scout units have been involved in Inaugural activities since President Woodrow Wilson was sworn in for a second term in March 1917.*

WP March 4 1917

WP Feb 24 1917

The 1917 parade was the first to allow women to march. First, however, the Girl Scouts had to prove they were up to the task. The Washington Post reported on February 24, 1917, that 400 girls “went through a practice drill yesterday morning on the ellipse of the White House grounds. The girls were khaki uniforms, khaki hats, black shoes and black or dark brown stockings.” Following their rehearsal, Col. Robert N. Harper, head of inauguration committee, concluded, “The fair Scouts will be a credit to the great procession.” Once accepted, the Girl Scouts used the Post to invite “All Girl Scouts of Washington who have uniforms” to march. “No coats of sweaters will be permitted.  Black shoes and stockings and white gloves are also to be worn,” according to the instructions.

More recently, Girl Scouts have served as parade ushers, helping with crowd control, offering directions, helping lost visitors find their bearings. Some 122 girls came out for Jimmy Carter in 1977 and 500 teen Girl Scouts trained for Ronald Reagan’s freezing second inauguration in 1985. President Reagan also arranged for the Girl Scouts to work at Inaugural Balls, where they help open limo doors for lucky ticket holders. In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s the girls donned special capes and berets for the event.


On display at GSCNC are a yellow windbreaker from the 1989 ceremonies, a blue knit cap worn by Boy Scout volunteers in 2009 and the red knit cap Girl Scouts will wear on January 21, 2013. We also have a selection of ribbons, patches, and buttons given to Girl Scout and Boy Scout volunteers.  (Thank you to the National Capital Area Boy Scout Museum for lending some of these items!!)

This display will remain in place through mid-March.  Please stop by GSCNC and see what’s new from the archives!IMG_5997



*In 1933 the 20th Amendment moved presidential swearing-in ceremonies from March to January.

Doll Exhibit at GSCNC Main Office

There’s still time left to check out the Girl Scout doll exhibit in the GSCNC lobby!!Image

Dolls dressed in Girl Scout uniforms have been popular toys and sought-after collectibles for nearly a century.  The earliest known Girl Scout doll dates to 1917, and “generations” of rag dolls, paper dolls, Cabbage Patch Kids, Barbies, and Groovy Girls have all worn uniforms that match their owner’s official brown, blue, or green dress.

Among the items on display are a homemade 1930s-style Mariner (poor dear, she’s lost a shoe and a sock), an Effanbee doll in a 1962 Senior Roundup outfit, Barbies in adult uniforms made from patterns sold through the catalog in the late 1990s, and paper dolls from the early 1950s with “real” hair.Image

For quick backgrounds, we used fabrics from the Robert Kaufman Girl Scout collections of 2009–2010.  Image

For President Obama’s Inauguration on January 20, we will change our display to focus on the First Ladies and their role in Girl Scouting.

Please stop by GSCNC and see what’s new from the archives!