The ongoing coronavirus crap means that thousands of spring Girl Scout camping trips have been cancelled.
Maybe this vintage postcard from a 1920 leaders’ camp will help anyone experiencing camp deprivation:
These leaders are starting their day with a round of “setting up” exercises, just like the campers in the Golden Eaglet, a 1918 promotional film from the Girl Scouts.
This postcard was never mailed. Instead, the owner used it as a souvenir of her time at camp.
For you non-cursive folks, it reads:
“The mess hall is to the left and the lake down to the right. I am the 7th one in the 2d row from the left and Rose is the 4th one in the 3d row. The 3d on in the 4th row was our bugler. We called her Tommy. She was fine at the taps trade.
Our tent isn’t shown here.”
Don’t you just love the camp uniform of middies and bloomers?
The new scarf looks lovely. But what really caught my attention was the statement that I underlined:
“In 1968, our first adult uniform…”
Oh my. No adult uniforms for the first 56 years? Really?
That gives a whole new dimension to exploring the great out-doors.
Perhaps what was meant in this release was that 1968 was the first time a well-known designer created an adult uniform?
In 1948 the American designer Mainbocher created new uniforms for Intermediates, Seniors, and ADULTS.
GSUSA eagerly announced the new garments in its own publications:
… and press releases.
Before the Girl Scout uniforms, Mainbocher was best known for outfitting the WAVES (women serving in the US Navy) during World War II.
A retrospective exhibition of Mainbocher’s work was held in Chicago in 2016. Vogue magazine described the man as “The Most Important American Designer You’ve Never Heard Of.” (And it’s pronounced Main-Bocker)
Tsk. Tsk. Next time, run it by a Girl Scout historian. Better yet, an editor/Girl Scout historian.
Troop Crests are some of the oldest official insignia. Originally, each patrol (sub-group) within a troop had a different crest. The first troop in Savannah, for example, had White Rose, Carnation, Red Rose, and Poppy patrols. Over time, crests began to encompass the entire troop.
Early troops were identified by their crest, not troop number, as in this Washington Post article from 1914.
Similarly, members of this troop were the “Surrey Poppies.”
In May 1913, Juliette Gordon Low brought a selection of English Girl Guide crests for the earliest American troops to use. The English crests were circles of black felt, embroidered with bright colors and a red border.
The Girl Scouts adopted many of the English crests in 1920. They soon realized that the Blackbird crest was almost invisible when embroidered on black felt. The girls decided to use blue thread instead and renamed it “Bluebird” in 1922.
Traditionally, once girls chose a crest, it was used for the lifetime of the troop.
But there are exceptions to every rule. Estelle Kelso, owner of this uniform, was either in a troop that picked a new crest each year or perhaps she changed troops.
Contrary to popular belief, meanings have only been ascribed to crests in recent years. The early crests were all flowers, trees, waterfalls, stars and other non-floral designs came later. Between 1923 and 1930, troops were encouraged to
choose the names of famous women, either from real life or literature, and “build up troop traditions around them. … select women “who have done conspicuous service or pioneer work in professional and scientific fields, or who were associated with our early American life, either in the colonies or in the Westward moving border lands.”
–Blue Book of Rules
From 1918 to 2011, troops could also design their own crests. They chose images that reflect their interests or perhaps a local landmark or significant culture. The meanings of many, however, are known only to the girls.
Whatever the design, fabric, or official status, crests can always be identified by shape. Crests are oval, all badges are (or were) round. That’s a difference that is easily overlooked by even the best historians. The rare fuchsia crest at right was mis-identified online by the Georgia Historical Society.
Designs have come and gone over the years. In 2011 the oval shape was replaced by a shield shape. Yet some designs have remained nearly unchained for over 100 years.
When we changed the history display at the council headquarters recently, I realized that I hadn’t shared our summer exhibit online.
The theme came from a non-Girl Scout source: a regular feature in Us Magazine. Each week, the magazine has a celebrity dump out her bag; usually a purse, but sometimes a diaper bag, backpack, or shopping bag.
Singer Meghan Trainor’s bag, Us Magazine (August 25, 2018)
Magazine editors tag various items, usually providing a handful of product names and purchase information. I think a little pruning happens before the actual photo shoot, as you never see dirty tissues, used gum, and other unmentionables that you’d find in my purse, at least.
I didn’t fully photograph this exhibit due to lighting issues. Instead, I tried to recreate parts in my tabletop photo studio.
We created paired “now-and-then” vignettes for girls, leaders, and campers.
How many items do you recognize?
I’m not going to label these pictures today. I will update with labels on October 1.
Of course, the first Girl Scouts didn’t need a purse. They carried all of their essentials on their utility belt or in their pockets.
Here’s a quick look at the entire display. You can bet I took plenty of photos as we installed our fall exhibit!
Last Saturday was the Nation’s Capital 2018 Annual Meeting, and the Archives and History Committee arranged an exhibit.
The exhibit theme was “Picture Yourself in the Girl Scout Archives,” and it had two parts. First, Committee members brought a current project to share. We are informally divided by specialty (uniforms, patch programs, books, publications, etc.) and this seemed a good way to demonstrate what the Committee does.
I brought some of our camera collection to decorate our display, and many girls were fascinated by them. We had to explain that these cameras did not have phones.
Second, we organized a photo booth with old uniforms. Last yearwe had a large exhibit of adult uniforms and people were literally lining up to have their picture made with the mannequins. We decided to build on that by having uniform pieces to try on.
Hats were easy to arrange. We’d been advised by other history groups to be vigilant about hygiene since we didn’t want to accidentally spread germs or unwelcome critters. We lined each hat with a basket-style coffee filter that we changed after each wearing.
Uniforms were more challenging. Folks today are larger than people a few decades ago and some of our uniforms are tiny! We know that for fashion shows, we have to go for younger models. Sometimes only a Daisy in kindergarten can fit into a vintage Brownie dress, and we have to use a fifth-grade Junior for one of the vintage teen uniforms.
But we’d gotten a fabulous idea from other historians: split uniforms. I saw them up close at the North Carolina Girl Scout Collector’s Show in March, and organizer Becky Byrnes offered some great advice.
NC Collector’s Show
NC Collector’s Show
Uniforms are split along the spine, hemmed, and ribbons or bias tape is sewn in to use as ties. Girls and adults slip the old uniform on over their clothing, much like a doctor slipping into a surgical gown. It doesn’t completely solve the size issue (tiny uniform + clothing = tight squeeze) but everyone seemed pleased with the results.
Our designated photographer reported snapping pictures of 74 groups, and many more visitors took selfies.
This experiment worked well and we plan to have more split uniforms available at our Program Centers.
I have a busy week coming up, first going to the North Carolina Girl Scout Collectors’ Show, then on to Savannah, Georgia, to see my daughter, who is a junior at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).
She is busy studying schedules and determining what classes to take this fall and the rest of her senior year. I continue to be amazed at the variety of courses and career paths offered at SCAD. They have areas of study that I never knew existed, like yacht design, sequential art, and luxury and fashion management. SCAD takes a very hands-on, applied approach to learning that equips students for creative careers.
I already have another trip to Savannah penciled in for October, this time for a Girl Scout history conference. The last such conference I attended was very conceptual–discussions and presentations on the changing role of museums in the 21st century.
GS Historic Georgia partnered with SCAD to create a Preservation Patch
I have no idea what is being planned officially, but if it were me, I know what Savannah resource I would want to use wisely–SCAD. A conference planned in coordination with the school could provide tremendous hands-on learning opportunities. There are many potentially relevant programs, for example:
Accessory and Jewelry Design: Techniques for cleaning pins and metal camping equipment; novel ideas for displays of lots of tiny objects.
Acting and Character Development: For our living Juliette Gordon Lows.
Branded Entertainment: I don’t have any idea what this is, but how often do we hear about communicating and protecting the Girl Scout brand? Maybe we would learn!
Fashion/Fibers/Costume Design: Best techniques for preserving old fabric; how do you clean 100-year old sweat stains and rust stains?
Museum Studies students craft narratives about their artifacts (SCAD).
Museum Studies: Duh.
Photography/Film/Sound: How to archive photos, film etc. (and could someone please convert some Beta tapes that we have?)
Preservation Design: This also seems obvious.
Designing exhibit displays and props (SCAD).
Production Design: Tips on how to construct and configure exhibits and display spaces.
Themed Entertainment Design: to create Juliette Gordon Low World (just kidding–mostly)
Conducting a two-hour workshop on these topics would be a great experience for students, as SCAD teaches them to hone their presentation skills whenever possible. I definitely would sign up for as many as possible.
Ultimately, the conference curriculum isn’t up to me. Maybe I’ll just browse the textbook aisle in the campus bookstore and try to learn some of these skills on my own.