Looking for original 1910 BSA Master at Arms merit badge handbook

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Discussion' started by lklawson, Jul 27, 2021.

  1. lklawson

    lklawson Valued Member

    Help me find a book! I'm looking for an original 1910 U.S. Boy Scouts "Master at Arms" merit badge handbook.

    I've already found and republished the 1926 edition but that is a much later edition and it's British. The U.S. BSA "Master at Arms" badge was discontinued almost immediately, in 1911. I'm trying to source an original copy, both for my personal research and to pursue my hobby of republishing antique manuals and making the high-quality PDF available for free.

    If you're a BSA collector (or a book collector) and have a copy, please, contact me. If you're not willing to part with your original, I can get done what I need with decent quality pics or even photocopies.

    Please help me preserve this information and make it available to future generations.

    Thank you!

    Peace favor your sword,
  2. hewho

    hewho Valued Member

    Some facebook groups are a great source for stuff like this, if there's a public former boy scouting group, someone on there may have what you're after :)
    Best of luck, let us know how you get on!
  3. lklawson

    lklawson Valued Member

    Thanks. I've posted to FB in a few different locations. Might come up with something useful.

    I've been pointed a couple of times to the reprint of the full 1910 BSA Handbook. I don't know that the original handbook has all the details for the merit badges. I thought that it just references them and/or gives instructions to acquire the appropriate merit badge handbook. Anyone know?

    Peace favor your sword,
    hewho likes this.
  4. Botta Dritta

    Botta Dritta Valued Member

    I'm assuming you are talking about this one on google books with no preview?

    Boy Scouts of America Official Handbook

    Or is there a separate merit badge book?

    Google fooing...

    EDIT 1:

    (Updated) Discontinued BSA Merit Badges : Master-at-Arms - Soldier Systems Daily not everything you are looking for....

    EDIT 2: Dammit This version I've found is 1925 version printed in glasgow


    Images on page 12 with the quarterstaff are identical to the the one on the website. Coluld be that the british 1925 is identical the US 1910... investigating futher
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2021
  5. Botta Dritta

    Botta Dritta Valued Member

    Oh wait! You're Kirk Lawson who did the original reprint in the first place! Ok I see the problem here.. Also nothing uploaded on internet archive website....

    EDIT: Have you considered that the 1925 version might be lifted from the 1910 version? Reason being that 1925 the figure of 8 guard foil as per page p.17 in the 1925 edition had almost disappeared from general fencing use, even in england, so it kind of looks incongrous for the time, while in 1910 it was still around in salles even as an affectation. Naturally we can't assume that it was directly lifted from the US manual, but still might be worth to bear in mind.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2021
    lklawson likes this.
  6. Botta Dritta

    Botta Dritta Valued Member

    Ugh.... heres a copy of the 1910 Handbook


    with the master at arms section only having the references on page 17 as:

    Master-AT-Arms.—Proficiency in three out of these six subjects: Single stick, boxing, ju jitsu, wrestling, quarter staff, and fencing

    Rather does suggest that the merit badge handbooks were published separately, as the technical descriptions are not in the book.
    lklawson likes this.
  7. lklawson

    lklawson Valued Member

    I have anecdotal evidence which suggests that the 8-strike asterisk pattern of saber cuts was still taught as Singlestick/Broadsword in the Scouts up until the 1960's. It's not what I could call irrefutable by any means, but it is tantalizing.

    Yeah, I have considered that the Master-at-Arms badge might have not been changed much. I also have the Quarterstaff section from a different printing of the MoA badge but I am unsure of the year of publication because it is not listed and I only have that section. The material is almost identical but differs in at least one place. Not much but enough to make a quite large difference in application.

    I've also tracked down a Quarterstaff method published in a 1912 edition of Boys Life, a BSA publication. Unlike the MoA badge material which I've been able to find, which uses a sort of variant of half-staffing, this article uses what seems to be a very stripped down Longsword method or something like Hutton's Great Stick method (or maybe Grande Baton - it's too short to really tell). This all tells me that there was not necessarily just "one" Quarterstaff method taught to Scouts in period.

    Which, of course, only serves to pique my interest in finding the 1910 MoA Handbook even more. :)

    Peace favor your sword,
  8. Botta Dritta

    Botta Dritta Valued Member

    I was about to suggest the Boys Life publications but seems you were way ahead of me. I looked at the 1912 quarterstaff section and I have a suspicion it might be modified bayonette fencing rather than anything connected to longsword, but its hard to tease out... it could be grande batone too. As for the master of arms badge I have the sneaking suspicion that it was really left to the scout masters in charge to find the relevant authorities than any hard and fast tests.

    With Badon powells first book in 1908, and the earliest master at arms badge for auction I've seen at 1909 with "Single stick, boxing, ju jitsu, wrestling, quarter staff, and fencing" as the suggested sections to learn in US 1910 manual, I really think that actual hard and fast testing was probably thin on the ground. Furthermore:

    Boys' Life

    Boys Life Jan 1913

    Boy Scout Merit Badges Tests and how to pass them By Samuel A. Moffat

    "To secure a merit badge a scout must pass the examination before a committee of men appointed by the local council known as the Court of Honour. The members of this committe are selected because of their knowledge of the various scoutcraft activities. It sometimes occurs that a scout makes an application in a subject with which the members of the committe are not familiar. when this happens the Court of Honour usually finds a man in the community who is an expert in the subject and invites them to help them giving the examination"


    "A number of experts have been invited to give assistance in the preparing of articles on special subjects... Later on when all the subjects have been covered it is hoped to reprint these articles in book form under the title "Boy Scout tests and how to pass them"

    The "Boy scout tests and how to pass them" I think the earliest edition is 1913, and then republished multiple times thereafter, probably each edition with more activities codified and added as authorities were sought out.


    I think the master of arms exam initially before 1913 was probably a very ad-hoc affair, with a very brief outline of the requirements and left to the individual scout to find someone in the community that could teach two of these skills, who was then perhaps invited as the expert for the court of honour.

    It could very well be that in 1910 the enthusiasm for the master of arms badge was greater than the capacity of community to provide experts. We kind of have this modern rosy tinted ideas that in the past you could walk down the street and find an expert in Single stick and boxing too, but my suspicion is that it was more difficult than we believe, so perhaps considering the vast distances in the US at the time in getting a man to teach and then travel and sit on a examination committee as opposed to the UK the badge may have been quietly dropped for that same reason. Furthermore I think the paucity of experts in the Uk Postwar, led them to add the not exactly master at arms 'gymnastics' as a possibility from 1926 inversely for the same reasoning.

    (up 70% of fencing clubs in the UK died a death after WW1, the slaughter on those killing fields really did a number on many traditional fencing clubs, that did single stick or bayonette/staff work. Its no mystery that the few clubs that continued after the war were either clubs that were amalgamated through lack of members or clubs that allowed women to fence who kept the clubs running throughout the war.)

    I hope you do find a US master at arms manual, possibly as an independent publication. But the chance might be slim.

    PS: They 1925 fencing section is annoying me. I think I've seen those images from another possibly pre-1900 source else including the strange placing of Prime in the inside low line on the chest. If I remember where its from Ill post again.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2021
    lklawson likes this.
  9. Botta Dritta

    Botta Dritta Valued Member

    I think I stand corrected:

    Annual Report of the Universities' Settlement in East London

    Annual Report of the Universities' Settlement in East London
    books.google.co.uk › books

    Toynbee Hall · 1900

    There is only a snippet view available:

    In them and through them a Scoutmaster finds a means of keeping the boys continually busy . The subjects are sufficiently varied to suit every kind of temperament . The athletic boy may be tempted with the master - at - arms badge for ...

    This sort of indicates that from the earliest days of the proto - scout movement 7-8 years before the 1908 book there was a master of arms badge around, so ample time for material to be developed. Possibility may have gone up.
    lklawson likes this.
  10. lklawson

    lklawson Valued Member

    Hard to say. Most of the WWI era Bayonet systems I've looked at either omit or do not emphasize the tip slashes. The 1912 Boys Life quarterstaff system seems to be almost exclusively tip slashes. Of course that doesn't mean it's not based on Bayonet. It's just too little to tell where it comes from. Maybe I could track down the author and find his biography then make a better educated guess.

    It's possible. I don't know much right now.

    Yeah, WWI positively destroyed much of the flower of European martial youth. I remember reading some stats on pre and post WWI savate Silver Gloves. Very sad.

    Thanks. I'm hopeful.

    Could be. Plagiarism was endemic to many 19th century martial manuals in the west. Fencing, Boxing, Wrestling, etc. It's not particularly uncommon to find the whole text copied. Sometimes they would re-draw the pics, sometimes not. Happened a bunch.

    Peace favor your sword,
  11. lklawson

    lklawson Valued Member

    I got a reply from the U.S. National Scouting Museum.

    So I guess I'm looking for a copy of the 1910 British manual.

    Peace favor your sword,
  12. lklawson

    lklawson Valued Member

    A buddy of mine looking at the the Boys Life article noted that the butt-strike in Fig. 4 has a striking similarity to the French based Joinville baton method. The rest of it doesn't look a ton like Joinville to me because it emphasizes "tip up" parries and Joinville, apparently, emphasized "tip down" parries. But it wouldn't be horribly surprising to find out that the author studied Joinville.

    Peace favor your sword,

Share This Page