Eagle Scout (Boy Scouts of America)

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Eagle Scout
Medal Badge
Square knot
Eagle Palms
Bronze Gold Silver

An Eagle Scout is a Scout with the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Since its introduction in 1911, the Eagle Scout rank has been earned by more than 1.8 million young men.[1]

Requirements include earning a number of merit badges and demonstration of Scout Spirit, service and leadership. This includes an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads, and manages. Eagle Scouts are presented with a medal and a badge that visibly recognizes the accomplishments of the Scout. Additional recognition can be earned through Eagle Palms, awarded for completing additional tenure, leadership and merit badge requirements.


File:Eagle Medal 1911.PNG
Eagle Scout medal as published in the Handbook for Boys (1911)

The BSA's highest award was originally conceived of as the Wolf Scout, as shown in the June 1911 Official Handbook for Boys. The August 1911 handbook subsequently changed this to Eagle Scout. The medal illustrated in the handbook was a profile of an eagle in flight, but was changed to the current design before any were issued. In their original conceptions, Life Scout, Star Scout (Life preceded Star until 1924) and Eagle Scout were not ranks, but part of the merit badge system that recognized Scouts who had earned a number of merit badges. Eagle Scout was awarded to any First Class Scout who had earned twenty-one merit badges.[2] Consequently, eight of the first nine Eagle Scouts did not earn the ranks of Life or Star.[3]

The first Eagle Scout medal was awarded in 1912 to Arthur Rose Eldred, a seventeen-year-old member of Troop 1 in Rockville Centre, Long Island, New York. Eldred was notified that he was to be awarded the rank of Eagle Scout in a letter from Chief Scout Executive James E. West, dated August 21, 1912. The design of the Eagle Scout medal had not been finalized by the National Council, so the medal was not awarded until Labor Day, September 2, 1912. Eldred was the first of three generations of Eagle Scouts; his son and grandson hold the rank as well.[4][5] Since then, more than one and a half million Scouts have earned the rank. In 1982, thirteen-year-old Alexander Holsinger, of Normal, Illinois, was recognized as the one millionth Eagle Scout.[3][6]

A total of 1,835,410 Scouts have earned Eagle Scout as of the end of 2005, about 2% of the Boy Scouting membership since 1911.[7] In 2005, 49,895 Eagle Scouts were presented, about 5% of the 2005 membership.[8]


Eagle Scout may be earned by Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts by serving as a Life Scout for at least six months, earning a minimum of twenty-one merit badges, demonstrating Scout Spirit and serving as a leader in the troop, team, crew or ship. He must plan, develop and give leadership to a service project— the Eagle Project —that demonstrates both leadership and a commitment to duty. He must then take part in a Scoutmaster conference before his eighteenth birthday. After all of the requirements are met, he must complete an Eagle Scout Board of Review.[9] Venturers and Sea Scouts who attained First Class as a Boy Scout or Varsity Scout in a troop or team may continue working toward the Star, Life and Eagle Scout ranks, as well as Eagle Palms, while registered as a Venturer or Sea Scout up to their eighteenth birthday. Scouts with a permanent mental or physical disability may use alternate requirements based on the Scout's abilities, if approved by the council.[1] Eagle Scout may be awarded posthumously, if and only if all requirements less the Scoutmasters' conference and/or Board of Review are completed before death. A board of review may be held and the award presented to the Scout's family. The Spirit of the Eagle Award is an honorary posthumous special recognition for any registered youth member who has lost their life in an accident or through illness.

Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project

The Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project is the opportunity for a Scout to demonstrate leadership of others while performing a project for the benefit to his community. This is the culmination of the Eagle Scout candidate's leadership training, and requires a significant effort on his part.[10] The project must benefit an organization other than the BSA, but it cannot be performed for an individual or a business, cannot solely be a fund-raising project, and cannot be commercial in nature.

A written plan must be submitted using the BSA Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project Workbook and be pre-approved by the benefiting organization, the unit leader, the unit committee, and a district representative before the work on the project can begin. After the project work is complete, the Scout will update the workbook where he will discuss the methods in which he gave leadership, ways in which the plan may have had to change and the benefits of the project.

Examples of Eagle Scout service projects include: constructing park benches, running a blood drive, constructing a playground, building bat houses for a local park, refurbishing a room at a church or school, resetting stones at a cemetery, planting grass for erosion control, or organizing a dinner and collecting necessities for the homeless.


Eagle Scout requirements have evolved since the awards' original conception. A requirement to earn 11 specific merit badges was added in 1914, which underwent minor changes in 1915.[11] The Life–Star order was reversed in 1924, apparently because the five-pointed star of the Star Scout insignia could be associated with the five merit badges required to earn the rank immediately following First Class Scout. In 1927, Eagle Scout began the transition from being a super merit badge to a rank.[3] As a result, the first requirements for tenure were created, Scouts were now required to be an active First Class Scout for one year and the initial requirements for what became the service project appeared with a requirement to show satisfactory service. The number of required merit badges increased to 12. In 1936, the ranks of Star and Life became mandatory, and the number of required merit badges jumped to 13. It was at this time Eagle Scout became a full-fledged rank. In 1952, age limits were set so that adults could no longer earn Eagle Scout and the service project requirement was slightly expanded to "do your best to help in your home, school, church or synagogue, and community".[3] In 1958 the number of required merit badges increased again to 16 of the 21 total merit badges needed to obtain Eagle, along with the first requirements for service and leadership. In 1965, the requirements for the service project and specific troop leadership were defined, and the number of required merit badges returned to 11. The Eagle Scout candidate was now required to plan, develop, and carry out a leadership service project. Minor changes were made to the required merit badge list in 1970. In 1972, the Improved Scouting Program increased the number of merit badges needed to obtain Eagle to 24, while reducing the list of required merit badges to ten, eliminating badges that required swimming and outdoor skills and adding the requirement to show leadership during the service project. Until 1972, Explorers who were also registered as assistant Scoutmasters in a troop could work on Eagle until age 21.[12] In 1978, the total number of merit badges needed for Eagle was dropped back to the original 21; required merit badges now numbered 11 and would eventually change to 12 in 1993.[3]


Palms represent additional advancement for a young man who has stayed active in his unit. A Palm is awarded when the Scout has been active in the unit for a period of three months or more since attaining Eagle or a previous Palm, demonstrated Scout Spirit, demonstrated leadership ability, earned five additional merit badges beyond those required for Eagle or last Palm and has taken part in a conference with his unit leader.

The insignia is a small metallic palm frond pin that is worn on the ribbon of the Eagle Scout medal or the Eagle Scout square knot. The Palms are awarded in three colors: bronze, representing five merit badges; gold, representing ten merit badges and silver for fifteen merit badges. For awards beyond fifteen merit badges, Palms are awarded in combinations. [13] The order of bronze, gold and silver follows heraldic traditions borrowed from the US military.[14]

Insignia and apparel

The Eagle Scout badge is worn on the left shirt pocket by youth.[15] Adult leaders who earned the rank of Eagle Scout as a youth may wear the square knot on their uniform above the left shirt pocket.[16] The Eagle Scout medal is worn on the left shirt pocket flap of the uniform. It is usually only worn on ceremonial occasions, and can be worn by both youth and adults while wearing the badge or square knot.

The Eagle Presentation Kit currently includes the Eagle Scout medal, the Eagle Scout badge, a mother's pin, a father's pin and an Eagle Mentor pin. A variety of caps, belt buckles, pins, tie tacs, neckerchiefs and slides, bolo ties, rings, jackets, t-shirts and other items are also available for purchase.[17] Official Eagle Scout insignia is controlled by BSA Supply and requires verification by presentation of the Eagle Scout card or other means before it can be purchased.

History of the medal

Eagle Scout medals

Since its introduction in 1912, the Eagle Scout medal has undergone several design changes. Changes to the scroll and to the eagle pendant were not always introduced at the same time, therefore types may be somewhat mixed. Scouting historians classify these medals by the five different manufacturers and then by 17 sub-types, with several minor variations.[18] Many variations were caused by quality control issues, mainly due to wear of the dies. During the 1920s and 1930s, some military schools allowed wear of the Eagle Scout medal on the uniform. In order to conform to the medal system, the scroll was removed and the ribbon affixed to a standard ribbon bar.

T. H. Foley made the first medals from 1912 until they went out of business in 1915.[19] The eagle pendant and scroll were of die struck bronze washed with silver. Early versions were made with a short double knot and later ones with a long double knot. Only 338 of these medals were issued, making them the rarest version. Some Foleys were issued with a drop ribbon – the ribbon was extended, folded through the bar mount on the scroll, then dropped behind the eagle pendant and cut in a swallowtail. The first drop ribbon style medal was issued to the fourth Eagle Scout – Sidney Clapp, a 31-year-old scoutmaster from West Shokan, NY.

Dieges & Clust took over production from 1916 to 1920, basing the design on the Foley.[19] These medals also have the distinguishing extra-long double knot hanging from the scroll. There were 1,640 of this variety awarded, all made of sterling silver.

Eagle medal
w/o BSA

In 1920, the Robbins Company took over production. They produced six distinct variants, all in sterling silver. The first 1920 version was similar to the Dieges & Clust design, but with smaller scroll lettering and the standard single knot. The second 1920 version has more distinctive feathering on the back side of the pendant. The engraving on the 1930 version is especially fine. In 1933, BSA was removed from all of the Eagle Scout insignia, including the medal. In 1955 the obverse of the eagle pendant was made flat so it could be engraved. BSA was added back to the front and the obverse was returned to a full feathered design in 1969.

Medal manufacturer Stange was authorized to begin producing Eagle Scout medals in 1968, at the same time as Robbins – they created six distinct models. The 1968 version is very similar to the Robbins version, but the bend in the scroll is much flatter, more like a sideways V as compared to the S on the Robbins scroll. The BSA was added back to the front, and the obverse was returned to a full feathered design in 1970. A major re-design of the eagle pendant was made in 1974 to match the new NESA logo. In 1978, Robbins ceased manufacturing Eagle Scout medals and Stange switched to the last design used by Robbins. Minor differences are in the white edged ribbon and the sterling silver markings. In 1980 the price of silver rose dramatically and the medal was changed to silver plated, die struck copper. Very early versions were silver plated and oxidized, thus the scroll and pendant are black. Later versions were oxidized, buffed and lacquered to maintain the silver shine. Sterling silver medals were produced from the same dies and from this time were only available on special order. 1993 saw a number of changes. The clasp on the scroll was changed from the pin on type to a double clutch back. The pendant was changed to pewter and enlarged due to the lighter rigidity of the material.

Custom Fine Jewelry (CFJ) took over the contract in 1999 and has currently created three types. The initial versions were based on the last Stange version but with the ribbon attached through the clutch pins instead of a bar (this led to damage of the ribbon). A small number of sterling silver versions were made, marked with 925. In later 1999, the dies were laser engraved, giving a much sharper look and the ribbon mount was improved to eliminate wear. The knot went from wire to a molded version in 2001.

In the fall of 2006, the national supply division of the National Eagle Scout Association began to issue replica Eagle Scout medals for specific wear on U.S. military dress uniforms. These medals are designed to be proportionate to other military medals: they contain the same pendant, but no scroll, and a ribbon that has been made thinner and more rectangular in shape.[20]

History of the badge

Eagle Scout badges
1924-1932 1933-1955 1956-1972 1972-1974
1975-1985 1985-1986 1986-1989 1989-present

Since its introduction, the Eagle Scout badge has undergone several design changes. Scouting historians have classified these badges into eight different designs, with several minor variations within each type.[18]

The cloth badge was introduced for Eagle Scouts attending the 1924 World Scout Jamboree in Denmark with a design based on the hat pin. The Eagle Scout merit badge was sewn onto the top of the merit badge sash that was also created for the jamboree. The design is quite similar to the current badge. As with other patches of the time, the rank badges were embroidered onto rolls of fabric and then cut. The edges were folded under before sewing the badge onto the sash. Initially produced on tan cloth, it was later switched to olive for the Boy Scout uniform and white and blue to match the various Sea Scout uniforms. In 1933, BSA was removed from all of the Eagle Scout insignia, including the badge.[21] The text Eagle Scout and Boy Scouts of America was added to the border, and Be Prepared was added to the scroll. These badges were embroidered with silk thread, switching to cotton in 1940.

The production of badges and emblems changed in 1956 to the rolled edge now in current use, thus eliminating the various colored backgrounds. The outside oval was then changed to red. With the introduction of the Improved Scouting Program in 1972 came an overhaul of many badges and emblems. The new stylized Eagle Scout badge with no text was a major change that proved to be unpopular. It appears that some Scouters commissioned reproductions of the 1956 badge for issue in place of the 1972 version. In 1975 the badge design partially reverted to the 1956 version. 1985 saw a reversion to the 1956 issue with some minor differences. The border and the eagle were done in silver Mylar and the Be Prepared text was in blue. In 1986 the Mylar eagle changed back to silver thread due to problems with wearing and the scroll and text were enlarged. The Mylar border was changed to silver thread in 1989. Later variants increased the thread count of the white stripe to eliminate the visible background.

Other insignia

Eagle Scout square knot with DESA eagle device

Eagle Scout hat pins were produced from 1921 through 1958 with several variations.[22] Eagle Scouts who earned additional merit badges were recognized using Eagle Palms, introduced in 1927. Adults who had earned Eagle Scout began to be recognized in 1934 with a red, white and blue ribbon bar. In 1940, a small eagle pin was added to the bar. Ribbon bars were replaced by embroidered square knot patches in 1947.[23] Over the years, the knot was produced with various background colors to match the different uniforms. Although the Venturing and Sea Scout programs use different uniform shirts, the current knot is available only with a tan background that matches the Boy Scout uniform.[24] When the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award (DESA) was created in 1969, a gold eagle device was introduced for wear on the Eagle Scout square knot. The Law Enforcement Exploring program introduced a ribbon bar for Eagle Scouts in 1995. The Eagle Scout Mentor pin was introduced in early 2004 in a gold-plated version, and was changed in early 2006 to pewter to match the mother and father pins.


From 1912 to 1943 the BSA issued an index sized card with information about the Eagle Scout. Wallet sized cards were introduced in 1944 and switched to a plastic credit card style in 1991. Certificates suitable for framing were first issued in 1944. As the honorary president of the BSA, the signature of the President of the United States appeared on all certificates except from late 1999 to 2002.[25] Replacement of a card or certificate can be made by application through the National Eagle Scout Association (NESA).

After becoming an Eagle Scout

Template:Seealso Eagle Scouts are expected to set an example for other Scouts and to become the leaders in life that they have demonstrated themselves to be in Scouting. As such, they are disproportionately represented in the military, service academy graduates, major professions, business and politics.[26] Eagle Scouts who enlist in the U.S. military may receive advanced rank in recognition of their achievements.[27][28]

Eagle Scout is the only Boy Scout rank that is recognized on an adult Scouter's uniform, worn as an adult recognition of the youth award as a red, white, and blue striped square knot.[16] The title of "Eagle Scout" is held for life, thus giving rise to the phrase "Once an Eagle, always an Eagle". Eagle Scouts can join the National Eagle Scout Association (NESA), which serves as a fellowship and communications board for all Eagle Scouts.

NESA directly administers several Eagle Scout scholarships.[29] The American Legion,[30] the National Jewish Committee on Scouting[31] and the Sons of the American Revolution[32] offer scholarships directed toward Eagle Scouts. Many colleges and universities, local businesses, churches and other organizations may offer similar scholarships.

The Distinguished Eagle Scout Award (DESA) is a special award, given only to Eagle Scouts, for distinguished service in their profession and the community for a period of at least 25 years after earning the Eagle Scout rank. Only about 1 in 1000 of all Eagle Scouts have been honored with this prestigious award.


In recent years, some Eagle scouts have returned their badges to protest what they see as the BSA's discriminatory policies. The anti-discrimination group Scouting For All claims to have received as many as one thousand letters from Eagle scouts who have done so.[33]

Similar awards

Eagle Scout is the highest award in the Boy Scouting program. The highest awards in other BSA membership divisions are: the Cub Scouting Arrow of Light, the Varsity Scouting Denali Award, the Venturing Silver Award and the Sea Scouting Quartermaster Award. Other Scouting movements have similar programs and awards.

See also

Similar awards in other organizations

  • The Civil Air Patrol's General Billy Mitchell Award is considered by the US military, and other groups, as the equivalent of the Eagle Scout Award.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Eagle Scouts". BSA Fact Sheet. Boy Scouts of America. http://www.scouting.org/factsheets/02-516.html. Retrieved 2006-11-13. 
  2. BSA Editorial Board (1911). The Official Handbook for Boys. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page and Company. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Peterson, Robert (2002). "Evolution of the Eagle Scout Award". Scouting Magazine. Boy Scouts of America. http://www.scoutingmagazine.org/issues/0211/d-wwas.html. Retrieved 2006-05-22. 
  4. "The BSA’s First Eagle Scout: Arthur Rose Eldred". Eagle Scout Resource Center. 2006. http://www.eaglescout.org/history/first_eagle.html. Retrieved 2006-03-06. 
  5. Ray, Mark (Winter 2005). "Eagle Scout Heritage Celebration Brings History to Life". Eagletter Vol:31 (No:3): pp: 8–9. 
  6. Reagan, Ronald (1982-09-14). "Remarks by Telephone to Eagle Scout Award Recipient Alexander M. Holsinger". The American Presidency Project. americanpresidency.org. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/print.php?pid=42967. Retrieved 2006-10-17. 
  7. "Facts About Scouting". BSA Fact Sheet. Boy Scouts of America. http://www.marketing.scouting.org/resources/factsheets/02-179.html. Retrieved 2006-12-31. 
  8. "Year in Review: 2005". Boy Scouts of America. http://www.scouting.org/media/review/2005.html. Retrieved 2006-07-19. 
  9. "Eagle Rank Requirements". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/boyscout/bsrank7.html. Retrieved 2006-05-17. 
  10. "Eagle Scout Service Project How-to Manual". Trail to Eagle. National Eagle Scout Association. http://www.nesa.org/trail/manual.html. Retrieved 2006-11-28. 
  11. "Eagle Scout Requirements: A Comparison of the BSA's Eagle Requirements since 1911". Troop 97. 2003. http://www.troop97.net/bsaeagle.htm. Retrieved 2006-03-20. 
  12. Walton, Mike (1996). "When Eagle Age Limit Was Imposed". Scouts-L Archive. http://listserv.tcu.edu/cgi-bin/wa.exe?A2=ind9602&L=scouts-l&P=94893. Retrieved 2006-03-07. 
  13. "Eagle Palms". Merit Badge Research Center. http://www.meritbadge.com/adv/palms.htm. Retrieved 2006-11-15. 
  14. "Use of Silver and Gold Officer Insignia of Rank". The Institute of Heraldry. United States Army. http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/ROTCMiscNGB/Silver%20and%20Gold%20Insignia.htm. Retrieved 2006-11-15. 
  15. "Boy Scout/Varsity Scout Uniform Inspection Sheet, Item #34283" (165KBPDF). Boy Scouts of America. 2000. http://www.scouting.org/forms/34283.pdf. Retrieved 2006-03-06. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 Insignia Guide 2005. Boy Scouts of America. 2005. #33066E. 
  17. "ScoutStuff.org". Boy Scouts of America. http://scoutstuff.org/BSASupply/SearchPage.aspx?page=LIST&free_text%7C=eagle. Retrieved 2006-03-04. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 Grove, Terry (2004). A Comprehensive Guide to the EAGLE SCOUT AWARD (Twentieth Century Edition). 
  19. 19.0 19.1 "Awards, Badges, and Insignia". Boy Scout Stuff - A Virtual Boy Scout Museum. http://www.boyscoutstuff.com/Galleries/Awards/awards.html. Retrieved 2006-06-19. 
  20. "Eagle Scout News". Eagletter Vol:32 (No:2): pp: 2. Fall 2006. 
  21. Murray, Craig. "The Eagle Badge". Boy Scout Badge History. http://www.sageventure.com/eagle/. Retrieved 2006-06-19. 
  22. Murray, Craig. "Eagle Scout Miniature Badge Pin". Boy Scout Badge History. http://www.sageventure.com/eagle/pin.htm. Retrieved 2006-05-24. 
  23. Crowl, George. "Illustrated History of BSA Square Knot Evolution" (3.8MBPDF). http://www.sageventure.com/history/knothist/IllustratedHistoryofKnotEvolutionPart1.pdf. Retrieved 2006-03-24. 
  24. Murray, Craig. "Eagle Square Knot". Boy Scout Badge History. http://www.sageventure.com/eagle/knot.htm. Retrieved 2006-05-24. 
  25. Bresnahan, David M. (2000). "Eagle Scouts drop Clinton signature". WorldNetDaily. http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=13204. Retrieved 2006-06-14. 
  26. "One Hundred Scouts and More Scout Statistics". Troop 923. 2006. http://www.troop923.org/history.html#hundred. Retrieved 2006-06-12. 
  27. "AFRS Instruction 36-2001, Recruiting Procedures for the Air Force" (1MBPDF). US Air Force. 2005. http://www.e-publishing.af.mil/pubfiles/afrs/36/afrsi36-2001/afrsi36-2001.pdf. Retrieved 2006-03-06. 
  28. "Military Personnel Procurement Manual, Volume 2, Enlisted Procurement" (3.5MBPDF). US Marine Corps. 2004. http://www.usmc.mil/directiv.nsf/0/736601ce41b86edd85256649005020c0/$FILE/MCO%20P1100.72C%20W%20ERRATUM.pdf. Retrieved 2006-03-06. 
  29. "NESA Scholarships". National Eagle Scout Association. http://www.nesa.org/scholarships/index.html. Retrieved 2006-05-24. 
  30. "American Legion Eagle Scout of the Year". American Legion. http://www.legion.org/?section=prog_evt&subsection=evt_scouting&content=evt_eaglescout. Retrieved 2006-05-24. 
  31. "Eagle Scout Scholarship Programs". National Jewish Committee on Scouting, BSA. http://www.jewishscouting.org/awards/eagle.html. Retrieved 2006-05-24. 
  32. "Arthur M. & Berdena King Eagle Scout Scholarship". Sons of the American Revolution. http://www.sar.org/youth/eagle.html. Retrieved 2006-05-24. 
  33. Florio, Gwen (2000). "Gay Boy Scouts Returning Prized Eagle Badges In Protest". Philadelphia Inquirer. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines/071800-02.htm. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 


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