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The Boy Scout Handbook, 1910-Today (continued)

3rd & 4th Editions—Revised Handbook for Boys (1927-1948)

3rd Edition cover art by Norman Rockwell, 1929 Brown & Bigelow Scout calendar painting "Spirit of America" (painted in 1927). It featured the profile of a Scout in campaign hat and red neckerchief against a blue background containing the profiles of American heroes (Lincoln, Washington, Ben Franklin, Teddy Roosevelt, a frontiersman, an Indian, and Charles Lindbergh, who had just completed his famous flight). Lindbergh replaced a conquistador between the initial sketching and final painting. The silver cover appeared on about 5000 copies of the 21st printing to commemorate the five-millionth copy of the Handbook. The back cover had a US Tire ad in printings 1-5, 12, and 14-32. The back cover for printings 6-11 and 13 had no ad, but a First Class badge.
3rd Edition, back cover, with ad 3rd Edition Cover
3rd Edition, back cover, no ad 3rd Edition Silver Cover (21st printing special)

4th Edition cover art (below) by Norman Rockwell, 1939 Brown & Bigelow Scout calendar painting "The Scouting Trail," featuring a Cub Scout, Boy Scout with pack (and red neckerchief), and Sea Scout against a green background. All back covers had a US Tire ad.
4th Edition, back cover 4th Edition Cover

This truly revised handbook was the first major rewriting of the Handbook and was a massive improvement over the earlier editions. It could be called the first modern Handbook and does not differ too much in layout or content from recent editions, except for the lack of color printing. Many collectors consider all printings of the Revised Handbook to be a single edition. Others consider the last seven printings to be a separate edition, because the 1940 handbook had a new cover and contained major revisions.

The early printings are the only Handbooks ever to discuss and recommend military drill for Scouts (the Handbook for Scoutmasters of this era devotes an entire chapter to it and recommends drill according to the US Army Infantry Drill Regulations for "five or ten minutes ... each meeting ... to keep up the morale of the troop"). Scouts of this period were supposed to learn 17 individual commands and 25 patrol and troop movements, all of which were deemed essential to good order, not only during meetings and in parades, but even on hikes. Ironically, Baden-Powell, Scouting's founder and a retired army General, strongly recommended against military drill for Scouts.

The later printings of the 3rd Edition are the first to tell Scouts how to wear a neckerchief properly (neckerchiefs were optional until about the early 1920s). The 3rd Edition for some reason does not discuss lost procedures (the 8th Edition also omits procedures for being lost in the woods). Both the 3rd and 4th Editions list only eight planets in our solar system; although Pluto was discovered in 1930, it took the BSA several printings and more than a decade to add it to the Handbook's planet table.

The later printings of the 3rd Edition finally correct the misinformation about puberty discussed above; at the same time, the book adds a brief discussion of wet dreams. About this time, the BSA changed the explanation about alcohol. Early 3rd Edition printings correctly label alcohol a depressant, but later ones, along with all 4th Edition printings, call it a stimulant, which, in spite of appearances, it is not.

All printings except the special 21st printing of 1935 (BSA 25th anniversary & the 5-millionth handbook) had green type instead of black (the 21st printing had black type, like all other handbooks before and since).


3rd & 4th Editions Summary and Printing History

Combined Total for 3rd/4th Editions
As evidenced by the continuous numbering of the official printings, these two "Editions" are truly a single book.

3rd Edition

4th Edition


Actual 3rd & 4th Editions Table of Contents

3rd Edition

4th Edition

Continued Back to Start