Saturday, January 15, 2011

Happy 100th Birthday Boy's Life

One of the greatest enjoyments about this blog for me is continuously acquiring new insights about the history of America's marvelous history of periodical publishing.

Two day's ago I received an email from Carrie Christofferson, the curator of collections of the Newseum (with whom I have had a long and pleasant relationship as a a consultant) in Washington, forwarding me an email from the executive director of the Boy Scout's of America inquiring if they knew of anyone who owned the first issue of Boy's Life Magazine that, since 1912 has been their official publication.

I immediately wrote and phoned Mr Goldstein and soon received a call from their curator of collections, John Ingram. Mr. Ingram asked me whether I was willing to sell my copy and informed me that mine was one only two known to exist. He also told me something that I had not previously been aware of.

The present numbering of the magazine dates back to Volume One Number One, issued March 1, 1911. A quarto sized publication of forty-eight pages.

Until now I had believed that this issue (identified as the first March issue since it was intended to be published as a bi-monthly), was the genesis of the magazine. In fact it is not. On January 1, 1911, George Barton of Somerville Massachusetts published 5000 copies of Boy's Life. It was eight pages and 10 1/2 x 14 inches in size. For whatever reason, this format lasted for only one issue and Mr. Barton restarted the project, essentially a new series, in March with a new Volume 1 Number 1, the one I own. Here is the second issue, that featured a reprinted Jack London Story, that first appeared in another magazine, Youth's Companion, on November 30, 1899.

Mr. Ingram also told me that no actual copies of the January 1 issue are known to exist, but he did have a photocopy of the entire issue. He could not tell me how it was acquired. He kindly provided me with a digital copy and I hereby reproduce the first page your edification. I have lightly retouched it to remove a few generations of photocopy artifact and restored it to what is as close to its original condition as I can surmise.

Mr. Ingram also informed me that the BSA did not have any copies of two issues in their original or digital files, October 1911 and January 1912. I recalled that I had collected a few random early issues over the years and when I checked by files, I found that I indeed owned a copy of the October 1911 issue, which, at least for now, is the world's only copy! Here is the cover and title page. Is this the first use of the motto "Be Prepared" and it's accompanying logo?

I will be supplying the BSA with my copy to add to their digital files. That leaves one, January 1912, to complete the collection. By 1912, circulation was over 50,000, such is the rarity of these magazines.

Should anyone know the location of one, you can contact Mr. Ingram at

A lot more information about the early history of Boy's Life can be found here:

I hereby make a standing offer of $1000 to the first person who will sell me an original copy of Boy's Life January 1, 1911!

On the subject of the Boy Scouts, I believe I can add a little to the knowledge about one of its founders, Daniel Carter Beard. After I acquired this completely unknown and beautiful magazine. I found that the editor was none other than D.C Beard who I assume to be one and the same as the man who went on to become an icon of scouting.
I love magazines!!!!!!

Thanks for sharing my most recent adventure! It was fun to bring it to you.


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