When scouting began in the U.S. in 1910, the rank badges were issued only as pins. The Tenderfoot pin was worn on the left pocket flap. Second Class and First Class were worn on the left sleeve. Life, Star and Eagle were worn above the left pocket as illustrated here. This would change several times over the years.
Cloth badges for Second Class, First Class, Life and Star were first issues in 1913. Tenderfoot was thought of as a temporary rank and before 1921 was represented as a pin similar to the presentation of the Bobcat pin in Cub Scouts before it became a cloth badge.
Although Tenderfoot by itself was not issued as a cloth badge until 1921, Tenderfoot as a combination badge with scribe or bugler was issued in 1916 and 1917 respectively. Likewise, Second Class and First Class were issued in the same years with scribe and bugler. Since Life and Star were not worn on the sleeve, they were not made as combination badges.
In these early years, the pins and cloth badges were issued in both gold and silver. Silver denoted the scout was a patrol leader. Gold was for everyone else. Again, since only Second Class, First Class and Tenderfoot as a combination badge were worn on the sleeve, only these ranks were made in gold and silver. Even with the silver badge, scouts were given patrol leader and assistant patrol leader green bars cloth badges beginning in 1914 and senior patrol leader in 1915.
Until 1925, Life was earned before Star. In 1914, my research indicates that the eagle's head may have faced both ways. The Life badge I show which is from the collection of the Las Vegas International Scouting Museum, has the eagle facing left. From 1915-1924, the eagle heads for both Life and Star faced right. After the first Eagle cloth badge was issued in 1924 whose Eagle's head faced left, the Life and Star badges were redesigned to face left along with all the other ranks.
I find the combination badges very interesting. Today, we would never go to the extra expense to have combinations of badges made as one badge. Back then, I believe there was more importance placed upon looking sharp by not having so many individual badges sewn on the sleeve.
The scribe combination badge began in 1916 and the bugler combination badge began in 1917. They were discontinued in 1925. Each had two variations. The scribe position had two distinct types of detailing in the quills. One has smooth-edged quills and the other has ruffled quills. The bugle tassels come in both red and gold. The red tassels are much more common.
The rank badges also had their variations in the types of embroidered eagles. Most of these variations are minor and usually relate to the number of tail feathers. The most notable difference is the thickness of the scroll in the Second Class and First Class badges as pictured on the variations page.
The early ranks had some different features compared to today’s ranks. All the early ranks had a squatty/wide crown above the eagle with no line in the crown. The 'BE PREPARED' scroll had high smile as compared to a low smile today. And as mentioned above, the eagles head on the Life and Star faced right.
View images of the early types of rank badges on these pages:
Second Class Badges
First Class Badges
Life, Star and Eagle Badges
This is not an official site of the Boy Scouts of America. The rank badges are scaned images of Ron Vinatieri's collection and the scanned images are copyright. You are welcome to print these pages for your reference. However, if you would like to use the images in any other manner, you must receive permission from Craig Murray.
The information about the badges was obtained in part from Collecting Boy Scout Rank Badges by Paul Myers and from A Guide to Dating Boy Scouts of America Badges, Uniforms and Insignia by Mitch Reis.