Explorer Scout Insignia, ES-19Explorer Scouts (1933-1949)

After several years of experimentation in the west, mainly in Utah, Washington, and Oregon, going as far back as 1922, Explorer Scouts was approved by the National Committee in 1933 and became one part of the Senior Scout program in 1935.  It was in many ways a kind of 'land based', high adventure/advanced camping version of Sea Scouts.  When it first started, it was unclear the direction of the program.  Initially, they didn't have a true advancement program or distinct uniform.  Much of that came later. The early years of the program are unclear to me.  Little data exists on early standalone units for Explorer Scouts.  For example, in National statistics for Senior Scouting, there are no membership listings for Explorer Scouts between 1933 and 1936!  Explorer Scouts first existed only within Boy Scout Troops, organized into Explorer Scout Patrols.  At first, Explorer Scout units were called Troops.  It was only later on, probably around 1944 that the term "Post" was used for Explorer Scout units.

Then, in September of 1949, with the change in Senior Scouts, Explorer Scouts became simply Explorers.

Explorer Scout Program
The Explorer Scout program was built around the idea of advanced outdoor activities, going beyond what a 12/13 year Boy Scout could do.  This concept is what inspired the advancement and uniform of this program.

In 1944 the program was revamped, and the distinctive uniform and advancement was established.  In some ways, it was a new Explorer Scout program.

Explorer Scout Uniforms
At first, Explorer Scouts were not given their own distinct uniform.  They wore the regular Boy Scout khaki uniform, but with a shirt strip that read "Explorer Scout, BSA", later "Explorer Scouts, BSA" in place of the regular "Boy Scouts of America" strip.  In 1944, a distinctive uniform for Explorer Scouts was developed.  This would be a forest green uniform that would quickly become the standard uniform of Explorers.  With this forest green uniform, brown on green unit numerals and community strips were developed.  A brown tie would be worn with the forest green uniform.  Explorers could also wear the regular khaki scout uniform with a maroon tie (Boy Scouts did not wear ties, and adult leaders wore khaki ties).  No forest green shorts were produced, so they would wear khaki shorts with either the khaki shirt or the forest green shirt.

Explorer Scouts BSA strip, ES-02

Explorer Scout brown on green community and state stripsOverseas cap patch, ES-07Explorer Scout adult shoulder insignia, ES-04

There were also a variety of collar pins and lapel pins made.  Collar pins were 7/8 in and lapel pins 5/8.  There were available in both universal versions, and for the advisors.

Uniform Pins

Universal collar pin, ES-05

Universal lapel pin, ES-06

Advisor collar pin, ES-10

lapel pin

Assistant Advisor collar pin, ES-12

lapel pin

Explorer Scout Advancement Program
Initially, the advancement program for Explorer Scouts was the Explorer Scout Honors. Requirements can be seen here. These Honor bars would be worn on the right sleeve below the Explorer medallion.  They could, of course, work toward Eagle Scout.  And there would be Senior Scout Titles that they (and all other Senior Scouts) could work on.

In 1944, they would get a more distinctive advancement program like other Senior programs.  Inspired by both the four level advancement programs used by Sea Scout since 1924 and Air Scouts since 1942, Explorer Scouts would also get a four level program of Apprentice, Woodsman, Frontiersman, and Ranger. The requirements are given here. This program would end when Explorer Scouts became Explorers in 1949, and this program was replaced by the new advancement program for Explorers.

Requirements for Explorer Scout Honors are HERE.
Requirements for Senior Scout Titles are HERE.
Requirements for the "Ranger" Program are HERE.

Explorer Scout Advancement, 1938-1944

Explorer Scout First Honors, SRS-08First Honors

Explorer Scout Second Honors, SRS-09Second Honors


Explorer Scout Advancement, 1944-1949

Apprentice, ES-20Apprentice

Woodsman, ES-21Woodsman

Frontiersman, ES-22Frontiersman

Ranger Award, ES-23Ranger

Ranger Medal with Presentation Box, ES-24

Ranger Award Knot, ES-25Ranger Knot

Explorer Scout Unit Organization
It appears that initially there were no Explorer Scout Units.  They existed only as Patrols within existing Boy Scout Troops.  When Explorer Scout Units were first established, they were called Troops. It is unclear what office insignia these Explorer Scout Troops used.  Probably regular Boy Scout office patches. Later, in 1944, units were called Posts.  These were subdivided into smaller groups first called Outposts, then later called Crews around 1946.  To better understand the terms used in the Explorer Scout program, here is a comparison with Boy Scout Troops and later Explorer Posts.

Explorer Patrol Leader patches were used during the early part of the program.  These patches were worn on the right sleeve below the Explorer medallion.  With the advent of Explorer Scout Posts, these were dropped.

Unit Term Comparison

Boy Scout Troop

Explorer Scout Post

Explorer Post


Post Advisor

Post Advisor

Senior Patrol Leader

Post Guide

Senior Crew Leader


Outpost, later Crew


Patrol Leader

Outpost Leader, later Crew Leader

Crew Leader


Post Secretary

Post Secretary


Explorer Scout Office Insignia, 1938-1946?

Explorer Scout Patrol Leader, SRS-10Explorer Patrol Leader

Explorer Patrol Leader with First Honors, SRS-11Explorer Patrol Leader with First Honors

Explorer Patrol Leader with Second Honors, SRS-012Explorer Patrol Leader with Second Honors


Explorer Scout Office Insignia, 1939-1944

Explorer Scout Advisor, SRS-06Advisor

Assistant Advisor  NO PICTURE


Explorer Scout Post Insignia, 1944-1949

Post Advisor, ES-08Post Advisor

Assistant Post Advisor, ES-09Assistant Post Advisor

Post Guide, ES-17Post Guide

Assistant Post Guide, ES-16Assistant Post Guide

Crew Leader, ES-15Crew Leader

Assistant Crew Leader, ES-14Assistant Crew Leader

Post Secretary, ES-18Secretary



While the program was approved in 1933 and run as an experimental program in years prior, the first 'official' manual for the program did not appear until 1938!! The Guide Books to Senior Scouting that first came out in 1935 did cover the Explorer Scout program, spending about a third of the booklet on the program. Most likely other literature did exist before then, but at this point this is unknown.

The first basic manual for Explorer Scouts was the Adventuring for Senior Scouts book.  It gave detailed information on advanced camping and high adventure activities, as well as requirements for Senior Scout Titles and Explorer Scout Honors.  It included information about the other senior scout programs, about a chapter each, but left the bulk of that to those program's manuals.

As a sort of ‘stop gap’ before the Explorer Scout Manual was released, in January of 1946, the first Hints on Explorer Leadership (#3481) was put out.  It had 49 pages (printed on only one side) of program information on the new Explorer Scout program (including advancement requirements), along with several articles reprinted from Scouting magazine.  It has little in common with the later Hints on Senior Scout Leadership.

Later a new Explorer Scout Manual was created.  This manual gave detailed information on how Explorer Scouts operated, and their new advancement program.

In 1943, Program Notebooks were begun.  The one for Senior Scouting covered all three main programs.

The only manual for adult leaders was the generic Hints for Senior Scout Leadership. Why nothing equivalent to a Scoutmaster Handbook was produced is unknown.

No Nationally published newsletter or magazine existed for the Explorer Scout program.  However, during this time, Scouting magazine ran a section devoted to the Senior Program in every issue.

Explorer Scout Literature

The Senior Program Guide Book (#3442)
early 1935?
Guide Book of Senior Scouting (#3442)
1935, Oct 
1938, January    3000 
1941, March      3000 

pamphlet, 72-76pg

The Senior Program Guide BookThe Guide Book of Senior Scouting

Adventuring for Senior Scouts (#3639)
Proof  1938 
1st      1938            693p+10p 
2nd     1939, Apr                        10000439 
3rd     1942, May 
4th      1942, Jun     692p    [revised 2nd printing, cover change] 
5th      1944, Jun     687p 
6th      1945, Apr    687p+8p 
7th      1946, Jan     686p+8p      5000146 

hardback book, edited by W.H. Hurt

Adventures for Senior Scouts, 1st editionAdventures for Senior Scouts, Revised edition

Explorer Scout Manual (#3506)
1st         1946, Oct    382p+2p   50000 
2nd        1947, Aug   382p         20000 

paperback book, written by Carl D. Lane

Explorer Scout Manual

Senior Scout Program Notebook
1943 (shown)
1945 (shown)
1946 (shown)         10000
1946-47 (shown)
1948-49 (shown)
1949-50 (shown)   18000

booklet, 128pg

Senior Scouting Program Notebook, 1943Senior Scouting Program Notebook, 1946-47Senior Scouting Program Notebook, 1948-49

Hints on Explorer Leadership (#3481)
1st      Jan, 1946

booklet, 57pg

Hints on Senior Scout Leadership
1st        1947    15000647
2nd       1948 
3rd       1949

booklet, 94pg

Hints on Senior Scout Leadership






Ranger awards













































































*- after the official end of the "Ranger program" in September of 1949, there was a two year grace period for those earning the award.

Source: BSA Annual Reports, as reported in Art Hyman's book The Scout in Aviation.

Updated: 11/01/2005mrb