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Building Character in the American Boy: The Boy Scouts, YMCA, and Their Forerunners, 1870-1920
by David Macleod
University of Wisconsin Press, 2004
Cloth: 978-0-299-09400-3 | Paper: 978-0-299-09404-1
Library of Congress Classification HS3313.M25 1983
Dewey Decimal Classification 369.43/0973

Among established American institutions, few have been more successful or paradoxical than the Boy Scouts of America. David Macleod traces the social history of America in this scholarly account of the origins of the Boy Scouts and other character-building agencies, through which adults tried to restructure middle-class boyhood.

Back in print; First paperback edition.
David I. Macleod, professor of history at Central Michigan University, was involved with the Boy Scouts from ages eight through twenty. He is author of The Age of the Child: Children in American 1890–1920.

"A social history that goes well beyond its immediate subject to be a contribution to our understanding of turn-of-the-century education, male sex roles, and middle-class development."—American Journal of Education

“Far more than a narrow description of boys' work agencies from 1870-1920, this book illuminates, with rich, carefully hewn detail, important features of the social, structural, and cultural landscape of that era. . . . Scholars with an interest in character and social structure will find much of value in this book.”—John F. Stolte, Sociology and Social Research

  • Contents 
    • Tables
    • Preface
    • Acknowledgments
    • Part I: 
    • Anxious Adults Confront a Changing World of Boyhood
      • 1. 
      • Growing Up: Boyhood, Social Class, and Social Change
      • 2. 
      • Character Building: Adult Ambitions and Concerns
    • Part II: 
    • Nineteenth-Century Beginnings: Early Forms of Boys' Work
      • 3. 
      • Keeping Lower-Class Boys Off the Streets: The Mass Boys' Clubs
      • 4. 
      • Shielding and Strengthening the Middle Class: The Start of YMCA Junior Departments
      • 5. 
      • Forerunners of Scouting: Temperance Orders and the Boys' Brigades
    • Part III: 
    • Reorientation and New Forms of Organization, 1900–1920
      • 6. 
      • Adolescence and Gang-Age Boyhood: An Ideology for Character Building
      • 7. 
      • The Attempted Professionalization of YMCA Boys' Work
      • 8. 
      • The Invention of Boy Scouting
      • 9. 
      • The Organization and Expansion of the Boy Scouts of America
    • Part IV: 
    • Winning Public Favor and Building a Constituency
      • 10. 
      • Boyhood, God, and Country: Creation and Defense of a Public Image
      • 11. 
      • Winning Institutional Support and Volunteer Leaders
      • 12. 
      • Recruiting a “Fine Lot of Lads”
    • Part V: 
    • Character Building in Practice
      • 13. 
      • Camping: An Organized Setting for the New Boyhood
      • 14. 
      • Adult Instruction and Boys' Responses
      • 15. 
      • Group Experience, Membership Turnover, and Age Stratification
    • Conclusion and Epilogue
    • Notes
    • Index

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