Collecting Girl Scout Handbooks, Part II: 1950-1977

(Part I is here.)

Last time in “Collecting Girl Scout Handbooks,” I covered the books published from the origins of Girl Scouting in the U.S. until 1947 – a period of only 35 years.  This post will cover the years from 1950 to 1977.  It’s fewer years, but it’s a lot more books.


1950: Leader’s Guide to the Brownie Scout Program

This book is covered (with pictures!) in Part I of this series.

1950:  Leadership of Girl Scout Troops, Intermediate Program

Written by Edith W. Conant and Martha Jane Smith, and pretty much just a revision of the 1943 guide designed to bring the leader’s info up to date with the 1947 edition of the Handbook.

1951: Brownie Scout Handbook

The Brownie Scout Handbook, 1950-1962. They all looked pretty much the same.

At last, a book for Brownie Scouts themselves!  Written by Ray Mitchell, with illustrations by Ruth Wood, this book went through 24 printings from 1951 to 1962.

These books are relatively easy to find on the used-book market – they’re similar in shape, size, and construction to your average Dr. Seuss hardback – but they are vanishingly difficult to find in Fine condition (which here mostly means “without a little girl’s name or crayon marks inscribed within”).

1953: Girl Scout Handbook

The official Girl Scout Handbook of 1953. If several million were printed, why haven’t I found even one? (Click for giant-size.)

Written by Catharine C. Reiley, based on research by Margarite Hall, and illustrated by Eleanor Dart and Alison Cummings, this Handbook was the latest and greatest revision since 1947.  This book was the first to arrange what had been eleven program fields into four main categories: “Adventuring in the Arts,” “Citizens Here and Abroad,” “Fun and Exploration in the Out-of-Doors,” and “You and Your Home.”  (Late-20th-century Scouts may hear echoes of the Five Worlds in those headings.)

Millions of copies of this book were printed – literally.  It went through a whopping 29 impressions, the largest print run of any Girl Scout Handbook ever up until that time, in both hard- and softcover editions (mostly to keep down printing costs).  Minor changes were made in 1954 and 1959.

1945: Senior Girl Scouting

The first thing a Senior Girl Scout learned post-WWII was to share her handbook – with everyone else in the troop.

Senior Girl Scouting was both the first “official” Senior Girl Scout Handbook and intended only as a temporary guide to transition Senior Scouts from a “home front” mentality to a peacetime mentality (though obviously the Cold War was right around the corner).  Earlier publications had consisted mostly of mimeographed pamphlets and the like, and were aimed at “Citizen Scouts” as well as “Senior Scouts” (the names appear to refer to the same group of Scouts).

Because paper was still being rationed when this book was released, GSUSA limited its distribution to one copy per Senior troop or Intermediate troop with a Senior patrol.  The book was revised in 1947, at which time paper rationing was no longer restricted.  Another revision, this one by Gwendolyn Elsemore, came out in 1952.

1956: Senior Leader’s Guide

A guide for leaders of Senior Girl Scouts had been available in some form as early as the 1940s, but the first guide that wasn’t a mimeographed pamphlet came out in 1956.  The book went through nine impressions in that year.

1963-1977: New Handbooks for Everyone!

(Note: Scouts and their leaders from 1930 to 1962 may remember the short-lived “Mariner Scout” and “Wing Scout” programs.  Because of their differences from the mainstream Girl Scout program and their extreme rarity (making them both hard to find and especially valuable), I will tackle these in a separate post.)

My copy of the 1963 Brownie handbook, encased in a vinyl cover that was probably meant to protect the book but is now protecting a mildew colony on the back cover. The Brownie book was slightly larger than the others.

1963 saw the release of a completely redeveloped Girl Scout program, including four new handbooks, written and released simultaneously so as to provide “progression without repetition.”  To emphasize the fact that this was a new “family” of handbooks, the books have similar covers.  They were released on September 9, 1963, accompanied by a nationwide “Handbooks are Here!” publicity campaign.

The 1972 printing of the 1963 Junior Girl Scout Handbook.

By far the most collectible editions of these books are the first editions sold between September 9 and September 14, 1963.  Each of these books was sold containing a nameplate that states the book is a first edition and was purchased during  the first week of sales.  The bookplate also has a space for the girl to write her name and a facsimile of then-GSUSA president Marjorie M. Culmer.

The 1963 edition of the Cadette Girl Scout Handbook, previously owned by a Mary Steinhart (see upper right corner).

A Japanese-language edition of these books was released in 1964, and a Spanish-language edition was released in 1965.  In 1975, the books were revised to show the updated uniforms, but the text was not changed.  The Brownie handbook went through 18 printings; the Junior and Cadette books went through 19 printings; and the Senior books went through 5 printings between 1963 and 1977.

The 1963-edition Senior Girl Scout Handbook. The cover is supposed to be “gold,” but all I can see are flashbacks of my mother’s kitchen, ca. 1977.

The Girl Scout Leader Notebook was also released in 1963, to accompany the handbooks for girls. The notebooks were precisely that – three-ring binders filled with looseleaf sheets, except the 1970 edition which was bound in wrappers (aka “paperback”). Not surprisingly, not many survived.

The Littlest Girl Scout was released in 1975, intended for leaders who were willing to try a pilot program with girls too young to be Brownie Scouts. This program would eventually become the Daisy Girl Scout program.



  1. Mars says:

    Thank you for these posts. I am going to try to do “Heritage Badges” with my girls this year and know know what books to look for in our Council Library. Thanks again!!!


  2. Stephanie says:

    I have one of the 1953 girl sout handbooks how much is it worth? any idea ? thank you


  3. Kari Uhlman says:

    Hello, I have the 1963 BROWNIE Girl Scout handbook. Any idea of its value? Thank you, kari


  4. Molly says:

    Thank you so much for these lists. The new program does not work for me or my girls, they want a more traditional GS experience. Your posts helped me track down the books I needed.

    For those wondering how much their books are worth, the worth is in the sentiment you have for GS. I didn’t pay more than $10 for any of the books I bought, and that includes a first edition 1963 Senior handbook.


  5. Daydre says:

    Thank you for all your helpful information. I do have one unanswered question. Does the fact that there is no writing in my book make it any more valuable? I have my grandmothers hard covered girl scout handbook ninth impression, September, 1946.


  6. Molly says:

    For those asking how much their book is worth, I can guarantee you that no matter the age, edition, or condition your book is not worth more than $20.
    If your copy means so little to you, put it up for sale on Amazon or donate it to a used book store so it can find a home with someone like me. Someone who wants to bring the rich tradition of Girl Scouts to the girls of today.


  7. Mary says:

    I’d be happy to donate mine – Junior Girl Scout Handbook – showing 6th printing 1964. Do you have any specific address? Email or otherwise? thanks!


  8. Mandy says:

    I have an original 1953 girl scout handbook if your interested


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  10. Pam says:

    I have a 1953 copy of the Girl Scout Handbook I’m willing to sell. It’s in very good condition and only have a small scrape on the front of the cover. The piece is still there and just needs glued down. Will sell for $15.00.


  11. Marjorie Searl says:

    This is a wonderfully informative site. Thank you. I winder if you are anyone reading this could help me pin down a memory. I was a Brownie and a Girl Scout in the fifties and early sixties. I have a strong memory of reading, I thought in a Scout handbook, a warning about using certain words that were considered unrefined or old-fashioned. I think that one of them was “leery.” Am I confusing the Scout handbook with an etiquette guide of the period, or did indeed the Scout handbook attempt to upgrade Scouts’ vocabularies?

    Many thanks.

    Margie Searl


  12. Debbie says:

    I have a 1963 brownie Girl Scout handbook anyone buying these? How much are they worth?


  13. Mary Catherine Sonntag says:

    Do you still have this book? I am looking for the sewing badge and requirements that are in that book.


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