(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
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
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
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.)
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.
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.
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 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.