The mystery of the neckerchief – resolved

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In last week’s post, we opened the mystery of who introduced the neckerchief to scouting. The neckerchief and campaign hat or iconic emblems of Lord Baden Powell. Yet he did not invent the neckerchief.

We also discovered last week that BP came to use the neckerchief because of his friend Fred.

So who was Fred?

Fred’s full name was Frederick Russell Burnham. He was born on an Indian reservation in Minnesota in 1861. His family was from Iowa. His father moved his family out to California to participate in the wind down to the Gold Rush. Fred was left alone in California at age 12 when his father died and his mother and sister moved back to be with family in Iowa. Fred took it upon himself to pay his father’s debts.

Over the next several years and it up finding his way into being a military scout in the Navajo War, centered on the Arizona territory. He learned Indian scouting techniques. He learned the importance of protecting oneself from the sun and its burning effects. Since he was working with US Cavalry, he wore a US Cavalry campaign hat. He adopted the common use in the Old West of the neckerchief to protect one’s neck and other body parts from the burning sun. As time went on, he continued to use these tools.

He married, and moved his new family to Alaska to participate in the goldrush there to seek his fortune. Since it did not work out as he had intended, he sought new opportunities.

He ended up seeing an advertisement for the new Rhodes’ Colony in Africa. He sold his goods and moved his family to the future Rhodesia. Upon arriving there in 1893, he found himself in the middle of a war. He quickly signed up with the British army. From there he participated in several other military expeditions until in 1896 he met Robert Baden Powell.

It is during the Second Matabele War the two men first worked together. By this time, Baden Powell had already written his first military manual on scouting. Yet, his experience in the field with Fred demonstrated that BP still had so much to learn. And as result of his experiences with Fred that BP ended up rewriting the military manual to write his eventually famous second military manual Aids to Scouting.

The two men discussed the need to train use when they had downtime during the war. The first seeds of Scouting for boys was developed.

BP with Burnham and unidentified man at 1910 Scouting event.

So it quickly becomes apparent when we watch Baden Powell and his dress, he began wearing the US cavalry campaign hat style and neckerchief after meeting and working with Fred.

So here we see that it is an American hat and American Old West neckerchief that has become the iconic symbols of BP and scouting worldwide. (Fred went on to receive the Silver Buffalo Award from the Boy Scouts of America, but that is a different story.)

What does that mean for us today? Maybe we should embrace the neckerchief as a truly American symbol and not as a British import.