In 1915 a committee was formed to look into development of supporting literature for the merit badge program. Initially, the use of a single volume, similar to the “Boy Scout Tests and How to Pass Them” was considered, but by 1918 the decision was reached to issue a separate pamphlet for each subject.

To secure the level of expertise desired for the content of the pamphlets, the Boy Scouts of America turned to authors recognized as experts in their fields and requested them to volunteer their knowledge. Many did so, creating a library of authoritative information which has been widely used not only by scouts, but by the general public as well.

From a collector’s standpoint there are several methods of collecting the pamphlets. The most comprehensive method is to acquire a copy of each printing of every merit badge title. The total number of different  printings of all pamphlets is unknown. Another method is to collect one of each major cover variation of each title. Other methods include collecting only the pamphlets of a given period (say the years one was a scout), the pamphlets of the badges required for the Eagle Scout Award, or pamphlets pertaining to a given theme (campcraft, farming, etc.), or pamphlets for a given merit badge title (Camping, Electricity, Safety, etc)

There have been 16 series or major varieties of cover-styles:

Type 1.  White Cover 5” x 7 3/8” (Circa 1918 & 1919)  “BE PREPARED” across the top of the front cover with an illustration pertaining to the badge. There are two variations within this series. The “A” variation has and address by Woodrow Wilson on the inside front cover page ii, followed by in introduction on pages iii and iv. Page v list the requirements for the merit badge. The “B” variation has “Address of President Woodrow Wilson to the National Council …” on page ii, followed by and introduction on pages iii and iv. Pages v, vi, vii, viii and ix present information for Applications, Local Authorities, The Examination, Court of Honor Procedure, Presentation of Awards, and Special Scout Awards. Page x list the merit badge requirements. Currently on 7 titles are known to exist from this series.

        

                 

Type 2. White Cover 5 3/8” x 8” (Circa 1919)  “BE PREPARED” across the top of the front cover with an illustration pertaining to the badge. There are two variations within this series. The “A” variation has “Address of President Woodrow Wilson to the National Council …” on page ii, followed by and introduction on pages iii and iv. Pages v, vi, vii, viii and ix present information for Applications, Local Authorities, The Examination, Court of Honor Procedure, Presentation of Awards, and Special Scout Awards. Page x list the merit badge requirements. The “B” variation list the merit badge requirements on the inside cover, pages iii and iv are the introduction.

               

   

Type 3. White Cover 5 3/8” x 8” (Circa 1919)  HOW TO “BE PREPARED” across the top of the front cover with an illustration pertaining to the badge. There are two variations within this series. The “A” variation has “Address of President Woodrow Wilson to the National Council …” followed by and introduction on pages iii and iv. Pages v, vi, vii, viii and ix present information for Applications, Local Authorities, The Examination, Court of Honor Procedure, Presentation of Awards, and Special Scout Awards. Page x list the merit badge requirements. The “B” variation list the merit badge requirements on the inside cover, pages iii and iv are the introduction.

               

     

Type 4. White Cover 5 3/8” x 8” (Circa 1920)  “BE PREPARED” across the top of the front cover with an illustration pertaining to the badge.  The illustration has a ¼” shadow on all sides. The inside front cover list the merit badge requirements, pages iii and iv are the introduction.

      

Type 5. White Cover 5 3/8” x 8” (Circa 1921 – 1925)  The title of the badge printed in large letters at the top of the cover. The requirements or a portion of them are contained in a framework surrounded by foliage on either side, in which a First Class emblem appears on the left and the merit badge emblem on the right. At the base of the framework is an illustration pertaining to the badge.

   

Type 6. Tan Cover (Circa 1925 - 1928) Two line address of 200 Fifth Avenue, New York City.

   

Type 7. Tan Cover (Circa 1928 - 1945) Two line address of Two Park Avenue, New York City.

   

Type 8. Tan Cover (Circa 1936 - 1937)  Two line address of Two Park Avenue, New York, N.Y.

   

Type 9. Tan Cover (Circa 1939 - 44) One line address of Two Park Avenue, New York, N.Y.

   

Type 10. Standing Scout Cover (Circa 1939 – 1945) Fig 10.  Full color illustration of scout in uniform on the left side of cover. Left side of cover is white. Right side of cover is red with badge title in black across the top and an illustration of the badge in black.

Type 11. Red and White (Circia 1944 – 1952) Fig 11a & 11b. There are two variations in this series. The “A”, used in 1944 had a heavy cardboard stock cover. The “B” used from 1945 on was a slick clay coated cover stock. Both “A & B” variations have a white upper half that contains the title and an illustration of the badge. Both have a lower half that is red. The back of the“A” variety has a eagle and a “WARTIME BOOK” statement.  The “B” varieties have either a blank back cover or starting in 1951 an advertisement for Boy’s Life magazine.

         

Type 12. Photo-Red Cover (Circa 1949 – 1966) Fig 12. A photo replaced the white top half of the previous series while the bottom half remained red. There are photo variations within this series. During the 18 years these were printed the photo on the top half was changed or updated several times for some titles. The backs are printed with several different images.

Type 13. Full Photo Cover or Bulls-eye Cover (Circia 1966 – 1971) Fig 13. The title of the merit badge is superimposed in white on a full-page photo pertaining to the subject. The illustration of the badge in the lower right-hand corner of the cover is surrounded by a red circle, hence “bulls-eye”. Variations of some titles exist due to cover photo changes.

Type 14. Full Photo – Green Stripe Cover (Circa 1971 – 1979) Fig 14. The title of the badge appears at the top of the cover against a stripe of green background. The rest of the cover features a photo pertaining to the subject of the badge. Variations of some titles exist due to cover photo changes.

Type 15. Full Photo – Red Stripe Cover (Circa 1980 – 2007) Fig 15. The title and an illustration of the badge appear at the top of the cover between two red stripes. The rest of the cover features a photo pertaining to the subject of the badge. Variations of some titles exist due to cover photo changes.

 

Type 16. Blue Stripe – Full Color Badge (Circa 2008 – Current) Fig 16. The front cover has a blue stripe at the top and bottom of the cover. There is a full color photo of the merit badge on the cover.

Special Covers. Some merit badge pamphlets were printed with special covers. Most notable are the four Aviation subject pamphlets (in blue covers), the Atomic Energy pamphlet, and special Jamboree editions of Finger Printing and Wildlife Management. The latter two were used in the Merit Badge Mid-ways of the Jamborees. Two other pamphlets were developed with commercial aid: Motorboating and Railroading, which appear in editions by Evinrude Motors and “Compliments of the Association of American Railroads” respectively.