The Book of Camp-Lore and Woodcraft

This is our fourth “handy book” by Dan Beard, the founder of the American Scouting movement, who believed that having boys build things with their hands was not only a determent to making mischief, but also the basis for building great lives. In this belief, Beard was indefatigable, and every Scout worth his merit badge was expected to read his classic tract on camp-lore and woodcraft.

In this classic, probably Dan Beard’s favorite among his many books, he takes boys on a camping trip and instructs them in the art of building a fireplace and lighting a fire, designing a campsite, cooking flapjacks (not to mention muskrats and porcupines), packing a trail horse, pitching a tent and handling an axe. His texts were successful, and continue to be successful, because they threw boys back to their own devices, encouraged initiatives, and gave a convincing argument that the outdoors provided excitement and could be enjoyed by anyone who took the time to prepare.

When we published the first book in this series (The American Boy’s Handy Book), we thought it might appeal to a few hundred aging Scouts who fondly remembered “the old days.” How wrong we were! With over 600,000 copies in print, the book is still selling strong. As Beard directed in 1930, “So, Boys
of the Open, throw aside your new rackets, your croquet mallets, and your boiled shirts. Pull on your buckskin leggings, give a war whoop and be what God intended you should be; healthy wholesome boys. This great Republic belongs to you and so does this book.” To which we can only say, “Amen!”

This title is now available as an eBook through Google Play.

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Before he became a scouting pioneer by starting the Sons of Daniel Boone in 1905, Beard was an artist. He was encouraged in this pursuit from an early age; his father, mother, and uncle were all successful artists. In the 1860s, he left his boyhood home in Kentucky to attend art school in New York City, where he joined the Student Art League and befriended illustrious personages such as Ernest Thompson Seton, Mark Twain, and Ernest Cosby. Beard would later illustrate books for Twain and Cosby, among many other authors.

The Sons of Daniel Boone began in a column Beard wrote for a magazine he edited, Recreation. He later moved his column to Woman’s Home Companion, which secured the rights to the group’s name and kept them after the column’s later move to Pictorial ReviewBeard thus changed the name to the Boy Pioneers of America. The renamed group kept its curriculum of healthful exercise and the outdoors traditions of American frontier life, a curriculum that influenced the Boy Scouts of America when the groups merged in 1910. Beard also encouraged girls to get involved in the outdoors lifestyle through his work with his sisters Lina and Adelia Beard, who wrote The American Girls Handy Book and helped start the Camp Fire Girls.