Here are all the Scout Handbook covers, (including back covers, except when they were just a solid color).
Original Edition, 1910
Cover artwork modified from Baden-Powell, line drawing of a Scout holding a US flag on a staff (taken from B-P's Scouting for Boys, with the original British flag replaced with a US flag). [For comparison, the Baden-Powell original is to the right.]
First Edition, olive drab cover, back & front, 1911-12 (left, center)
First Edition, maroon cover, 1912-14 (right)
Cover artwork by Gordon Grant, line drawing of a Scout in front of a campsite waving his campaign hat, beckoning to the reader. Printings 1-3 had an olive drab background, and the 2nd printing reprint plus printings 4-10 had a maroon background. There apparently were also some "special" printings with orange or light green covers. All back covers were the same color as the front, with a First Class badge.
Second Edition, first cover variant, grey background, 1914-16 (top row, left)
Second Edition, second cover variant, rose or red background, 1916-17 (top row, middle)
Second Edition, second cover variant, pale green background, 1917-20 (top row, right)
Second Edition, third cover variant, olive green background, 1921-27 (bottom row, left)
Second Edition, back cover (back covers through printing 23 were plain color, from the 24th printing on, they had this ad; bottom row, middle)
Original Saturday Evening Post cover, 1911 (bottom row, right)
Cover artwork by J. C. Leyendecker, painting of a pair of Scouts (wearing red neckerchiefs) signaling in semaphore. The original picture was a Saturday Evening Post magazine cover (donated to the BSA) and had the Scouts using Morse code flags to send a non-existent semaphore letter. Both mistakes were eventually corrected by BSA artists, who also updated the equipment pictured on the Scouts. There are three variants of the Leyendecker painting: original (printings 11-14), second version (reverses picture, which changes non-existent semaphore letter to 'L', and also places the patrol colors on the right sleeve; printings 15-23), third version (changes Morse flags to semaphore, removes diamond pattern from top of Scout's socks, updates some of the equipment worn by the Scouts; printings 24-37). And there are five different background colors: grey (printings 11-14), rose or red (15th & 16th printings), pale green (printings 17-22), olive green (printings 23-37).
Back covers were the same color as the front cover. Through the 23rd printing, the back cover was blank; from the 24th printing on, the back cover had a United States Bicycle Tire ad.
Third Edition, back cover, with ad (printings 1-5, 12, 14-32; left)
Third Edition, back cover, no ad (printings 6-11, 13; second from left)
Third Edition, standard cover, 1927-40 (second from right)
Third Edition, special silver cover, 1935 (5000 copies of 21st printing to commemorate the 5 millionth copy of the handbook; right)
Cover art by Norman Rockwell, 1929 Brown & Bigelow Scout calendar painting "Spirit of America" (painted in 1927). It featured the profile of a Scout in campaign hat and red neckerchief against a blue background containing the profiles of American heroes (Lincoln, Washington, Ben Franklin, Teddy Roosevelt, a frontiersman, an Indian, and Charles Lindbergh, who had just completed his famous flight). Lindbergh replaced a conquistador between the initial sketching and final painting. The silver cover appeared on about 5000 copies of the 21st printing to commemorate the five-millionth copy of the Handbook. The back cover had a US Tire ad in printings 1-5, 12, and 14-32. The back cover for printings 6-11 and 13 had no ad, but a First Class badge.
Fourth Edition, back & front, 1940-48
Cover art by Norman Rockwell, 1939 Brown & Bigelow Scout calendar painting "The Scouting Trail," featuring a Cub Scout, Boy Scout with pack (and red neckerchief), and Sea Scout against a green background. All back covers had a US Tire ad.
First two printings (two left pictures)—painting of a patrol of Scouts hiking down a wooded trail, wearing campaign hats and red neckerchiefs. Cover art by BSA art director Don Ross, who also did the covers of the Scoutmaster Handbook and the Wolf, Bear, and Lion Cub Scout books of that period.
Remaining ten printings (two right pictures)—painting of two Scouts (red neckerchiefs) and an Explorer, all in overseas caps, sitting around a campfire with the smoke forming an Indian behind them. (The cover picture was changed because of the BSA's switch from campaign hats to overseas caps. Similar changes were made to the cover and inside illustrations of the Handbook for Scoutmasters. This occurred even though the campaign hat remained optional.) Don Ross may have also painted this cover, but I can't find a signature on the cover. All back covers had a US Bike Tire ad.
Sixth Edition, back & front, 1959-65
Cover art by Norman Rockwell, painting done in 1959 of a Scout with pack, walking by and waving. The Scout is wearing a red neckerchief as usual, overseas cap, and leggings (for many years in the '50s and '60s, the BSA promoted leggings through their artwork, though these were seldom worn by Scouts outside of the handbooks and catalogs). An interesting error, never detected in seven printings, is the Scout's belt—which is backwards (BSA artists later corrected the error on the original painting). Due to lack of time, Rockwell painted only the figure itself, someone else filled in the background scene of Scouts hiking and in camp. This is the only Rockwell painting done specifically as a Handbook cover, in honor of the BSA's 50th Anniversary. The back cover continues the scene from the front cover background.
Seventh Edition, back & front, 1965-72
Cover art by Dom Lupo, painting of Scouts in various hats and neckerchiefs, wearing backpacks and smiling. The background is a camp scene very similar to that of the 6th Edition, also continued onto the back cover.
First three printings (two left pictures)—two-tone green cover (the Scoutmaster Handbook, Patrol and Troop Leadership book, Leadership Corps book, Troop Committee Guidebook, and other manuals of this era all had the same boring two-tone green cover). The Scout Handbook has a color sketch in the upper right corner of four Scouts in blue neckerchiefs and red berets looking through a telescope at the moon. This was the first Scout Handbook not to have a complete cover picture. Artist unknown. The back cover has a brief paragraph about the handbook.
Last two printings (two right pictures)—Joseph Csatari's 1976 painting "All Out for Scouting", featuring Scouts walking across the white cover dressed and equipped for Scout-like activities (backpacking, burro-packing, skin diving, archery, canoeing, fishing, cooking, rappelling, map & compass). This picture also appears inside the 9th Edition and on the back cover of the 12th Edition. The back cover continues the picture.
Ninth Edition, first & second cover variants, back & front, 1979-90
Cover artwork by Norman Rockwell, 1970 Brown & Bigelow Scout calendar painting "Come and Get It," featuring a scene at Schiff Scout Reservation (former BSA National Training Center in New Jersey) of Scouts (in yellow neckerchiefs) cooking and canoeing. The 9th Edition will probably be the last Handbook to have a Norman Rockwell cover. Because Rockwell painted his last Scout picture before the BSA redesigned the Scout uniform in 1981, modern Scouts will tend to think of the Scouts in Rockwell's paintings as old-fashioned, much the way most of us probably think when we see earlier Rockwell paintings showing Scouts in knickers and campaign hats. The back cover has a quick reference tab and a table of contents.
Tenth Edition, back & front, 1990-98
Cover artwork is a glossy cover with three color action photographs (rappelling, camping/hiking, white-water rafting) superimposed on a photograph of a pine branch, compass, Eagle medal, First Class badge, merit badge sash, baseball & bat, and carabiner, spread across the front and back cover. This is the first Handbook cover not to show any Scout in full uniform (they are wearing an unpopular, expensive, and short-lived variant of the "Class B" uniform BSA called the "activities uniform").
Eleventh Edition, back & front, 1998-2009
Cover art is photograph of two backpackers hiking with a snow-capped mountain in background, with photos of a bald eagle and green oak leaf superimposed. Back cover shows photos of a Scout campsite, a Scout kayaking, some colorful pebbles, and a tiger salamander. The only obvious Scouts are in the smaller back-cover photo which shows three Scouts in "Class B" uniforms.
Twelfth Edition, back & front, 2009-2015
Cover art is the large word "Scout" with a photo of boys white-water rafting above, and a photo of a juvenile bald eagle's head and US flag below. Back cover has a reproduction of Joseph Csatari's 1976 "All Out for Scouting" painting and a photo of a Scout on a zip line. The front-cover subjects are not obviously Scouts since they are not wearing uniforms; the zip-liner on the back cover is wearing a Scout T-shirt; and the Scouts in Csatari's painting are wearing the pre-1981 uniform.
Thirteenth Edition, back & front, 2016-2019
Cover art shows Scouts climbing, cycling, canoeing, raising the flag, and zip-lining, along with a bald eagle. Back cover continues the picture with Scouts cooking, fishing, and releasing a weather balloon. The 2017 release changed the front cover to delete the bald eagle and the cyclist, and added three Scouts watching a model rocket take off. For the first time since 1990, the Handbook cover shows some Scouts in full uniform.
Fourteenth Edition for girls, 2019-??
Fourteenth Edition for boys, 2019/2020-?? (copyright 2019, but not released until January 2020)
BSA is changing the covers of all its handbooks to a plain background color with an appropriate program- or position-specific emblem below the title. This is only the second Scout Handbook not to have a full-cover picture (the 8th Edition had a small cartoon in the corner). The 14th Editions have a large First Class badge below the title. The girls' version has a green emblem & lettering on a tan background; the boys' version has a gold emblem & lettering on a green background.
Last Revision to This Page: 9 January 2021
Text copyright © 2001-21 by Troop 97 BSA
Handbook pictures copyright © by Boy Scouts of America