Why Square Knots
The square knot is used as the basis for at least 30 of the BSA's recognition
awards which carry an emblem for uniform wear. Remember that the actual award is
NOT the square knot itself, but rather in the Cub Scout leader's case, a medallion
suspended from a colorful ribbon which is worn around the neck of the Cub Scouter.
Hopefully after the first of the year, I'll have copies of all of the awards and
their associated square knot emblem on the
Unofficial Uniform and Insignia
site I maintain and which is linked to the US Scouting Service Project.
The actual reason why the square knot was chosen is rooted in the history of
the BSA. The first Chief Scout Executive, James West, decided to end the long tradition
of allowing BSA Scoutmasters and Commissioners to wear military medal ribbons and
other military-looking ribbons to represent Scouting awards. It is rumored that
he chose the square knot as the emblem to represent the Eagle, Scouters' Key and
Scouters' Training Award, and the Silver Beaver (the first awards for Scouters to
wear) because the square knot would remind Scouters to continue to be of service
to others. The square knot, of course, is the knot associated with first aid. So,
with different combinations of rope colors, and later with different background
colors, the square knot became Scouting's "informal ribbons" representing national,
regional, local Council, and eventually unit awards.
There isn't any written confirmation of the above, but this description and reasoning
has been published in previous editions of Scouting
as well as on several websites (including my own).
Oh, the national awards without a square knot:
- the Silver World Award
- the Sea Badge
- the District Award of Merit
- the Ranger Award
- the Youth Leadership in America Award, and
- the Silver Fawn Award (which shared the square knot with the Silver Beaver)
(MAJ) Mike L. Walton (settummanque, the blackeagle)
Board Member, US Scouting Service Project, Inc.
Page updated on:
July 30, 2012