The Grail Code 
Boy Scouts and Nazis

I found a swastika in my front yard this afternoon.

I suppose I might have been worried about that if the swastika had been put there recently, but it wasn’t. As far as I can tell, most of the gang activity in my neighborhood is softball-related rather than neo-Nazi. This swastika was on a copper medal, about the size of a half-dollar, and it must have been dropped about seventy-five years ago. I found it while I was digging in a flowerbed. Odd things turn up when you dig around an old house.

With a little gentle cleaning, I was able to read most of the letters on the medal and make out most of the images. Below the swastika, which takes up most of one side (probably the reverse), are the words “GOOD LUCK”; around the edge of the medal is written “MEMBERSHIP EMBLEM OF THE BOY SCOUTS CLUB.” Inside the swastika are smaller images of a horseshoe, a four-leaf clover, a wishbone, and something I can’t quite make out that might be Egyptian hieroglyphs. On the other side (the obverse, I suppose) is a boy scout on a horse; above him the words “BOY SCOUTS,” and around the edge, “MANUFACTURED BY THE EXCELSIOR SHOE C’POR…” (the rest being illegible).

I said “swastika,” and you thought Nazis, didn’t you? I certainly did when I saw a swastika glinting at me between the calendulas. But the swastika wasn’t always a Nazi symbol. Before the Nazis were invented, it was a popular emblem of good luck, and one of my neighbors pointed out that you can still see swastikas carved in the stone on some houses in Pittsburgh. It was an ancient Indian symbol; Rudyard Kipling used it as his personal logotype. (Few of his books made it through World War II unmutilated.)

The problem with understanding history is that we carry a lot of baggage with us when we try to go back in time. Every decent human being feels an instant and powerful revulsion at the sight of a swastika—probably even people who specialize in historical symbolism and know the history of the symbol far better than I do. But that revulsion is conditioned by some exceptionally ugly historical associations that are comparatively recent. In 1920, very few people would have identified the swastika as a symbol of evil. It was as harmless as a four-leaf clover.

Being able to set aside our historically conditioned revulsions is often what separates good history from history that misses the point. I did the natural thing when I found this medal in my front yard: I looked on the Internet to find out when and for how long the Boy Scouts used the swastika. Almost every site I came up with was like this one, revealing the SHOCKING TRUTH that the Boy Scouts once used the SYMBOL OF EVIL in their own literature and on their own medals. It may well be possible to establish that the swastika was introduced into America by an evil conspiracy (I doubt it, but I leave the possibility open), but it’s pretty obvious just by looking at this medal what the Boy Scouts thought of the swastika. It’s as happy and innocent as pulling on a wishbone.

I can never really succeed in seeing the swastika as a cheery token of good luck in a league with horseshoes and wishbones. The Nazis were just too horrible. To understand history, however, we have to know how the people who designed the medal felt about the symbol, even if we can’t feel that way ourselves.

23 Responses to “Boy Scouts and Nazis”

  1. Tinny Ray Says:

    Thanks for the post. good points. Of course, the symbol you describe was flat on one side (as if drawn within a square). German National Socialists did not call their symbol a swastika. Also, their symbol was turned 45 degrees to the horizontal, as if within a diamond. It emphasized the 2 overlapping S-shapes for “socialism” under the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Also, the boy scouts used the stiff-arm salute in the USA (and they spread it internationally) for 3 decades before it was adopted by German National Socialists. It was the early salute to the Pledge of Allegiance. http://rexcurry.net/pledge2.html

  2. The Grail Code» Blog Archive » More Boy Scouts (and fewer Nazis) Says:

    [...] I linked to a Web site with what I thought were some dubious theories about the swastika and the Boy Scouts. Almost immediately the author of that site posted a comment on my article (you can read it here). I couldn’t pass up the chance to render my thanks both for the politeness of the comment and the time it took to write it. [...]

  3. Pam Gibson Says:

    My mother has a medal like the one discribed here. We tried to finish the sentence you couldn’t read… after Shoe is a C, then it reads Portsmouth O.

  4. HILL SILLY Says:

    swastikas mean you are a boy scout..even the diagnal German ones

  5. Mark Says:

    I have one of those medals.

    Is it worth anything?

  6. willie Says:

    i nave a friend that found on of these medals is it worth anything

  7. patricia Marshall Says:

    I JUST RECENTLY WAS GIVEN ONE OF THESE METALS AS WELL. IS IT WORTH ANYTHING/ I was very happy to see that this metal was listed so I could find out about it.

  8. sam ratliff Says:

    the metal is a shoe tag from a shoe made by the Excelsior shoe Co. in Portsmouth Ohio. The shoe was a style of boyscout shoe. The building still exists and is occupied by Mitchellace Inc. a shoe lace manufacturer. I also have one of these coins that I found in the building while working at Mitchellace

  9. Jim from Denver Says:

    use of the “swastika” by the nazi’s occurred in the late 30s and 40s. Obviously use of the symbol before the creation of the nazi party CAN NOT be related to the nazi’s unless somebody believes they invented a time machine and were able to influence symbolism before they existed.

    Here is info on the symbol. Boy Scout use was no different than other uses prior to the 1930s.

    The swastika is an equilateral cross with arms bent at right angles, all in the same direction, usually the right, or clockwise. The swastika is a symbol of prosperity and good fortune and is widely dispersed in both the ancient and modern world. It originally represented the revolving sun, fire, or life. The word swastika is derived from the Sanskrit swastika which means, “conducive to well- being”. The swastika was widely utilized in ancient Mesopotamian coinage as well as appearing in early Christian and Byzantium art, where it was known as the gammadion cross. The swastika also appeared in South and Central America, widely used in Mayan art during that time period.

    In North America, the swastika was a symbol used by the Navajos. The swastika still continues today to be an extensively used sign in Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism. In Buddhism, a swastika represents resignation. In Jainism, it delineates their seventh saint, and the four arms are also used to remind the worshiper of the four possible places of rebirth; the animal or plant world, in Hell, on Earth, or in the spirit world. To Hindus, the swastika with the arms bent to the left is called the sathio or sauvastika, which symbolizes night, magic, purity, and the destructive goddess Kali. In both Hinduism and Jainism, the swastika or sathio is used to mark the opening pages or their account books, thresholds, doors, and offerings.

    The swastika was a symbol for the Aryan people, a name which, in Sanskrit means “noble”. The Aryans were a group of people who settled in Iran and Northern India. They believed themselves to be a pure race, superior to the other surrounding cultures. When the Germans looked for a symbol, they looked for a symbol which represented the purity which they believed they contained. The Nazis regarded themselves as “Aryans” and tried to steal the accomplishments of these pre-historic people.

  10. franklin Says:

    “It’s as happy and innocent as pulling on a wishbone.”

    hmm. since when was Ceremonial Magick “innocent”?

  11. David Davis Says:

    I am a metal collecter. I found one of these coins the other day. It has a date of 1910 on it. Is it worth anything.

  12. AlbertHeider Says:

    I JUST WANT TO KNOW IF THE COIN HAS ANY VALUE?

  13. candice Says:

    I dug up a coin as well putting a pond in my back yard. The full reading is ” good luck manufactured by the Excelsior shoe Co Portsmouth OH” it also reads in very small print ” schware(?) Milwaukee” the other side reads “the Excelsior metal shoe for boys July 1910″

  14. J.Boling Says:

    The most popular question seems to be about the value of this medal (that is meDal, by the way, even though it is made of meTal). Current values on eBay run from $4.50 to over $40, depending on condition and variety (there are at least 12 known variations of this “coin”, all by Excelsior Shoe Co.). Also, many sellers on eBay have a very inflated notion of what their “prize” is worth and that is reflected in their asking price. Realistically,$6-$8 is probably a good value in VG to Ex condition; if it is one of the varieties that actually says “Boy Scout” (not all do), you might realize 2-3 dollars more.

  15. Emmie Walkup Says:

    Where I can get updated dollar exchange rates

  16. Jeanne Johnson Says:

    I have one of the “coins” also. Mine says” Boy Scouts. Manufactured by the Excelsior Shoe of Portsmouth O.” The opposite side has the words “Membership Emblem of the Boy Scouts Club Good Luck” the dreaded “swastika” has in each corner from left to right top a horse shoe, fourleaf clover; bottom left I can plainly see but don’t know what it is, then a wishbone. Thank you for clearing up the mystery. I would like to know what the objects in the bottom left represent. Thank You

  17. Leonard Thibadeau Says:

    Oddly enough I was sitting in a Boy Scout Committee meeting and I dug this coin, that I had been carrying around for a few days, out of my pocket. It was very tarnished, but on close examination I could see the words “Boy Scouts” and I could see the swastika. I’m worried about my memory since a coin like this doesn’t just jump into your pocket, but that is another story. My coin/medal is like others that are described, but the inscription “The Whitehead & Hoag Co. Newark, N. J.” can be found on the side with the swastika under the words “Good Luck.”. This is in very small letters that I missed on the first inspection. Thanks to Google I found the Whitehead and Hoag Co. listed as a company in Newark around the turn of the century making advertising novelties. So it seems that even though my coin says “Manufactured by the Excelsior Shoe Co Portsmouth,O.” it was probably made for them by Whitehead and Hoag.
    I also would like to know what the fourth symbol inside the swastika means.
    And as far as what the coin might be worth, I would say the Good Luck value far outweighs any dollar amount.

  18. Craig Murray Says:

    I have posted 5 versions each with a number of types of this token on my website. Pictures are included.
    The page the version links are from is:
    http://www.sageventure.com/coins/scout.html
    Enjoy

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