By 1953 the population of the USA was shifting west. California doubled in population from 1940 to 1953. Scouting officials recognized the touring possibilities of the west and sunny California. The Irving family were strong supporters of Scouting and their ranch would be an ideal location. It was nearly self contained, security wouldn’t be a problem and scouts could swim in the Pacific Ocean. It was in Orange County in the Newport Beach Area, Southeast of Los Angeles. Plans were made for 50,000 Scouts and Leaders to attend.

The 1953 was on a 3000 acre site above Pacific Coast Hwy (101) in Orange County, California. The site was owned by the Irvine Company and was basically just raw land. William H. Spurgeon III, was a Vice President of The Irvine Company and a high level local and national BSA volunteer. Spurgeon working with Orange County, Scouting Professionals pitched the idea to the Mr. Irvine the President and the plan was approved. The Irvine Corporation paid for the vast majority of the site improvements. Existing dirt roads had to be graded and improved. Water, sewer, and telephone lines needed to be installed. It was a huge undertaking with the US Military assisting and loaning some heavy equipment. Huntington Beach State Park, a short bus ride away, allowed the Scouts to use a mile of beach for swimming. This was the first Jamboree on the west coast and it offered wonderful touring opportunities. The Jamboree fee was $48 some of which was refunded, but most Scouts paid quite a bit more depending on transportation and touring stops. There was a tremendous amount to see between the east coast and Southern, California.

Chief Scout Executive Arthur Schuck’s greeting gives us some interesting information.

"This is the Jamboree of understanding and appreciating America because it is the Jamboree of seeing America. Our Jamboree emblem reminds us of the pioneers who set out in covered wagons across the Great Plaines and the Rockies to the Pacific. 45,000 of us from all over America set out to camp on the shores of the Pacific. The Jamboree itself besides being a lot of fun, is first-hand experience in citizenship. A fellow just had to be a participating member of his Patrol. Every Scout and Explorer was a citizen in his Troop, Section and Jamboree. The inspiration and know-how from this experience we will use in our Units, our community and our nation for the rest of our lives."

Arthur Schuck

This is a recurring theme throughout most successful Jamborees, the Jamboree had a higher purpose.
tours at the 1953 bsa natioal jamboree
Different tours took in different sights. Most who came by the northern route saw Mt Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Park and Devils Tower in Wyoming.
California welcomes scoutsFor four days before and four days after the Jamboree Los Angeles and southern California welcomed Scouts to tour the local sights. Hollywood movie sets, western scenes at Knotts Berry Farm, Catalina Island and an aircraft manufacturing plant.

Scouts welcome
Scouts and leaders were often surprised by the hospitality of the locals where they stopped. People bought them cold drinks, welcoming them to their community. In Los Angeles pretty girls handed Scouts oranges. It seemed apparent to many people that these Scouts might be our future leaders.

1953 boy scout jamboree
Slowly but surely the Jamboree came together. A huge parking lot for visitors. The biggest Arena that anyone had ever seen except perhaps those who were at 1950. A bank and bus terminals. A telephone switchboard with phones everywhere. The Trading Posts had to be stocked and each sub-camp had one. There was even a hospital and a zoo. It took Scouts a while to figure out where everything was.

activities at the 1953 bsa jamboree
activities at the 1953 bsa jamboree
Symbols of our American traditions were in view of Scouts at every turn. Old Glory at the end of the Avenue of Flags, and a giant Liberty Bell at the other. The early Jamborees were strong on Citizenship and reinforcing American Values. Scouts were inspired by these displays of our nations heritage.
Vice President Nixon 


President Eisenhower sent a filmed message, he had just completed the negotiated the end of the Korean War. Vice President Nixon toured the Jamboree spending the night with a troop from his home town, Whittier, CA. Nixon would hold the record for visiting the most Jamborees, two as Vice President and two as President.
1953 bsa jamboree arena
The Arena was spectacular, seating for 50,000 with a gigantic stage. At later Jamborees efforts would be made to have the arena in a valley or near hills, but the land was so flat it was difficult to see. When 50,000 Scouts marched to the show there was dust everywhere.

huge crowdsThe Korean War had just ended on July 1st and although the war was unpopular the majority of Americans thought that fighting and preventing the spread of Communism was important. Throughout the Jamboree one couldn’t help but see all kinds of signs of patriotism and citizenship. It didn’t need an explanation. Five hundred American Flags marching into the Arena. Hollywood stars singing patriotic songs. Constant encouragement about returning to your Scout units and community to be better leaders and citizens. Today with more emphasis on what's wrong with our country it was an amazing time to celebrate what was right. The stated mission of the 1950’s BSA was citizenship and character building through an outdoor program.

popular entertainment at 1953 bsa jamboreeBob Hope would become a Jamboree tradition as M.C. of arena shows. Lannie Davis, Debby Reynolds and others entertained. Most of Hollywood came out to visit the Jamboree, Jimmy Stewart visited three days.
Rodeo at the 1953 bsa national jamboree
rodeo at the 1953 national boy scout jamboree


One of the day-time arena shows had a western theme. Thousands of Scouts watched a real live western rodeo with horsemanship, calf roping, bucking bronchos and lassoing.
action areas 
Action areas that would grow into the Merit Badge Midway, they got their start at the 1953 Jamboree. The Navaho Dancers were real Navaho. Explorers made lean-to’s. Archery, rifle and shot gun was popular. The overseas Scouts liked Archery and shooting, guns are illegal in many countries outside the USA.

swimming in the Pacific ocean at 1953 bsa naional jamboree
Swimming in the Pacific Ocean was an attraction. A shuttle service of 68 buses took Scouts the eight miles to and from the beach. The BSA Buddy System works for 40 Scouts or 4000. Helicopters circled overhead and boats on the perimeter assured safety.

With the way California was growing, the vacant land of 1953 would be developed shortly after the Jamboree. The site is a little corner where Irvine, Newport Beach and Costa Mesa all come together. Jamboree Road is a major highway in Irvine/Newport Beach. Today the Jamboree site is a major fashion mall, office buildings with still a bit of open land.
 
1953 Boy Scout Jamboree Badges 
 
Scouts received two embroidered pocket badges and neckerchiefs. Again I D cards identified registered participants. Each Scout received a commemorative token from the Irvine family. Individuals have sometimes made this token into a medal, but it was never issued that way.

basic 1953 boy scout jamboree collection
This is the basic 1953 collection. You may also want items available at the trading post.
 
1953 boy scout jamboree badge1953 boy scout jamboree patch


Badges were made in huge quantities by two different manufacturers. There are differences in the embroidery, but the easiest clue is the position of 1953 to the wagon wheels. Another clue is the Blue versus Black backstitch.
 
1953 Jamboree Back Patches
 
1953 Boy Scout Jamboree Back Patches 
  
The 1953 Jamboree 6” backpatch is one of the more scarce 1953 items. The backpatch (Type A) was only available on the Jamboree jacket, it was expensive, $5.95. The backpatch was not originally sold separately. The Type A badge shown is in excellent condition, but has been sewn on. Type B is known to be authentic but was not available after the Jamboree. Note the design details, like the pocket patch, position of 1953 to the wheels and Blue versus Black backstitch. It is believed that the manufacturer who made Type A made the run that was sewn on the jacket. Manufacturer B made the run sold after the Jamboree. Collectors have searched for years for an order form to confirm this. 
fake 1953 boy scout national jamboree back patch




Made in the 1980’s, 5 1/2” “Bates Fake”. Authentic 1953 backpatches are 6” round. The fake is 5 1/2” round. The grass is wrong. The lettering is too thin. Not all fake badges have the FAKE stamp.
 
1953 Jamboree 1973 & 1977 Reproductions 
 
1953 Boy Scout National Jamboree reproduction patches 
 
Red outline of wagon wheel is wrong Reproduction has plastic back. Black lines in the white top go from top to bottom. Compare reproduction to Type A, space beneath wagon wheel and 1953.
 
1953 Jamboree Private Issues
 
For over forty five years collectors have debated the source of the 1953 “California” badges and others that are sometimes labeled protypes.
 
1953 boy scout national jamboree private issues 
The red and blue segment has never been documented. It’s my belief it is a council issue, probably to be used in conjunction with a council event. It is not scarce. The orange badge might have been a manufacturers sample, encouraging contingents to have their name embroidered in the bottom, but none are known to exist with other embroidery and the orange badge is not scarce.

It has become my belief that the California issue Jamboree badges are private issues. The fact that there is a pocket patch and a backpatch and both exist with cut edge and rolled edge borders, (4 varieties) seem to indicate that they were issued by a collector. Back patches were not sold “loose” at the Jamboree. Official 1953 badges have an embroidered rolled edge border. People who have spend thousands of dollars for badges that may be unofficial may disagree. But, the badges were traded freely at the Jamboree, and they are more widely distributed than prototypes.


There are many differences in the 1953 California badges. Blue detailing in the wagon cover. The positioning of the lettering, brown wheels versus black wheels, etc.
 
National Issue 1953 Boy Scout Jantional Jamboree PatchNational Issue 1953 Boy Scout Jantional Jamboree Patch




It’s interesting to note that the 1950, ‘57 and ’60 Jamboree badges did not have the state name.
 
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Paul Myers Goshen, Indiana
gimogash@comcast.net