(See front cover)
In Europe 725 years ago, children disappeared wholesale from their homes. Peasants in their fields stood and stared at a strange sight. Strung out for miles 20,000 youngsters traipsed along the cart tracks of Germany following a lad named Nicolas. In France other thousands, laughing, playing, singing hymns, made their way southward behind a lad named Stephen. The children, attacked by the same urge which had already seized their elders, were going forth to reconquer the Holy Land for Christianity. Like their elders few of them ever returned. Where the army of German children went no man ever knew. All that they left behind was the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Where the French children went is better known. Many of them were kidnapped, sold to slavery in Egypt. Never until last week had the U. S. seen a juvenile mass migration comparable to the famed Children's Crusade of the 13th Century.
But last week the U. S. saw and heard more than 25,000 boys invade the city of Washington. Their tent cities spread beneath the Washington Monument, over Potomac Park both north and south of the Tidal Basin, across the river on Columbia Island and into the fields below Arlington National Cemetery on the Virginia shore. Everywhere barekneed youngsters in khaki perambulated through the streets with cameras and autograph books. Everywhere rose a babel of youthful voices, in childish versions of the accents of Maine and California, of Wisconsin and Texas. No connoisseur of mob scenes had ever seen such a sight; never before had the Boy Scouts of America held a National Jamboree.
For a whole day Washington's Union Station was bedlam as troops of grinning boys in uniform piled off trains accompanied by young Scout Masters. Busses hustled them out to the river front parks where cooking, dining, administration tents and innumerable little wooden comfort stations had already been erected. The arrivals scattered over 350 acres, erected bright-colored tents for themselves, pounded tent pegs and fingers. At 8:45 next morning a trench mortar boomed and 25,000 Boy Scouts stood at attention. It boomed again and the flags of 52 nations rose in an avenue of flags beneath the Washington Monument. It boomed a third time, up went 1,634 flags to 1,634 mastheads throughout the encampment. The ten-day Jamboree had opened.
Progenitors. On the first evening of the Jamboree one of its three compulsory functions was held.*Some 28,000 boys and Scout Masters crowded around the base of the Washington Monument for the lighting of the Camp Fire. Up stepped wizened little Daniel Carter Beard with trusty flint and steel, struck the spark which lit a torch which ignited two big campfires. Old Dan Beard had every right to that honor. He has worn out more deerskin shirts and done more for boys than any magazine illustrator now alive. At 87 he is still spry and alert, throws hatchets for exercise.