Extremely Rare ca 1930s BSA Senior Degree Honor Society Lapel Pin 10K Gold or Gold Filled

Extremely Rare ca 1930s BSA Senior Degree Honor Society Lapel Pin 10K Gold or Gold Filled

Code: scb10001sdhs


Product Description


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ARTIFACT: This is an Extremely Rare 1930's Boy Scouts of America Senior Degree Honor Society Lapel Pin by DiSanza Brothers Jewelers of New York City. The pin is high-quality and is in gilt brass with white and green enameled details.

There is a bit known about this society within the BSA, but there is much that is not known. The exact purpose of this pin, for example, is not known. Two potential purposes for this pin have been put forth by noted BSA Historian Michael R. Brown that it is either is for the adult leaders of the Society, known as "Degree Masters" or that it may have been for recipients of the Roosevelt Citation, which was the highest honor awarded by the Society. 

More information about the BSA Senior Degree Honor Society according to Michael R. Brown:

The Senior Degree Honor Society is the least know of all the Senior Scouting programs.  It was a ritualistic group with fraternal/masonic aspects for older boys aimed at developing leadership, training, and activities for Senior Scouts. It was established in 1917 in Montclair, New Jersey by Scout Executive Frank Gray, when it was known as the Senior Division, BSA.  In November of 1923, it was adopted by the Brooklyn Council, and by 1926, there were chapters in each of the seventeen districts of the Council.  It is also known to have also existed in Westfield, New Jersey, and someplace in Florida.  Membership was limited to boys 15 and older who had earned First Class.  James West, the BSA's Chief Scout Executive, was a member of the group, understandable since the National Office at the time was located in New York City.  This may have been what lead to National Council approving the program on June 1, 1934 and including this as part of Senior Scouting program in 1935.  At some time between 1929 and 1935 it had changed its name to the Senior Degree Honor Society.

It is unclear how large the program got. According to one source, the 1937 Annual Report of the BSA states there were 33 Merit Degree Chapters in NY, NJ, and Florida. Another source states there were approximately 900 members, mainly in the East, with the largest concentration in the Brooklyn Council.  Most likely it was a chapter per district, not one per council, hence the high number of chapters. This was true in Brooklyn Council, so why not elsewhere? Honor Degree Chapter membership was listed as 1102.  Merit Degree and Honor Degree where the two degrees within the program, as these groups met separately.

When the program ended is also unclear. Perhaps the program ended in favor of the Order of the Arrow.  The OA was one of several camp-based honor societies that came to prominence in the early years of the BSA, and which won over several similar programs to become the sole official program within the BSA.  This happened between 1935 and 1948 when the OA became first an experimental program of the BSA, then finally an official part of it.  Perhaps with the OA becoming an official part of the BSA lead to such programs as the Senior Degree Honor Society ending.  Others have indicated that they no longer see the group mentioned in scout handbooks around 1955.  It had been listed as a local council program for several printings of the Boy Scout Handbook.  It was also given a one line mention in the Adventures for Senior Scouting book as well.

The Senior Degree Honor Society had a great deal of symbolism in their ritual and program.

The use of the signal type flags (called Bannerets) on the insignia tied into the idea that members must "signal their intentions" to lead a proper life.  The symbol on the flags is the "Gate of Decision", which new members must pass through.  The green flag with white gate stands for "Firmness", the white flag with green gate stands for "Purpose".  Each member was expected to have a staff (walking stave) 6'6" long on which he was to carve his personal Scouting history.  They would also make their own banneret as a Merit Degree member, although it apparently wouldn't be used unless they became an Honor Degree member.  This banneret was the same size and shape as patrol flags (11" x 18"), with a green background color (patrol flags from National supply were either white or red), and a design that was symbolic of a worthy ideal. Rank, merit badges, and camp badges could be attached to it.  The Honor Degree member was required to attend rituals with his stave and banneret, and would be barred if he forgot it.

VINTAGE: Circa 1930's - 1950's.

SIZE: Approximately 11/16" in height x 1/2" in width.

MATERIALS / CONSTRUCTION: Gilt brass, enamel.

ATTACHMENT: Vertical pin with drop-in locking catch.


ITEM NOTES: This is from an accumulation of unidentified items which we will be listing more of over the next few months. Item will not be sold until it is identified. VCJX12 LJJJJX10/12 SLBGIEX04/12/22

CONDITION: 8+ (Excellent): The pin has only very light wear.

GUARANTEE: As with all my artifacts, this piece is guaranteed to be original, as described.