Dating “Later” Square Merit Badges - We have good reference material in the form of merit badges sashes to help date later styles. A sash with a Type I Eagle patch (1924-25) might indicate badges on that sash are about circa 1920-25, assuming that it takes a scout a few years to earn Eagle. We have clues provided by newly introduced merit badges; Hiking and Botany-1921, Foundry-1923, the Farm badges in 1928, etc. It’s not uncommon to find 1923-24 Eagle sashes with a couple 1918 style badges, but after about 1920 most badges will be the later style. Except in the case when a scout stayed in the program and earned merit badges as an adult.

Scarcity 1919/20 through 1933 Merit Badges - In the early 1920’s, local Council were forming. They took over the task of recording and awarded advancement from National Headquarters. Most councils inventoried common insignia especially merit badges. By 1933, when squares were discontinued, there were 500+ local councils.

When discussing pre-1918 merit badges I note the numbers earned as a guide to scarcity. After councils started stocking merit badges this figure is less important. The number earned allows a comparison's, but with merit badges in council offices, the numbers produced becomes inflated. Even scarce 1933 issue squares, which were earned in small numbers potentially could have thousands sitting in council offices. Pigeon Raising is the rarest square. Introduced in 1933 only 448 were awarded. But, if only a quarter of the 500+ councils stocked ten, that would mean that another 1250 were produced. There are probably less than 10 Pigeon Raisings in collections and the other 1933 squares are scarce. Some people believe that council office discarded obsolete merit badges. My experience is that scouting professionals were generally very thrifty and not prone to wasting. Council offices often had obsolete merit badges in stock for years.

The merit badge sash was introduced in 1924. - The first sashes were developed for scouts who were going to the 1924 World Jamboree. Individual badges were sewn together and then sewn on the sash. Scouts who had a lot of merit badges had three across, scouts with less had badges sewn two across in an effort to make the sashes appear as full as possible. There was competition at he 1924 Jamboree, and the BSA won most of the contests. It was the first and last time that competition was used at World Jamborees.
Boy Scout Merit Badges

Note: merit badges all post 1920 style. Badges are sewn together by a skilled tailor, then sewn to the sash with binding over the edges.
Some collectors place a premium on these sashes. But a skilled seamstress working with mint condition 1920’s merit badges and BSA cloth (the back of an old shirt) could probably make a sash in a similar style.
Image from Mitch Reis
Using Rank Badges to help Date pre-1933 Merit Badge Sashed - Collecting rank badges can be a complicated field although I explain it all in my Collecting BSA Rank. A brief overview of early rank badges can help you date sashes. It is not uncommon to find sashes with a mismatch of pre-1918 merit badges and 1920’s rank badges.
Rank Boy Scout Badges
Rank Boy Scout Badges

Prior to 1926 higher ranks, were First Class, Life, Star and Eagle. Scouts commonly received Life and Star at the same time. Prior to 1924 the Eagle medal was called the Eagle badge. The cloth Eagle badge didn’t catch on until the late 1920’s. Eagles received the medal, but had to purchase the cloth badge.
(to the left) It was not uncommon for scouts who had already started sewing merit badges on the unform sleeve to continue after the sash was introduced. But, this is an unusual uniform.

This shirt is made by Sweet Orr. They made BSA uniforms from 1932 to 1936. Farm badges were introduced in 1928. Wood Turning in 1930 and Mechanical Drawing in 1933. These badges were probably earned earlier and sewn on the shirt between 1933 and 1936.

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An incredible mid-1920’s through 1934 sash. 80 square and 1 wide border crimped.

This sash has all the 1933 squares discontinued in 1934 except Rowing. Rowing’s a wide border crimped, probably earned in 1934.
It has the 1923-24 Spider on the web as well as the 1926 grasshopper. Same topic different style badges. It has Beef Production with horns 1928.
With a little knowledge of when merit badges were introduced and the design styles it easy to date a sash.

78 Squares
There are no 1918 style merit badges on this sash.

It has Textiles-1924, the shooting star Weather-1927, Cement Work-1927, Canoeing-1927, Farm badges & Fruit Culkture-1928. None of the badges introduced in the 1930’s.
Using the badges on the sash to estimating the age, would place it between 1924 and 1930.

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62 squares

3 narrow border crimped. There are a number of 1918 style badges; Architecture, Gardening, Lifesaving, Pathfinding, etc.

The owner of this sash was on Camp Staff for several years. He probably started earning merit badges about 1918. Then continued earning them as an adult.

It contains Zoology on square introduced 1930. The Rowing and Public Speaking were introduced in 1932 and 1933, but the narrow crimped style badge was introduced about 1936.

I’ve included a bit of dating information to help you see how this works. With the help of the information beneath the merit badges on the identification pages you can learn a lot about a sash.

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Back to all Boy Scout Merit Badges
Paul Myers Goshen, Indiana