Daniel Carter Beard
by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Daniel Carter Beard was born on June 21, 1850, in Cincinnati, OH, to May Caroline (Carter) and James Henry Beard. He was the youngest of four sons and the fourth of six children. When he was still quite young, his family moved from Ohio to Kentucky. Daniel Carter Beard spent a great deal of time exploring nature as he grew up, developing a love of the outdoors. He especially admired the stories of the pioneers, and how their knowledge of nature allowed them to push westward. It was during these formative years that he learned woodcraft, handicraft, and other outdoor skills.
When the Civil War began, Beard’s father, his uncle, and his older brothers joined the Union Army. In the years that followed, young men of fighting age signed up to join the War. While Daniel Carter Beard and his friends were too young to fight in the Civil War. They continued to expand their knowledge of the outdoors, while their elders were off fighting. The group even learned useful skills from troops stationed nearby, like setting up camping equipment and cooking.
The Civil War inspired Daniel Carter Beard to apply to the US Naval Academy. However, he wasn’t admitted. Instead, he enrolled in Worrall’s Academy in Covington, KY, and studied civil engineering. After graduating in 1869, Beard went to work in the surveying field. He found that he didn’t enjoy the work. In 1878, he decided to leave surveying and pivoted to working as an illustrator.
He moved to New York to begin his new career. It was then that he began to write books for boys, in addition to creating illustrations. One of his best-known books was The American Boys’ Handy Book, published in 1882. He wrote the book after observing children in New York that lacked the same outdoor skills he learned as a child. He also wrote books on a variety of topics such as building shelters, signs, and signals, etc. In addition to writing his own books, Beard also illustrated books for Mark Twain and other authors.
Around the beginning of the 20th Century, there was a growing interest in the United States to get back to nature. Local, state, and national parks were created. A number of organizations focused on connecting youth with the outdoors were also formed. In 1905, Beard started one such youth organization - The Sons of Daniel Boone. His goal was to improve the experiences of children in the country and also to keep frontier skills alive.
This back-to-nature phenomenon wasn’t limited to the United States. Lord Robert Baden-Powell also wanted to create a youth program in England to promote outdoor skills. Baden-Powell studied several existing youth organizations, including The Sons of Daniel Boone. He combined ideas from The Sons of Daniel Boone with elements of his own military experience. This led to the creation of the Boy Scouts in England in 1908. Subsequently, the Boy Scouts of America formed in 1910, when Beard and other US-based youth organization leaders combined efforts.
Beard stayed active in Scouting for decades and eventually became a National Commissioner for the Boy Scouts of America. He conducted summer camp programs that incorporated woodcraft, handicraft, nature studies, and patriotic programs. Beard wrote regular columns in Boy’s Life magazine, where he communicated directly with the young men in the Scouting program. His dedication to the Scouting program led to him being referred to affectionately as “Uncle Dan.”
In addition to his affiliation with Scouting, Beard was also a Freemason. He was made a Mason in Mariner's Lodge No. 67 in New York City and later affiliated with Cornucopia Lodge No. 563 in Flushing, NY. Beard's involvement in Freemasonry had a significant impact on his work with the Boy Scouts of America. Many of the principles and values promoted by the Boy Scouts, like the importance of self-improvement, community service, moral and ethical behavior, are also core concepts of Freemasonry. Through Daniel Carter Beard’s efforts, these values have been instilled in young men for several generations.
To honor the work of Brother Beard, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania created the Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award in 2001. The award is administered by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, in coordination with Scouts BSA (formerly known as the Boy Scouts of America). The award recognizes Master Masons who are currently registered as Scouters and have strengthened the relationship between the two organizations.
As Freemasons, we should continue to foster the resilient mindset that Daniel Carter Beard brought to the Scouting movement over a century ago. This can be done by supporting local Scouting units, welcoming the opportunity to assist Scouts working on service projects, helping to host Scouting events, etc. Our organizations have an intertwined history, and we should build upon that connection to develop our country’s future generation of leaders.
“Daniel Carter Beard Scouter Award.” Pennsylvania Masonic Youth Foundation, 2 Mar. 2023, https://pmyf.org/masonic-youth/scouts/daniel-carter-beard-scouter-award/. Kahler, William V. An
Historical Analysis Of The Professional Career Of Daniel Carter Beard, 1850-1941, Texas A&M University, United States -- Texas, 1975.
McKeown, Trevor W. Daniel Carter Beard, https://freemasonry.bcy.ca/biography/beard_d/beard_d.html.
Jim Stapleton is the Senior Warden of USS New Jersey Lodge No. 62. He is also a member of the New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education No. 1786. Jim received the Distinguished White Apron Award from the Grand Lodge of New Jersey. He was awarded the Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award. Jim is also a member of the Society of King Solomon.