The History of the Sea Scout Hat "Bug"

Updated 09/29/2003 22:48

The Origins of the Sea Scout "Bug"

2001 Sea Scout First Class Anchor " Bug".

The origins of the First Class Anchor Sea Scout Hat Insignia, known to Sea Scouts fondly and universally as the Sea Scout "Bug", are somewhat shrouded in the mists of Sea Scout history, yet clearly date back to virtually the very founding of Sea Scouting itself.  SSS YORKSHIRE has tried to research this important Sea Scout tradition, and this is what we've found so far.  Please add to our research on this matter if you can.

The earliest photos we've found to date of Sea Scouts with emblems on their hats date from c. 1918-1920 and were found on the national Sea Scout webpage photo gallery. Here they are:

1918 Unidentified Sea Scouts with First Class Scout pins on their hats.

The photo gallery caption for the photo above reads, "Unidentified Sea Scouts (c. 1918)".  

Two Sea Scout Eagles, with pins on their hats, c. 1920.

The photo gallery caption reads, "Two Sea Scout Eagles (c. 1920)".  

You can view lots of additional photos of Sea Scouts from these two early dates right up to the present time wearing Bugs, or at least wearing the First Class Anchor pin, in the center of the foreband of their hats.  Visit the National Sea Scout Photo Gallery at http://www.seascout.org/about/history/photos1912.html

The earliest printed description of the "Bug" we've been able to find so far is in the 5th Edition, Fourth Reprint, of The Seascout Manual © 1928 where it states on pp. 356-357:

             The Apprentice wears a bar (blue on white uniform, white on blue uniform) one and one-half inches long, three-eights of an inch wide, on the right sleeve, midway between the elbow and shoulder, and wears the Sea Scout Insignia over the bar, if he is  First Class Scout.

            The Ordinary Sea Scout wears the same insignia as the Apprentice Sea Scout, except that he wears two bars, each one and one-half inches long, three-eights of an inch wide, on the right sleeve, midway between the elbow and shoulder, and wears the Sea Scout Insignia over the bar if he is a First Class Scout.

            The insignia for Able Sea Scout is the same as for Apprentice Sea Scout, except that he wears three bars, as above, blue on white, white on blue, on the right sleeve, half-way between the elbow and the shoulder.  He wears the Sea Scout Badge on his hat.  (This is the First Class Scout Badge, superimposed upon the anchor.)  Having made a long cruise, he also adds the Long Cruise Badge, half way between elbow and shoulder on the left sleeve.

Emphasis added.

What is this telling us?  We read this as meaning that, since some boys had been land Scouts before becoming Sea Scouts, and some had not, that those who had earned First Class Scout either in their land troop or Sea Scout ship, wore the First Class Anchor above their Apprentice or Ordinary rank patch, but that those who were not First Class Scouts did not.  We further read this to mean that only once you became an Able Sea Scout were you entitled to wear the First Class Anchor on the broadband of your Bob Evans hat, First Class Scout or not.  It’s a little hazy in the above quotation whether or not an Able Sea Scout wore or didn’t wear the Sea Scout Insignia over his three bars on his sleeve depending on whether he was also, in fact, a First Class Scout, or whether he wore it regardless of whether he was a First Class Scout or not.  The accompanying chart of pp. 358 shows the Sea Scout Insignia above the three bars of the Able Sea Scout, but not above the one and two bars of the Apprentice or Ordinary Sea Scout.

1928 The Seascout Manual, 5th Edition, pp, 358-359. 

It is further interesting to note that by the seventh reprint of the 5th Edition of the Seascout Manual © 1929 (only one year later), on pp. 354-356, (quoted below) the distinction of whether or not you were also a First Class Scout has vanished! You wore the "Bug" all the time.

UNIFORMS AND INSIGNIA

For Sea Scouts

            The uniform of the Sea Scouts is as follows;  Undress, white sailor uniform consisting of jumper, trousers, white hat, white undershirt, blue neckerchief, black socks, and black shoes: or blue sailor uniform consisting of the same parts.

            [355] On the right sleeve 5” below the shoulder seam and centered on the arm between the elbow and the shoulder the Apprentice Sea Scout wears the Sea Scout badge, and the bar which is illustrated on page 357.  On the left shoulder he wears the [356] Community strip and 2” below the shoulder seam on the right sleeve the Troop numeral.

            The Coxswain wears the Sea Scout Badge and chevron in the same place, also a lanyard with the Boatswain’s pipe.

            The Ordinary Sea Scout wears the Sea Scout badge of two bars in the same place as above.  If he has made his Long Cruise, he wears the Long Cruise badge below the shoulder seam on the left sleeve.

            The Boatswain’s Mate wears the badge and the two chevrons, the Able Sea Scout wears the badge and three bars, and the Boatswain wears the badge and three chevrons on the right sleeve 5” below the shoulder seam.

            A Quartermaster Sea Scout wears the Officer’s uniform.

It is clear from the accompanying photos of Sea Scouts in uniform on page 355 that Sea Scouts wear the First Class Anchor on the hat, although this does not seem to be specifically stated in the text.

1929 The Seascout Manual, 5th Edition, pp. 354-355, showing the First Class Anchor Bug.

The Seascout Manual, 5th Edition, 13th reprint, © 1936, on page 354 continues to only briefly say, “The uniform of the Sea Scouts is as follows:  Undress, white sailor uniform consisting of jumper, trouser, white hat, white undershirt, blue neckerchief, black socks, and black shoes; or blue sailor uniform consisting of the same parts.”  While this printing again doesn’t textually specify the “Bug” on the cover, the Bug is clearly shown on the accompanying photos on the facing page 355, which is identical to the graphic above.

By the time of the 6th Edition of The Sea Scout Manual, May 1939 printing, it is specifically stated on page 50 that Sea Scouts wear the Bug (although they don’t call it by that name).  “The complete Uniform consists of a jumper, trousers, a Bob Evans hat with an embroidered Sea Scout Emblem on the foreband and a blue neckerchief bearing a stenciled Sea Scout emblem.”  Emphasis added.

1939-05 The Sea Scout Manual, 6th Ed., p. 50 - Describing "embroidered Sea Scout Emblem."

Sea Scouts know, of course, that Admiral Robert "Bob" Evans introduced the current “Dixie cup” hat to the U.S. Navy, replacing the former wheel hat, and that these “new” “Dixie cup” hats were first called Bob Evans hats for many years before the more obvious similarity to the "Dixie cup" took hold.

We still don’t know when and where the term “Bug” came into common use. We’ve never seen it used in any early BSA or Sea Scout publication, although the visual similarity of the First Class Anchor Sea Scout Insignia to an actual little insect is unmistakable, and is obviously where the term arose.  It is certainly easier to say "Bug" than it is to say "First Class Anchor Sea Scout Insignia".

Further references: 

Sea Scout Insignia and Equipment 

(published in “Scouting” magazine, March 27, 1919, p. 51)
No. 125. North Point Hat Insignia . . . . . 5 cents
(Shows Sea Scout with insignia on front of hat)

Equipment Number For Seascouts and Leaders

(published in “Scouting magazine, November 1921, p. 9)
No. 637. Khaki, U. S. N. design (see cut). Regular hat sizes.
Shipping weight 8 oz. . . . $1.15
(Hat clearly shows that it has 1st class anchor on front)

Seascout Manual

4th edition (1922), pp. 5 and 53.
All youth hats are clearly shown with Sea Scout anchors centered on fronts of hats (regardless of color)
 

Seascout Manual

5th edition, 3rd reprint (1928), p. 358
1st class anchor pictured centered on whitehat

Sea Scout Equipment: Uniforms and Flags

(probable date 1931) 
No. 637. White Navy Hat: embroidered with Sea Scout Insignia . . .. . . $1.00 
(Hat was clearly shown on Sea Scout on left hand side of page)

We're awaiting scans, folks.  Meanwhile, keep those Bug sightings coming in.  A prize will be awarded to whoever finally finds the earliest official documentation of the "Bug" in two different categories: image and text.  Send your entries to skipper@ship25bsa.org

Home Up Scouting Chronology The History of the Sea Scout Hat "Bug" Squadron History Schooner Catherine Scout Administrator Sea Scout Log Dav'y Shellback B-P Was A Sea Scout First!

 

This page is from the website of SSS YORKSHIRE - Sea Scout Ship 25, York, PA, USA - http://ship25bsa.org