25mm x 50mm History
The first interpreter strips were issued in 1932, they were white silk embroidery on cut edge heavyweight tan cloth with black imprint on the back approximately 25mm x 50mm in size. In 1934 the Committee on Badges, Awards and Scout Requirements decided to change the white silk embroidery to red silk embroidery. Due to the conflict in Asia, in 1939 the National Council issued a letter to embroiders to stop using silk thread. Embroiders were permitted to use up existing inventories. Thus approximately 1940 the red silk was changed to red cotton.
Between 1932 and 1956 the base cloth was changed five times. During 1935 the National Council decided to discontinue the copyright imprinting on the back of the base cloth. Embroiders used up existing base cloth inventories thus approximately 1937 interpreter strips changed to a plain back heavyweight cloth without imprinting. Approximately 1938 the cloth changed to a lightweight tan then during the war two cloths were used, fine twill and war cloth, then in 1947 the cloth changed to khaki.
In 1956 the National Executive Board approved changing the Interpreter strip to white embroidery on red twill and the moved the location on the uniform to above the B.S.A. program strip.
Between 1933 and 1957 the 25mm x 50mm interpreter strips had four different backs:
Plain Printed Back:
In the early years of Scouting there were several competing Scout organizations. The Boy Scouts of America had a seal and lines printed in black in on the back of all fabric used for uniforms and emblems. This was a copyright protection to prevent competing organizations from using the emblems. Figure 1, 3 and 4 show the seal and lines. Figure 2 shows the placement of the seals. The lines covered the back of the cloth except for the seals.
Starched Printed Back:
Approximately 1935 embroiders began to add cornstarch to the back of the badge. The starch prevented the edge of the badge from unraveling during handing, and maintain shape during shipping and storage.
Starched Plain Back:
In approximately 1937 the seal and lines imprint were removed from badge backs. Embroiders continued to add the cornstarch Cornstarch to the back of the badge to prevent unraveling during handing, and to maintain shape during shipping and storage.
Gauze Reinforced Starch:
In the 1940s embroiders began adding a gauze material to the back of the badge before the cloth was embroidered. In addition to the gauze a starch coating was applied to affix the gauze to the broadcloth. The addition of the gauze gave the lightweight fabrics body to improve the the embroidery process.
Fabric Color and Type:
Fabric color has been debated for years. Is it Khaki, Tan Green, Olive or some other shade. The reality is it is all of the fore mentioned. Today color is measured with Spectrophotometers, Colorimeters and Pantone charts. In the teens, 20s, 30s and 40s color in the mill was monitored to a very different standard. The image below is a reproduction of a sample color card used in the mill that produced BSA fabric. Using a card like this one allowed the cloth manufacturer to ship many shades of fabric. The one thing to always keep in mind with manufacturing is the tighter the tolerance specification the more expensive the product. This reproduction was made from a chart shown to the author by the grandson of the mill Forman who actually made fabric for the BSA.
The official uniform cloth was defined as “2 point 10 khaki”. The is a dense weave broadcloth. This was the official cloth use for merit badges until 1933. In 1933 the BSA experimented with less dense broadcloth to reduce cost. This less dense cloth was only used in 1933 and 34. The standard 2 point 10 khaki being dense does NOT allow light to be seen through it when held you attempt to look through it at a 60 watt light bulb from 5 feet.
In 1938 the Uniform Committee agreed to change the cloth standard from the “2 point 10 khaki” to “5 oz/yd2 khaki”. This is a lightweight broadcloth fabric. When you attempt to look through it at a 60 watt light bulb from 5 feet you can see lots of light between the threads.
In 1943 the BSA experienced a shortage of cloth due to World War II. The supply division had to find substitutes. One of the two substitutes used during the war was a fine smooth lightweight weave fabric. This fabric was used in 1943 and 1944.
In 1943 the BSA experienced a shortage of cloth due to World War II. The supply division had to find substitutes. The second substitute cloth used during the war was a fabric that had a similar appearance to the late 30s early 4os tan fabric but the weave was different. The weave was a 2 over 1, whereas the earlier fabric was a 3 over 1 weave. This fabric was used in 1943 and 1944.
In 1947 the BSA was once again able to define a cloth standard and not be subject to war shortages. The cloth standard returned to the 5 oz/yd2 before the war. The standard called for a darker green than the pre-war standard. When washed the dark green Khaki color fads to a paler green thus making it difficult to distinguish washed khaki cloth from per-war lightweight cloth.