Series 1: Shoulder Knot, Patrol Colors, Flashes, or Ribbons (1913 until 1929)
In 1912 The Committee on Badges, Awards and Equipment of the National Council decided to change the method patrols were using to indicate membership in a given patrol. The committee approved the use of a shoulder knot of ribbon or other material.
The first announcement of the new patrol shoulder knot was in the November 1912 Boy’s Life: “The committee on Badge, Awards and Equipment of the National Council has decided to change the present method of indicating membership in a given Scout Troop and Patrol. In the future the color adopted by a troop for its own will be shown by means of the bandanna handkerchief which is worn about the neck, while the patrols colors will be indicated by a shoulder knot of ribbon or other material. The use of the bandanna neckerchief to designate troop colors is not in accordance with the statement on page 360 of the appendix of the “Handbook for Boys”. But it was thought best to make this change, partly because the range of colors in which neckerchiefs may be secured is somewhat limited whereas any number of patrols would find it easily possible to procure shoulder knots in different colors. This change also conforms to the method of designating troop and patrol colors in England”
The first reference to patrol colors appears in the January 31, 1913 edition of The Official Handbook For Boys page 22: “Each member of the patrol wears a shoulder knot of six-inch narrow tapes or ribbons on the left shoulder, showing colors of his patrol. The troop colors are shown by the scarf or kerchief which each scout of the troop should wear.”
The National Council announced in the July 1913 Boy’s Life the new shoulder knot along with descriptive and ordering information. “Are you a bear? Then wear a brown and red shoulder knot. To be fastened on the shoulder of the left sleeve. Made of heavy braid, 4 strips, 6 inches long, with brass clip for attaching. Each Patrol has distinctive colors – we have them all. See Boy’s Handbook, pages 20-22 – Price 5 cents. Order Direct From National Headquarters Boy Scouts of America, 200 Fifth Ave. New York”
In the first few years of Scouting important insignia was placed on the left sleeve so it is consistent that the new Patrol Knot be put on the left shoulder. In May 1914 the Committee on Badges, Awards, and Scout Requirements approved the use of square felt troop numbers. The Committee determined the placement of the new felt numbers was to be on the left shoulder and the Patrol Knot was to be moved to the right shoulder.
It is important to note the knots were cut to length by hand. Cutting the braid to length by hand created variation in length. The collector may find knots as long as six and one-half inches and many in varying lengths between five and six inches. This variation in manufacturing may have led to the description in the October 31, 1914 printing of the Handbook For Boys, page 66: “Patrol Colors: Patrol colors should only be worn on the right shoulder. They are five and one half inches long and three quarters of an inch wide.”
The same text as in the October 31, 1914 printing of the Handbook For Boys continues to appear in each handbook printing until May 1925.
Around 1916 the Committee on Badges, Awards, and Scout Requirements decided to reduce the length of the braid to five inches. We can only speculate as to why the change, two possible reasons are the manufacturing variation and the ribbons were snagging on items and reducing the length was an attempt to reduce the snagging. The first announcement of the new length knot was in the May 1917 Scouting Magazine Equipment number, page 53: “NO. 1060. SCOUT PATROL COLORS. Recommended by the official Handbook. These knots of colors lend to an attractive touch to the uniform. Made of the best imported braid; 5 inches long; fastened to the right shoulder with a metal clasp. Patrols should wear colors indicated for their patrol emblem on pages 69 to 71 of the Boy’s Handbook. Each 5¢”
The third length change occurred in 1925, the knots were shortened to four and one-half inches. The knots remained four and on-half inches in length until they were discontinued in December 31, 1929. It should be noted that the four and one-half inch length also varied in length do to hand cutting of the braid. The only reference to the four and one-half length is in the May 1925 Scouting Magazine Equipment Number, page 9: “NO. 1060. SHOULDER KNOT. Consist of four ribbons 4 1/2” inches long of two colors. Worn on the right shoulder, fastened with a metal clasp (furnished) sewed on and used to designate colors adopted by patrol. In ordering, specify patrol name. Prepaid Each 7¢; set of 8 … 50¢”
In the May 1925 edition of the Handbook For Boys the text about patrol colors changes and introduces the Series 2 felt with black silk screened emblem. “Patrol Colors: Patrol colors should be worn on the right shoulder only. They are five and one-half inches long and three-quarters of an inch wide. After January 1, 1926, patrol medallions bearing the patrol symbol in colors black on red, and uniform in size with troop numeral medallions, may be worn on the right sleeve two inches below the shoulder seam. The use of these medallions is optional, but must be uniform throughout the troop.”