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Robert Tait McKenzie was a remarkable man - surgeon, physical educator, artist, and sculptor. In addition, he was also a soldier, an athlete, a teacher, and a writer. He was born in 1867 in Lanark County, Ontario, Canada, the son of a minister of the Free Church of Scotland, who died when Tait McKenzie was nine years of age. McKenzie was the third of four children in the family. He was graduated from McGill University, and served on the McGill Medical School faculty from 1891 to 1904, when he left McGill and joined the University of Pennsylvania faculty as head of the new Department of Physical Education (1904-1931). In addition to his responsibilities as head of the Physical Education Department, he was a full professor on the medical faculty at Pennsylvania as well as one of the men responsible for the success of the Pennsylvania Relays, held each April. Also, Dr. McKenzie became famous as one of America's most brilliant sculptors through his fine detail depicting the muscular coordination and build of the human form.
As a professor, the development and growth of the youthful mind delighted him. As a physician and scientist, he eagerly assisted in the building of the young body from delicate babyhood to sturdy adulthood. He maintained that fighting disease and making the body develop physical fitness points the path to health. To all this, we find he added the heart and soul of the arts, which delights in the sheer grace and beauty of youth, while with his skill as a sculptor, he was able to catch and hold for all time the fleeting pose in the life of an active boy. It seems most appropriate that the Boy Scout movement would appeal to such a man and equally certain that the alert, self-reliant type of boy in the picturesque Scout uniform would inspire the artistic mind with a desire to snatch and mold into natural form that graceful pose of the strong young figure. All this and much more is expressed in the statuette, The Boy Scout, modeled by Dr. McKenzie.
Dr. R. Tait McKenzie became a member of the Philadelphia Council Executive Board in 1911 and remained a member until January 1938. On March 10, 1911, at a meeting of the Philadelphia Council, Dr. McKenzie bestowed the original model of the statuette, an 18-inch bronze figure, and included the certificate of copyright registration. The letter of presentation Dr. McKenzie wrote is as follows:
To the Chairman, the Commissioner, and the Executive Council of the Boy Scouts of America at their headquarters in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Honored Sirs: --
The undersigned, being in reasonably good health for one past his first youth, and with a mind not more unsound than its habitual state, doth hereby deed, donate, bestow, confer, and present all right, privileges, responsibilities, and cares that have hitherto been carried by the sculptor of the effigy of that cheerful and kindly American youth known to his friends and to all well-wishers of these United States as The Boy Scout, in order that he may increase, be multiplied, and replenish the meeting places of elect Troops scattered throughout this fair domain.
He trusts that his uncovered head may betoken them to reverence, obedience to proper authority, the well-ordered discipline so necessary to our well-being as a nation; that the hatchet, on which his hand rests, may serve as a symbol of truthfulness that characterized him who first sat in the chair of state in this the birthplace of national freedom in America; that he may never unsheathe it for grinding purposes; that he may never raise it in the cause of wanton destruction, but always for the defense of the weak and for hewing out new and nobler standards of conduct and progress; that he may apply it unceasingly to the neck of treachery, treason, cowardice, discourtesy, dishonesty and dirt.
In view of this, I herewith transfer, turnover, and give to your keeping this Certificate of Copyright, being number 48,915 sent to me by Thorwald Solberg, Register of Copyrights of the United States of America, to have and to hold, to use and to defend, as may seem to your judgement wise and proper.Signed Sealed R. Tait. McKenzie Delivered
Ten people, each of whom contributed $100 defraying the cost of making the mold and casting the same, received a bronze replica of The Boy Scout. According to information in the papers of Dr. Charles D. Hart, Council President (1912-1941), no more of these bronze models were ever to be cast. Each copy was numbered and the name of the person to whom it was given stamped in the base. Among those receiving copies were Sir Robert Baden-Powell, Connie Mack, George D. Porter and later Charles A Lindberg. Plaster copies in the 18" size in green, bronze, and ivory finish were made, starting in 1917, by Mazzoni and were distributed by the National Council. Since the Philadelphia Council held the copyright on them, it received a royalty on each statue sold. It was discovered, however, that these plaster models did not ship very well and the Philadelphia Council then arranged in 1934 with the National Council to have it make an 8" copy of the original one, casting this newer and smaller model out of "white metal." It was called "desk size" and finished in bronze or silver by the Medallic Art Company. When these were introduced, the Philadelphia Council, in agreement with the National Council, discontinued the making or the marketing of any of the 18" plaster models. Philadelphia Council reserved the right, however, to have a person named by Dr. McKenzie check the model from time to time to see that copies continued to come from the mold up to standard. In 1950, the 4" model made its appearance and The Boy Scout became increasingly popular. These smaller statuettes are finished in bronze, oxidized copper and oxidized silver.
The 18" statuette has been permanently retired and never copied since original 10 were made. George D. Porter, Philadelphia's first Scout Commissioner (1912-1917) had one of the original statuettes and was prevailed upon to give his copy to Marshall Foch, the hero of Verdun, when he visited America after World War I. Marshall Foch took his statuette back to France with him, but realizing how Mr. Porter valued this work of art, returned it after about two years. It stayed in the Porter family until 1948 when it was sold to Dr. George Fisher, then National Scout Commissioner. The statue was put on display in the Johnson Museum at the National Council Office in New Brunswick, New Jersey. It was mounted on a base of wood from Independence Hall.
When the Philadelphia Council moved into its building on the Parkway, it was expected that Dr. McKenzie would provide a new statue, life size, for erection in front of the building. This required a more detailed study because it was on a larger scale. A few new insignia had been introduced such as community strips and patrol medallions and these were incorporated in the life size model.
Dr. McKenzie made the presentation address at the unveiling of the life size statue in front of Philadelphia Council headquarters, June 12, 1937, and related some of the early developments of the statue. The following are excerpts from his remarks:
"We are met here today, not so much to dedicate a statue, in bronze, as a symbol of one of the greatest impulses for good put into practical operation by a band of devoted men that has ever come to American boyhood.
"Perhaps it would interest you to know how all this came about? In 1914, the last year of peace which this distracted world was to know for nearly two decades, Dr. Charles Hart suggested that there should be something tangible which could be placed before the eyes to represent the product of this altruistic organization, something that would stand as a symbol for what Scouting stood for, in fact a statuette of the "Ideal Boy Scout" and in saying this, he pointed his finger at me. Knowing Dr. Hart as I did, and with characteristic vigor that marks everything he does, he arranged for a series of parades to enable me to choose a suitable model. The competition narrowed to three; and finally the one, Asa Franklin Williamson Hooven, was selected as having the most points. The resulting statuette fixed for all time, his fine face and boyish figure at 12 years of age, although now at 35 he is approaching middle life."
Since the original Scout, Asa Franklin Williamson Hooven, and an alternate, G. Dunbar Shewell, who posed for the statue had long since grown to manhood, new boy models had to be obtained so that a composite could be used. Dr. McKenzie selected such boys. P. Douglas Shannon was used as the model for the head. Scout Albert Frost was selected to model for the high hiking shoes. Eventually the entire model was completed using four boys as models including Joseph Straub. As the model was being completed, the Scout Executive, Horace P. Kern, observed that the axe handle was not quite in accord with the Scout axe and Dr. McKenzie scraped off some of the clay to adjust the shape of the handle. In doing so, he finished with a ball of clay. He used it to create a deer's hoof at the end of the axe handle, to copy a decoration on a Canadian Guide's axe he had seen. When told that it was not official, he called it artist's privilege.
It was Dr. McKenzie's desire to make the statue available to any community that wished to buy one providing that it was properly erected, suitably landscaped, etc. A duplicate was made and shipped to Ottawa, Illinois, for erection facing the grave of W. B. Boyce, the man whose interest brought Scouting to America. Bedi Rasey, who did the casting, shortly afterward engaged in war work. No more life size statues were cast until 1954 when the Philadelphia Scouts and Scouters presented a life sized statue to the National Council Headquarters, at New Brunswick, New Jersey. This and succeeding statues have been cast by the Modern Art Foundry, Long Island City, New York. Joseph Brown of Princeton University and a student of McKenzie, was the person designated to approve all life size statues before shipping. A copy of the life size statue was unveiled in front of the National Headquarters of the Boy Scouts of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, June 29, 1963. Scouts and Scouters of Philadelphia provided funds for this gift as a token of friendship and good will.
As of 1988, other locations of life size statues were: Schiff Scout Reservation, Mendam, NJ; Los Angeles Area Council, Los Angeles, CA; Long Horn Council, Fort Worth, TX; San Gabriel Valley Council, Pasadena, CA; Greater Cleveland Council, Cleveland, OH; Theodore Roosevelt Council, Phoenix, AZ; Southwest Michigan Council, St. Joseph, MI; Region Seven Office, Oak Brook, IL; Detroit Area Council, Detroit, MI; Allegheny Council, Pittsburgh, PA; International Training Center for Scouters, Gilwell Park, Chingford, London, UK; Peaceful Valley Boy Scout Ranch, Denver, CO; Indianhead Council, St. Paul, MN; Andrew Jackson Council, Jackson, MS; Valley Forge Council, Valley Forge, PA; Central Ohio Council, Columbus, OH; Resica Falls Scout Reservation, Marshalls Creek, PA; Scout Service Center, Springfield, MS; Gen. Greene Council, Greensboro, NC; Occonechee Council, Raleigh, NC; Alamo Area Council, San Antonio, TX; Columbia Pacific Council, Portland OR; Chichasaw Council, Memphis, TN; Baltimore Council, Baltimore, MD; Circle Ten Council, Dallas, TX; Mobile Area Council, Mobile, AL; Minsi Trails Council, Allentown, PA; University of Pennsylvania - R. Tait McKenzie Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; Keystone Area Council, Harrisburg, PA; Gulf Ridge Council; Tampa, FL; Wolverine Council, Ann Arbor, MI; Burlington County Council, Medford, NJ; Coastal Carolina Council; Charleston, SC; Winnebago Council, Waterloo, IA; Westmoreland-Fayette Council, Greensburg, PA; Milwaukee Council, Milwaukee, WI; California Inland Empire Council, Redland, CA; East Valley Area Council, Forest Hills, PA; Orange County Council, Santa Anna, CA; Ocean County Council, Toms River, NJ; Charles M. Pigott Estate, WA; and West Michigan Shores Council, Grand Rapids, MI.
1) Robert Tait McKenzie and The Mill of Kintail, Major
James Farquharson Leys, (1955) Ottawa*
2) R. Tait McKenzie, The Sculptor of Athletes, Kozar, Andrew J., (1975) Knoxville, TN
3) "The Boy Scout", Story of the McKenzie Statue, Turner Moon, (1977) Philadelphia, PA*
4) The Joy of Effort, A Biography of R. Tait McKenzie, Jean S. McGill, (1980) Toronto
5) Robert Tait McKenzie (1867 - 1938) Sculpture Of Athletes, Richard Grayburn, (1988) Calgary
6) The Sport Sculpture of R. Tait McKenzie, Andrew J. Kozar, (1992) Champaign, IL
* courtesy of the Cradle of Liberty Council, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1085
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