The Boy Scout
Two Statues by Dr. Robert Tait McKenzie
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:
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:
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*
Directory to Contents of Henning's Scouter's Pages
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