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Our History: Flushing resident founded forerunner of the Boy Scouts

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He was the author and illustrator of an article in the March 1881 issue of the magazine “Odd Modes of Fishing.” He wrote the article when he was 31 and had been a Flushing resident for 10 years. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Beard had lived in Kentucky during his boyhood.

In his article, directed at young boys, Beard wrote about three modes of fishing which gave the sport a twist. He described a method using a jumping jack, a small toy figure whose limbs are moved by jerking a string attached to them:

“This figure is fastened to a stick which is secured in an upright position on a float made of a piece of board. Through a hole in the float is passed the string attached to the figure, and tied securely to this are the hook and line. After the hook is baited, the float is placed on the surface of the water and the little man, standing upright, is left to wait in patience. Presently a fish attracted by the bait comes nearer the surface, seizes the hook quickly and darts downward, pulling the string and making the little figure throw up its arms and legs as though dancing for joy at having performed its task so well .... The capering of jack is the signal to his master that a fish has been caught.”

Though Beard’s training was as a civil engineer and while he was still a surveyor, he drew and painted natural history subjects, which sold well. By 1878, he had established himself as an artist and illustrator for Currier & Ives and book covers, designs and illustrations.

When Beard came to Flushing as a young man in 1871, he made his mark as a community activist. He often volunteered his talents to raise money for worthy causes, including the Boy Scouts and Flushing Hospital.

A born naturalist, Beard enjoyed long hikes in what we now call Kissena Park — then known as Kissena swamp — or tramping over the salt meadows. On these walks, he enjoyed the company of his friend, Charles Dana Gibson, another artist and Flushing resident who created the famed “Gibson Girl.”

As an outdoors lover, Beard was a crusader for American boyhood and he organized the Sons of Daniel Boone, which played an important role as the forerunner of the Boy Scouts. His organization, founded in 1905, as well as Ernest Thompson Seton’s group, the Woodcraft Indians, became important in the founding of the Boy Scouts by Sir Robert Baden-Powell in 1908.

The Boy Scouts of America were chartered by Congress in 1916, and Beard served as a charter member of the National Executive Board and national scout commissioner. For service to youth, he received the Theodore Roosevelt Gold Medal, Silver Buffalo of the Boy Scouts of America and Silver Wolf of the British Boy Scouts Association.

About his work, Beard once said, “No great crusade of any kind is one man’s work. Many people contributed effort and ideas to the movement. It was brought into being in the American way, supported by the Youth’s Companion, Harper’s and St. Nicholas magazines, and the Campfire Club of America and encouraged by President Theodore Roosevelt .... My own relationship to its founding came as a logical result of my life’s work. As editor of a magazine, I had the opportunity not only to fight for conservation, but to take up the cudgel for boys.”

Among the books Beard illustrated was Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” Bears sought restoration and relaxation on long trips to the wilderness and his experience in woodcraft resulted in his “Book on Camp Lore and Woodcraft,” used by the Boy Scouts but which proved invaluable to woodsmen and campers.

In September 1943, ceremonies and a parade were held to dedicate the Daniel Carter Beard Memorial Square on the Mall at Main Street and Northern Boulevard. Soon after, a section of the Trailside Museum in Bear Mountain State Park was to be set up as a memorial room in his honor.

Beard, who died June 11, 1941 at age 91, was a man of dedication and perseverance whom Flushing is proud to claim as one of its own.

Joan Brown Wettingfeld is a historian and freelance writer.

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