William D. Boyce

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William D. Boyce
William D. Boyce

William Dickson Boyce (June 16, 1858- June 11, 1929), was an American entrepreneur, best known today for founding the Boy Scouts of America.


Early life

Boyce was born in Dearborn, Michigan onJuly 30, 1863. In the backcountry days of his childhood, Boyce acquired a love for the outdoors and a tremendous work ethic. He attended the Wooster Academy (Ohio) in 1878, then went to Chicago to become a salesman. Boyce was both a shrewd salesman and a quick learner, and people were drawn to his extroverted personality. He moved from city to city rapidly, unsatisfied with staying in one place.

Business enterprises

As Boyce traveled, he left in his wake many things. In Winnipeg, Manitoba he founded a newspaper that lasted for 70 years, and in Lisbon, North Dakota he founded the Dakota Clipper. In New Orleans he managed the New Orleans Cotton Exposition. Boyce was married in 1883 to Mary Jane Deacon, a woman also experienced in the ways of the outdoors. As Boyce's enterprises grew, he insisted on the welfare of delivery boys, and had as many as 30,000 in his employment. Working with them may have helped him gain an understanding of America's youth.

Foundation of the BSA

By the early 1900's, Boyce was a multi-millionaire. He had traveled the world and lived his dream, but, at 51, Boyce grew weary of financial success and turned his attention to philanthropy. He turned to his childhood as a resource, but could not find the answer--until a fateful trip to England. According to legend, he was lost in a foggy street when an unknown Scout came to his aid, guiding him back to his destination. The boy then refused Boyce's tip, explaining that he was merely doing his duty as a Boy Scout. Soon therafter, Boyce met with Lord Robert Baden-Powell, who was the head of the English Boy Scouts at that time. Boyce returned to America, and, four months later, founded the Boy Scouts of America. He intended to base the program on Native American lore.

Later days

When the B.S.A. hovered on the brink of bankruptcy, Boyce personally donated $1000 a month to keep the organization running. He never assumed the title of "Chief Executive," and asked that the Boy Scouts accept all races and creeds. After clashing with the beliefs of James West, executive head of the B.S.A., Boyce started a new Scouting-related venture: the Lone Scouts of America, which allowed geographically isolated boys to experience Scouting. Eventually, the L.S.A. was merged into the B.S.A. When Boyce's only son died of an embolism, he apparently lost the will to live, and died on April 7, 1947.

Boyce is buried in his sometime hometown of Ottawa, Illinois, in the Ottawa Avenue Cemetery. A statue commemorating his contribution to the Boy Scouts of America stands near his grave.

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