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  • James Austin Wilder

    Aloha All! I'm wondering if any history buffs have more information about "Kimo" Wilder than I do. Here's what I know.

    Wilder (1868-1934) was an artist, outdoorsman, sailor, world traveller and Scouter of great distinction. He was born and raised in Hawai'i, son of an architect, the architect who designed the famous Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki Beach and allegedly was the one who convinced his dad to make it pink.

    He founded one of the first Sea Scout ships, some say THE first in the BSA, in Honolulu, using his own yacht. He was selected as the first Director of the Department of Sea Scouting at $1.00 a year and took part in all the early conferences of Scout Executives in the U.S.
    He wrote the first Sea Scout Manual, along with a couple of other men.

    He was said to be: "brilliant but modest, cordial and friendly, gracious and informal. He had a fund of stories and cosmopolitan experiences, as varied as his unusual skill in outdoor cookery, or his deftness in marine crafts. He was an apostle of cheer . . ." This is from Murray's History of the BSA.

    I am curious because he is almost unknown in the Aloha Council and it seems to me he should be more lionized here. I don't know of any skeletons in the closet, but there is so little information about him that I wonder.

  • #2
    James A. Wilder was one of the early (or first) scoutmasters of Troop 5 in Honolulu. Troop 5 used to have meetings at Kawaihao Church and utilized the Iolani Palace Grounds for drills. Queen Liliuokalani was so enamored by the skill of the boys that she adopted the Troop and hand embroidered a flag which I believe had a Hawaiian Coat of Arms and the word "Onipaa" meaning to "stick together" or "unity". I believe that the Flag is still held in the Archives. Up until the early 80's when the Troop became defunct there was an annual award given to the most outstanding scout of Troop 5 called the "James A. Wilder" Award in his memory. I received this award in 1970 and regard it on par with my Eagle Scout rank. James A. Wilder also wrote a fabulous book called "Jack Knife Cookery" and is illustrated by his hand with pen and ink drawings.


    • #3
      Mahalo, Stradguy! And welcome to the forums. Since I posted the first message on this, I discovered that the State Archives has a newspaper file on Wilder. I got the citations from them and copied the articles from microfilm at the public library.

      One of the articles references his relationship with Troop 5, "The Queen's Own," and mentions the flag you talk about. It did not mention the Kawaihao Church, however, or the award.

      I also discovered there is a book, "The Wilders of Waikiki," by a Wilder relation at the public library. I was aware of his book "Jack-knife Cookery," but can't seem to locate a copy. I plan to try to run an op-ed piece on Wilder in the Honolulu Advertiser to coincide with the 71st anniversary of his death on July 4. If I can pull that off, I might get responses from some other people who know something about him, including where I could find the book.

      One of the newspaper articles mentions the fact that when Kimo was awarded the Silver Buffalo in 1930, his wife was given an award by the council here, called the Gold Elephant. I know the Aloha Council knows nothing about Wilder, but perhaps you have heard of the Gold Elephant?(This message has been edited by Kahuna)


      • #4
        Hi Kahuna,

        You might also take a look at Wilder's 1919 book The Pine Tree Patrol.


        • #5

          Please post your article here. I would like to know more.




          • #6
            Jack-Knife Cookery
            1946 edition from Dutton (5th ed)

            Book Mine
            Sacramento, CA


            • #7
              Here's my proposed article, it's a draft, so please don't hesitate to offer comments:


              July 4, 2005, marks the 71st anniversary of the death of a citizen of Hawai'i now largely forgotten: James Kimo Wilder was born in Hawai'i in 1868. He was the son of a prominent businessman, Samuel Gardner Wilder, who had been Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Hawai'i under King David Kalakaua, and created a steamship company. Kimo became a moderately successful artist. In 1922, he presented a portrait of Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, to the Territory of Hawai'i. It was hung in the Throne Room of the Iolani Palace.

              Wilder was a world traveler, a raconteur, a friendly and informal man who loved sailing and owned a sizable sailing yacht. He was also noted for his outdoor cooking skills. Kimo was the author of several books, one of which, Jack-knife Cookery, was about the art of cooking without pots and pans in the outdoors. He had a home on Kalia Road in Waikiki, where hotels are the only residences today. It was the scene of many social gatherings during his active years and even when he became an invalid. When Scouting arrived on the world scene, he was one of the first to pick up the program in the then Territory of Hawai'i. He founded the one of the first Scout Troops in Hawai'i, Troop 5, known as The Queen's Own. This was not a fanciful designation. Queen Liliu'okalani, was its patron and gave it the motto Onipa'a, or stick together. Liliu'okalani presented the troop with a silk banner as its flag. A couple of years later, he founded the first Sea Scout Ship in Hawai'i, one of the first in the B.S.A. Wilder's yacht served as the group headquarters. Shortly after, he answered a call to serve as the Boy Scouts of America's first Director of the Department of Sea Scouting. This he did, at no or at least nominal salary. He wrote the first Sea Scout Manual, along with another Sea Scout Skipper and a member of the national staff.

              In September 1922, at the National Conference of Boy Scout Executives, Wilder made a brilliant observation. He said, There are two places where we never want anybody but our best friends and Scouting has adopted them both, camping and boating. . . Both things, both activities, both adventures call for organized unselfishness. . . [O]n a ship, every man must do his duty.

              Kimo Wilder went to England to find out all about Scouting from the men who started it. He also attended the second international Scout jamboree, the Coming of Age Jamboree, at Arrowe Park near London, in 1929. He was an invalid from 1930 until his death in 1934, but he continued to follow the development of Scouting. In 1930, he was presented the Silver Buffalo, the highest award in American Scouting, at the same time as President Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then Governor of New York. He could not attend the presentation, but special arrangement was made to fly the award to Honolulu so it could be presented to him at the same time as the presentation was made in New York. A surrogate represented him there. Interestingly, his wife, Sara Harndon Wilder, was presented with the Gold Elephant award by the Honolulu Scout Council. The author has been unable to find any other information about this award or it's history in the Aloha Council.

              BTW, this material is copyrighted, so please treat it as such. Most of the information here is from archives of the Honolulu Advertiser and the Official Report of the 2d Bienniel Conference Of Boy Scout Executives (1922).


              • #8

                I found out more about Sea Scouting.

                In 1909 B.-P. ran a training camp near the historic village of Buckler's Hard, Hampshire, England near Lord Nelson's slipways. Two Troops of Scouts entered in and alternated between land and sea events. They used a training ship called the "Mercury", a boat loaned to B.-P. Base on the outcome of these adventures, a decision was made to establish Sea Scouting as a branch of the British Boy Scouts. The "Scout Gazette headlines proclaimed the new Seascout program in 1910. B.-P. asked his older brother Warington to write a book and lead the program. The book was called, Sea Scouting for Boys, and was released in 1912.

                In 1911, Arthur A. Carey of Waltham, Mass., a sailing enthusiast and a member of the National Council of the BSA had already written a chapter for the BSHB on sailing and he later wrote a 24 page pamphlet, "Cruising for Sea Scouts", the first American Sea Scout handbook, 1912. He was appointed to be the Chairman of the National Council Committee on Sea Scouting. He gave his schooner, Pioneer" to the Scouts in his area for use in the program.

                Charles T. Longstreth organized the first Sea Patrol in Philadelphia, on his yacht in the summer of 1912 and he prepared a Sea Scout manual. A national committee was established to advise National on creating a Sea Scout branch of the BSA and it became an official program in 1912. The first edition of Scouting magazine, April 15, 1913 had an article about the new branch of the B.S.A that was started with the aid of the Secretary of the Navy.

                Commander Watson, son of Rear-Admiral Watson suggested to the Navy the advantages of Sea Scouting. The Secretary of the Navy, G.V.L. Meyer wrote a general order on 2/27/13 for personnel to co-operate with the B.S.A. with it's program. Sea Scouting spread slowly until 1917 and with the U.S.A.'s entrance into the W.W.I which brought thousands into the Sea Scouts. Another event was "Kimo"-James Austin Wilder of Honolulu, Hawaii, a veteran sailor, a wealthy globe traveler, artist, colorful figure, and tireless worker in Scouting volunteered to James West to be the Director of the Department of Sea Scouting or the first Chief Seascout.

                Wilder, Skipper Horton and Thomas Murphy prepared a new Sea Scout Manual. The requirements for joining were: First Class, 115 pounds, over 14 with good eyes, good muscles, good heart, and parental permission. Sea Scouting then became the first older boy program for the B.S.A. Murray said about Wilder, "a gracious and magnetic personality"... 'he figured largely in the development of the program'. "Wilder was a truly remarkable personality-brilliant but modest, cordial and friendly, gracious and apostle of cheer and captured ..the imagination of our leaders."

                In 1920 The National Sea Scout Committee had as its' Chairman, General George W. Goethals. Since 1927 Commodore Howard F. Gillette of Chicago was the Chairman with Thomas J. Keene, U.S.N.R. as the Director.

                In 1927 eight Sea Scouts with Borden-Field Museum left on an expedition to the Bering Sea. In 1928, Sea Scout Paul A. Siple went with the Admiral Byrd expedition to Antarctica and returned in 1930. The same year there was a 50% increase in registered Sea Scouts, i.e., 8,043. In 1931 there was a 40% increase in membership and in 1932 a 42% increase. In 1933 and 1934 there was marked progress in growth. Siple went again on a second expedition to the South Pole and wrote a book about each visit. He later earned his Ph.D. and became a leading scientific explorer. In 1933 the Explorer Scout program was first authorized. 1934, Scouting's 25th year, saw the million mark for total youth enrollment. Sea Scouting also saw a marked improvement in numbers.

                In 1935, the Sea Scouting Service of the National Office became the Senior Scouting Service and boys at age 15 were given the choice of becoming Senior Scouts. By 1936 the Sea Scout program had grown to 20,802 and 413 of the 539 local councils had at least one Sea Scout ship. In 1936, Commander Thomas J. Keane, who had joined the professional ranks after a career in the Navy built the membership to 25,000 boys and men.

                By W.W. II thousands of Sea Scouts left for the war with their leaders. They were prized by the Navy and the Coast Guard for their seamanship training and by the end of 1943, 75,000 former Sea Scouts were serving, many as commissioned officers. By 1949, the older boy program became known as Explorer Scouts. In 1949, the age for Sea Scouting was lowered to 14.

                In the 1950's Sea Explorers sailed together with the Mariners (Senior Girl Scouts) and then in the 1960's Exploring admitted women. Sea Explorers are registered members of a Sea Explorer Ship or the unit that conducts the program for the C.O. In 1958, Explorer and Eagle Scout Richard Lee Chappel went with the National Academy of Sciences team to Antarctica for the International Geophysical Year.

                General Information:

                Sea Scouting or Exploring is made up of Outdoor events; Social events like Sea Explorer Balls and Stag Parties or Boss's Night; Service; and Vocational skill training. The Sea Scout Court of Honor is a gala affair called the Bridge of Honor. One social gathering is called Queen's Day ceremonies where the fathers cook the meal. A crew may embark on a yearly expedition or high-adventure cruise. At such events as regattas, sea chanteys are lustily sung by the crew.

                The crew is the working group within a Sea Explorer ship made up of six to eight members. The Skipper is the adult advisor and the Assistants are called Mates or Assistant Ship Advisors. There are also three Ship Committeemen. The crew is inducted by ceremony. The Boatswain is the elected youth leader of a Sea Explorer ship and may now be called a crew leader. There is also an Assistant Crew Leader.

                Sea Scouts are trained in Emergency Service. The Lifeboat Drill is where the crew demonstrates its' ability with a lifeboat, with oars, auxiliary sail, and Breeches Buoy. They may also practice the Man Overboard Drill. Navigation and or Seamanship is a science which enables seamen to direct ship to port and to rig and work a ship. One of the skills is called Shooting the Sun using a sextant, the Nautical Almanac and Greenwich time. This allows one to determine the latitude and longitude.

                The ships' Quarterdeck is the upper deck of a vessel reserved for officers. The ship's kitchen is called the Galley. Two general classes of sails being the fore-and-aft and then there is the square-rigged. The simplest of the fore-and-aft type boat is the catboat with its' single sail. Small yachts are called boats ships and steamers and larger sea-going craft are termed ships. Sloops, barks, barkentines schooners, and vessels powered with engines are also called ships.

                The Sea Scout uniform may be made of navy blue wool or white duck. The ranks are Apprentice, Ordinary, Able, and the Quartermaster. The Quartermaster is the highest award in Sea Scouting, the Silver Award may have taken its place.


                The Golden Anniversary Book of Scouting, copyright 1959, B.S.A.
                The Boy Scouts, An American Adventure, copyright 1984, The American Heritage Publishing Co., Robert W. Peterson.
                The Boy Scout Encyclopedia, copyright 1952, B.S.A.
                Scouting-Marches On, History of the B.S.A., copyright 1937, B.S.A.
                by William D. Murray.

                Use care to recheck all sources if this material is to be used for publication.



                • #9
                  FB: Sorry for the delay in responding, but I've been travelling. Your info pretty much supports everything I know about Sea Scouting history. Only differs slightly in that Kimo Wilder was an old buddy of FDR, who was Secretary of the Navy around WWI. I know the FDR also played a role in starting Sea Scouting in the U.S. Sooner or later I'll piece it all together. Thanks!


                  • #10
                    I've finished "The Wilders of Waikiki" by Kimo Wilder's daughter. He was a very interesting man to say the least. He lived a somewhat Bohemian lifestyle, although he was always considered respectable. He certainly contributed a great deal to Scouting, both in the U.S. and Hawai'i (HI was still a Territory in his time). He was, however, somewhat overweight and had a tendency to excess. His high blood pressure, brought on by his final Scouting trip, the 1930 Jamboree in England, gave him his first stroke. He pretty much recovered, but then, after a visit from a local Scout official (not identified as to professional or volunteer), he was so angry that it brought on another stroke. Most of us have probably come close to the same experience at one time or another! At any rate, he lived about 4 years, became blind near the end (he was an artist, remember), died and was given a big funeral with Boy Scout and Sea Scout honor guards. Much of his work - he did portraits - was destroyed after his death, but some is still around in Honolulu. I now have to track down and see how much of it I can find.

                    Fascinating man and I am more determined than ever to get him memorialized in Hawai'i. Some of his descendants still live there and I will be trying to track them down.


                    • #11
                      Couple more items of interest: I have bought copies of Jack-knife Cookery and the Wilders of Waikiki for my library. Can't find a copy of Pine Tree Patrol, but that's a real golden oldie.

                      The National Sea Scout Committee is working on some biographical info on Wilder and has contacted me about doing some fact-checking on the ground in Hawai'i. That will help me with accreditation in getting to some of the mustier archives.

                      BTW, I just learned that the Horton who co-wrote the Sea Scout Manual with Wilder was the same Horton who was a co-founder of Alpha Phi Omega, the Scouting fraternity. I met him at a convention in 1962.

                      Also discovered that the last photo of FDR walking was with Wilder at Bear Lake, NY, at Scouting function. I'm hoping to get a copy of the photo.


                      • #12
                        Pine Tree Patrol
                        1930 edition

                        Chris Hartman Bookseller
                        Morganton, NC


                        • #13
                          Thank you, I'm on it. May as well have them all!


                          • #14
                            I am the source of information on Herbert G. Horton. From my conversations with his grandson, HGH held the position of "National Chief Pilot" of Sea Scouting, which was the term for the National Director. Kimo's position was "Chief Seascout". I've always viewed that term as being a volunteer position, not a professional position.

                            Horton contributed a great deal to the Sea Scout Manual that Kimo put out. He apparently wrote whole chapters of it, and did artwork. Horton's grandson has an enscribed copy of this Manual, which comments by Kimo crediting him for his work. Horton was a Naval Reservist, btw.

                            Back on Wilder. I am aware of him writting 2 books in the Service Library: the Pine Tree Patrol and the Yucca Patrol. Here is a link to scans of the Pine Tree patrol booklet:; and here is a link to scans of the Yucca Patrol booklet:

                            Hope this helps

                            Michael Brown


                            • #15
                              As indicated above, he was present and spoke at the 2d Biennial Conference of Scout Executives, where he is listed at the end of the report as a member of the Executive Staff, National Headquarters. The distinction was not as fine in those days, since many councils were headed by commissioners, not professionals. However, he was a professional. I know he didn't receive a salary, or merely a nominal one if at all. He was the only Chief Sea Scout, which title he held until his death.

                              BTW, I have included his information at James Austin Wilder, Oahu Cemetary, Honolulu, Hawai'i.