The Camp Fire Collection

With generous support from the NSHS Foundation, the Library/Archives was recently able to purchase archival supplies and hire a temporary archives assistant to organize, describe and rehouse two large archival collections in order to better preserve them and make them more accessible to the public. The first collection to be worked on was that of the Camp Fire organization.

The Law of the Camp Fire

The Camp Fire Girls organization was established in 1910 by Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick and his wife, Charlotte. The purpose of the organization was to guide young girls in self discovery while developing a home spirit. Camp Fire Girls was heavily influenced by American Indian lore and culture. Participants used American Indian inspired symbols, wore “ceremonial gowns,” and chose American Indian sounding names. Girls were able to learn valuable lessons as they worked for honors to make rank within the organization. These honors were divided into seven crafts: Home, Health, Camp, Hand, Nature, Business, and Citizenship/Patriotism. Once a girl received enough honors, she would make rank. There were four ranks available to achieve: Trail Seeker, Wood Gatherer, Fire Maker, and Torch Bearer.

Charter – Haigler, Nebraska, 1941 (B29, F80)

A group was started in Lincoln in 1912 when the Camp Fire Girls became nationally known. However, it wasn’t until 1922 when the Lincoln group received its official charter. The Lincoln Council (later known as the Pioneer Council) had jurisdiction not just in Lincoln but other surrounding towns, including but not limited to Milford, Seward, Auburn, Hallam, Sutton, and even Columbus at one time or another. The Lincoln Council Camp Fire Girls leased Camp Kiwanis, near Milford on the Blue River, from the Kiwanis Club for many years. Here the girls learned the essentials of camping including making a fire, field cooking, canoeing, swimming and archery.

In 1975 Camp Fire headquarters made it allowable for boys to join – thus changing the organization’s name to Camp Fire, Inc. Today, Camp Fire serves in twenty-eight states. It was America’s first nonsectarian and multicultural organization – open to all children no matter their race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation – and continues to stay true to its core values. The Lincoln Council continued to operate until the mid-1990s when the chapter was dissolved.

Scrapbook volume from 1937 showing members of the Swim staff.

Scrapbook volume from 1937 showing members of the Swim staff.

This collection contains documents ranging in date from 1913-1994 with a large portion dating from the 1960s and 1970s. The content of the collection revolves mainly around the organization’s Board of Directors, committees, events, day camps, scrapbooks and award ceremonies.

Check out the completed Camp Fire finding aid on our website for more detailed information about the collection.

-Tom Mooney, Curator of Manuscripts

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