In the course of our research, it quickly became evident that our task was much like that of a journalist in that we not only need to be a neutral reporter of information, and that available sources of information covered the entire spectrum of reliability, from that which could be given the highest weight to that which could be given little, if any, weight at all.
The highest weight is given to official records and correspondence contained in the National Council’s archives. These included seminal documents to the formation of the lodges as well as charter information, copies of lodge publications routinely sent by many lodges to the National Office, and a variety of other interesting material.
National Council Records
In the mid-1970’s, the authors were granted complete access to the Order of the Arrow archives and files then located at the National Council’s headquarters in North Brunswick, New Jersey. Among the documents we reviewed were original charter applications, charter renewal applications and historical files for each lodge. These records were well organized and maintained in banks of filing cabinets at the National Council headquarters and proved to be the most significant record of the development of the Order of the Arrow since its inception. The vast majority of what we reviewed were pre-1950 records, including all of the earliest records for the Order of the Arrow then in existence at the National Office. This included records of the Order prior to when it was an official national program of the Boy Scouts of America. Many of the older records were located in “the cages”, secure fenced-in areas located in the warehouse.
Historically, upon petition to the National Council, an Order of the Arrow lodge was chartered to a local Boy Scout council. The original application, titled Application for the Institution of a Lodge of the Order of the Arrow included information such as the Lodge name, meaning of the name, totem, original date of inception and other information.
Separate from these files, the National Council maintained a Lodge Ledger Card on each Lodge consisting of a pre-printed card for each lodge on which key information was entered, including Lodge name, Council name, Date chartered and Totem. Each year, as part of the charter renewal process, information was entered on the ledger card for quick reference by National Office staff, including the Lodge Chief’s name and address, the number of new members, active membership, Honor totals and a cumulative total. We recorded this information and compared it to the information garnered from the lodges’ application file described above. The Ledger Card system was discontinued in the early 1960’s.
We also reviewed all records of the Grand Lodge, later called the “National Lodge”, including numerous reports, programs and correspondence, and its original file index of lodges. Included among the National Council’s archives were the original index ledgers maintained for each lodge. Among these were older, completely filled-in Lodge Ledger Cards and older ledger cards for lodges that no longer existed, some of which were for lodge names previously unknown. Because of the nature of these primary sources, the reliability of this information is very high.
While a high level or reliability can be given to these primary documents, even they are sometimes subject to interpretation. An example of this can be seen among our listings of lodge names which, in some instances, reflect alternative spellings for the same Lodge name. These spelling differences could have been intended, and indeed many of them were. However, sometimes the differences were likely the result of human error because of an interpretive or typographical mistake made at the Lodge level, or at the National level. Understanding the early years of the Order, one can recognize there are many reasons this could have occurred, including a period of inactivity or lapse followed by subsequent re-chartering without the benefit of proper records or knowledge of years past, or simple clerical error. Often records were not maintained locally and sometimes attention to detail was not seen as important.
Recognizing this, and our role as a neutral reporter, we present in our databases what we discovered among the records. When spelling differences were found in one source we compared this with other archival records at the National Office. When it was apparent that it was a typographical error, these were not reported. (Sometimes we found a letter from the Council subsequently informing the National Council that a typographical error has occurred.) However, when we could not substantiate that an error had been made we erred on the side of caution and recorded the name. The records revealed that it was not uncommon for a lodge to change its name more than once, and in some instances more than once in a given year. Some of these changes were documented as intended spelling changes, hence we were cautious about dismissing anything.
Similarly, there were several instances where a Lodge changed its totem. Such an occurrence, by its very nature, was usually intended rather than an error.
Information contained in Arapaho 2000 about lodge names, name meanings, totems, original charter dates and dates of merger or disband, etc., up to an including Lodge 567 as reported in the first edition of Arapaho II - A History of the Order of the Arrow Through Insignia, are based in large part on the archives maintained by the National Council, BSA.
Unfortunately, the National Council’s Order of the Arrow archives were destroyed prior to its move to Irving, Texas. Fortunately, the authors retained their original notes, copies of selected documents and transcriptions.
Upon completion of our survey of the National Council’s archives, our detailed notes were organized, correlated and consolidated. A draft was prepared from which further study was then undertaken.
Other Sources of Information
The next highest degree of reliance was placed on official publications of the National Council. These included the published minutes of early National Meetings, minutes of the National OA Committee, published lists, National OA Bulletins and other known reliable references. By their very nature, however, some of these were subject to typographical and other errors and indeed many were found. Nevertheless, these significant sources are for the most part highly reliable. Many of those we utilized are included in the Bibliography.
Information on Lodge activity and history of a more recent nature, that being since 1979, is based upon official publications and confirmation from the lodges themselves.
How Listings Are Made
Our approach to creating a listing of issues is exhaustive, thorough and very methodical. While information on lodge issues is based upon our own knowledge, from the lodges themselves, as well as confirmed suggestions from individual collectors, in each instance, prior to including an issue in our listings we have verified the veracity of the information for accuracy and completeness.
Recent or new issues are fairly easy to confirm and, upon doing so, we have included them in our listings. Older issues, or first issues, require a greater degree of research to confirm. Objectivity is especially critical.
The compilation of information contained in Arapaho 2000 follows faithfully the standard firmly established in Arapaho II On Disk!! and the printed editions of Arapaho II. As a compilation, it represents combined efforts by the authors and contributors of literally over 100 years. Because of this we have a unique level of knowledge of old issues and an objective viewpoint unaffected by outside factors, such as market value.
About “New” Old Issues
What today is an old issue was not quite so old when our work began. We are especially cautious before amending our listings to include a newly discovered old issue. Only after we are satisfied that we have complete, accurate information on such an issue do we include it in the listings. Having found a patch that looks old, or simply been told an issue is what it is represented to be, is not sufficient in and of itself no matter how "exciting" or interesting it would be if it were true. This is especially important when reporting on old issues. Issues contained in our listings have passed the objective test, having been exhaustively researched and confirmed from several sources.
This conservative approach is one of several reasons why collectors have for over twenty years held a high level of confidence in the integrity and accuracy of the Arapaho series.
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