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In the summer of 1909, Adirondack Camp established The Order of the Adirondack Camp Eagle. Known today as simply an “Eagle,” this coveted prize is the highest honor one can earn at Adirondack Camp. While the criteria has changed slightly over its 112-year-old history, the Adirondack Eagle nevertheless remains one of the oldest and longest-running summer camp award in the world.

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A page from our 1920s camp booklet.

1909: The Original Eagle

The original 1909 criteria for earning an Eagle (a.k.a. admittance to the order) was based on a general “personal standard” including the likes of promptness, neatness, following camp rules, and erect posture at meals. A camper’s level of excellence determined which tier they could earn:

  • Bronze Eagle - “Coming up to the standard”
  • Silver Eagle - “Especially high standard”
  • Gold Eagle - “Especially high standard” including swimming a hundred yards, do the 12 ft high dive, be able to row well, canoe skillfully, recognize and name 25 trees, pass an exam on nature, camping, and woodcraft, as well as answer questions on physical training and care of the body.

It was emphasized that even the youngest and smallest camper could earn a Gold Eagle. Back then, any camper could earn any level of Eagle regardless of age or line.

According to the 1910 booklet, over two-thirds of boys earned a Bronze Eagle, three boys earned a Silver Eagle, and one boy earned the very first Gold Eagle during the 1909 summer.

To obtain the Gold Eagle, a boy must not only have such a good record, but he must have made the most of his summer in camp, and have learned much about nature and woodcraft and have skill along many lines, and courage.

1920s Booklet

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A page from our 1937 camp booklet.

1935: Introduction of the Plaques

In 1935, Adirondack Camp introduced its first set of plaques. They were Effort, Cleanliness, Sportsmanship, Promptness, Cooperation, Participation, and Camp Spirit. Not only did these original seven plaques represent camp’s core values but they also became the main criteria to which an Eagle could be earned. According to the 1937 booklet, “a boy must be selected by vote of the staff” on the basis of these seven plaques to earn either a Bronze, Silver, or Gold Eagle.

According to camp lore of the 1950s, the first seven were on the crossbeam in the Mess Hall until former owner Col. Warrick added the plaque Leadership in larger letters, above the rest. In 1981, the “Character Plaques” – as they became known - on which the Eagle Award was based were revised into the ten we know today: Leadership, Creativity, Cooperation, Growing, Effort, Courage, Independence, Sprit, Sharing, and Responsibility. Together with the code of conduct that is the Braves Code of Honor, the Character Plaques are the fundamental expressions of Adirondack Camp’s core values.

The highest awards of camp life are reserved for those who have made the greatest progress in self-development.

1937 Booklet

Changes over the Years

For many summers, all campers, regardless of age or line, could earn any of the three Eagle awards. But with the introduction of the Braves Code of Honor and changes to the plaques, the criteria of what needs to be accomplished/learned/memorized (and by who) has evolved over the years. However, staff voting, embodiment of core values, and “making the most of the summer” have always been at the foundation of the Adirondack Eagle award. Additionally, one’s impact on camp is also taken into account. Former Director/Owner Bill Dooley suggested the idea that in the earlier days for Gold - a camper’s impact on the entire Camp, for Silver - impact on the camp line, for Bronze - impact at the cabin level.

By the 1950’s, each Adirondack Eagle tier became tied to a specific age group; Junior Campers could only earn a Bronze Eagle, Intermediate Campers could only earn a Silver Eagle, and Senior Campers or Staff could only earn a Gold Eagle. This change was done intentionally to better recognize the unique achievements of specific age groups.

The Adirondack Eagle Today

Today, the Adirondack Eagle is still a tradition and a high honor awarded to many deserving campers and staff each summer. Our ten plaques remain the main basis for the award but service to camp, accumulation of activity points, passing of silence and memory tests, and overall impact all factor into determining who earns an Eagle. At the end of each session, camp gathers together for a joyous celebration where speeches are spoken and tears are shed as we honor and induct new members to the Order of the Adirondack Camp Eagle.

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