National Maritime Day and Mariner Scouts

Every year on May 22, The United States observes National Maritime Day, a holiday created in 1933 to recognize the maritime industry. It was May 22, 1819 that the American steamship, Savannah, set sail from Savannah, Georgia on the first ever transoceanic voyage under steam power. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Division, “The United States has always been and will always be a great maritime nation. From our origins as 13 British colonies, through every period of peace and conflict since, the Merchant Marine has been a pillar in this country’s foundation of prosperity and security. They power the world’s largest economy and strengthen our ties with trading partners around the world, all while supporting our military forces by shipping troops and supplies wherever they need to go.”

So what exactly is the Merchant Marine? The Merchant Marine is the fleet of ships which carries imports and exports during peacetime and becomes a naval auxiliary during wartime to deliver troops and war material. People who are in the Merchant Marine are referred to as mariners, seamen, seafarers, or sailors, but never Marines. People who are in the Merchant Marine are not military! They are civilians, just like us, and they were crucial to victory in World War II.

Mariner Scout membership pin, 1946-1963, photo courtesy of

Mariner Scout membership pin, 1946-1963, photo courtesy of

The Mariner Girl Scout program was officially launched in 1934, just one year after National Maritime Day was created in the United States. It was created for Senior Girl Scouts who were interested in nautical activities and whose troops had access to a body of water large enough to permit a comprehensive program of Mariner activities. By 1938, only one year before the launch of WWII in Europe when Germany invaded Poland, the Mariner Scout program had swept quickly throughout the country reaching a total registration of 3,484.

1946 Catalina Island Girl Scout Mariner Camp, photo courtesy Girl Scout Collector's Guide, 2nd Edition, 2005

1946 Catalina Island Girl Scout Mariner Camp, photo courtesy of Girl Scout Collector’s Guide, 2nd Edition, 2005

Although the Mariner Scout program was officially discontinued in 1963, today it has been re-instituted in a much smaller form.

Fun fact: Juliette Gordon Low was born and raised in Savannah, Ga., the same place from which the steamship Savannah set sail for the first ever transoceanic voyage. As a child, Juliette Low was sometimes affectionately called “the little ship under full sail” by her family!


Posted on May 20, 2015, in Holidays, Savannah, Seniors (Grades 9-10) and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.


    Maggie – You find the most interesting subjects. There are a bunch of us on the Archive comm who were Mariners, me included. It’s fun sailing on a 92′ schooner to Maine and back and getting sick!!!. Loyally, Sue Belden

  2. Reblogged this on Pacific Paratrooper and commented:
    A great post of introduction to our Mariners and Scouts.

  3. Father Paul Lemmen

    Reblogged this on A Conservative Christian Man.

  4. Yes, this was a very interesting article. So often, here in England, the Merchant Navy is completely forgotten, the main example being the unbelievable bravery of those on Arctic Convoys, who received more medals from the Soviets than from their own government.

  5. I was a girl scout long ago and never knew this! Thanks for the education.

  6. What a delightful description of a child – “the little ship under full sail”.

  7. Unknown to many it was the “Maritme Trade” between the USA and the colony of NSW way back before the turn of the 19th century, not long after the ‘First Fleet’ arrived at Botany Bay; that enabled the British Penal Colony to survive, flourish and prosper to become the nation now recognized as Australia.

    Had it not been for this contact with the US. the new settlement in all probability would have failed.

    At the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour in Sydney NSW (at which I had the privilege of serving as a volunteer guide) there is a United Sates of America Gallery,given to this country by President Reagan to celebrate our 200th anniversary as a nation and the close trade ties between the two countries, a gift which by the bye cost the American taxpayer $5 million dollars for which we thank you. 🙂

    The maritime ties actually go back even further, there were three Americans as part of the ships company (the RN do not have ships crew always company) of the HMB Endeavour when Capt. Cook discovered the east coast of what is now Australia.

  8. I was a Brownie; don’t remember why I never moved into the Girl Scout troop.

  9. Interesting piece of history, my Father-in-law served in the Merchant Marines, he recalled the Battle of the River Plate, the Exeter, Archilles and Emden against the Graf Spee out of Montevideo, he had a memory of being torpedoed whilst in the boiler room.
    Great post on a vital part the Merchant sailors played in the war.

    • The Emden was a German raider, a Dresden Class cruiser, fought a battle with the HMAS Sydney in WW! and was lost off the Coco”s. It was the Exeter an 8″ County Class cruiser and 2 6″ cruisers the HMS ACHILLES AND THE HMNZS AJAX that took care of the Graf Spee on the 13th December 1939

  10. I’m a historian with the Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast. When I was a Girl Scout in the 60’s, Mariners was one of the Special Interest Senior troop you could have, so in a sense the program sort of lived on in that form until ’72. You say it’s back today? Where? In what form?

  11. Again, where is it back today?

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