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Digital Collections

Camp Fire Girls collection, 1932-1960

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The Camp Fire Girls organization was founded in 1910 and incorporated in 1912. The organization provided recreational opportunities for girls comparable to those existing solely for boys at that time. This digital collection highlights what can be found in the University Archives’ Camp Fire Girls collections: a 1939 Women of Achievement project, a 1932 Camp Aloha photograph album, a Camp Fire Girl uniform, and many badges and stencils.

The Women of Achievement project was created by the 1939 group of Camp Fire Girls, who range in age from 13 to 19. This project highlighted successful local Western New York women. The girls chose women from various professions, such as lawyers, artists, actors, authors, musicians, doctors, housewives, teachers, businesswomen, and social workers. Some of the remarkable women featured were Katharine Cornell, a famous Broadway actress; Helen Z.M. Rodgers, an accomplished Buffalo lawyer; and Mrs. Austin Kimball, the national president of the Y.W.C.A.

The Camp Fire Girls had a camp, Camp Aloha, located in Wales, N.Y. The sixteen page Camp Aloha photograph album features Camp Fire Girls doing various camp activities in 1932. They can be seen raising and lowering the flag, swimming, doing archery, dressing up in costumes, and doing arts and crafts. The album also features an undated news clipping from the Buffalo Courier-Express.

The Camp Fire Girls ceremonial uniform consists of a dress, collar, and moccasins. This uniform was customized by the wearer and reflected the rank and achievements they had attained. Each patch and bead’s color, shape, and size had a meaning for members in the organization and reflected their abilities. This uniform was donated by Ann Manuel and originally belonged to her daughter, Patricia. The uniform was created sometime during the 1950s or 1960s.

The merit badges and corresponding stencils were used by the Camp Fire Girls to create their own badges. The stencils are made of poster-board or a similar material, and the badges are made of leather and have the stencil designs painted on them. The badges are a symbol of a Camp Fire Girl being highly successful in a particular skill area. Some of the badges represent skill in music, nature lore, games and sports, thrift, trail maker, and various other areas.