@PaulMcDonald - I’ve never seen anything saying that Gold Award recipients can wear the Explorer Silver knot. That knot has been authorized for wear for a host of older Scout program awards.
Up until 1941, the only older Scout highest rank or award that existed was the Quatermaster rank in Sea Scouts. That year, Air Scouts was introduced and had an advancement regime with the highest rank being Ace.
Explorer Scouts (as they were called) came into existence in 1933. There was no real advancement program specific to Explorer Scouts. However, there were titles they could earn for completing five merit badges within a group. For example, a Scout could work on the Dairyman title by completing five of Conservation, Corn Farming, Dairy Farming, Farm Home and Its Planning, Farm Layout and Building Arrangement, First Aid to Animals, Forestry, Landscape Gardening, Public Health, Small Grains and Cereal Foods, Soil Management and Weather merit badges. In addition to the badges, there was an expectation that advanced work beyond the merit badge requirements agreed between the Scout and the unit leader would be completed along with a community service project related to the field. Oddly, the Eagle Scout rank did not yet require a community service project at the time. These titles were also available to Senior Scouts, a program that existed within troops from 1933 to 1949. Explorer Scouts could also earn First Honors and Second Honors, but these were not considered advancement. To earn Second (the higher of the two) Honors, an Explorer Scout must have earned at least one title among other requirements. Of course, both Explorer Scouts and Senior Scouts could earn the Eagle Scout rank.
Explorer Scouts got their own advancement programs in 1946, with the introduction of the Ranger Award. The four ranks were Apprentice, Woodsman, Frontiersman and Ranger. A knot was introduced in 1950, for adults who had earned the Ranger award.
Oddly, the sunset of the Ranger program began in 1949, before there was even a knot for it. Explorers (as they began being called in 1949) could not start working on Ranger after 1949, and had to complete the requirements by the end of 1951. Ranger was replaced with a new four-rank advancement regime that went Apprentice, Bronze, Gold and Silver. There were medals for the Silver, Gold and Bronze Awards. Since this was considered such a radical change from the Ranger program, a new knot for Explorer Silver became available in 1950. Along with the Ranger and Silver knots, another new knot was also released in 1950 for the Ace rank, which had already been in existence for nine years. While Air Scouts became Air Explorers in 1949, there was not a significant change to their advancement regime. Also in 1949, Sea Scouts became Sea Explorers.
In 1954, the Explorer rank requirements were completely rewritten and the designs of the badges of rank were changed, but the names of the ranks remained the same. Gold and Bronze medals were dropped, and the Silver medal got a completely new design. The Air Explorer Ace program came to an end, and Air Explorers would now work on the new Silver Award.
With another major refresh of the older Scout programs in 1954, and an end to the Ace program, the Silver Award square knot got a redesign and became the familiar silver knot on a red, white and blue background that would endure for decades. The BSA had previously stopped manufacturing the Ranger knot and now stopped making the Ace knot. So, from its inception, the Silver Award knot was designed to be an older Scout catch all. It could be worn to represent Ranger, Ace, old Silver or new Silver.
Starting at the beginning of 1959, Explorers lost their advancement regime, and nothing like it would reappear until the launch of Venturing in 1998. They could no longer earn the Silver Award. However, the Silver Award advancement regime remained available to Air Explorers. In 1959, the youth leadership position that had been called senior crew leader was renamed president, and the youth leadership position names found today in Venturing came into use.
Between 1949 and 1958, Explorers could work on the Silver Award (whichever version existed at the time) while registered only in a Boy Scout troop. They did not have to be registered in a post. Effectively, all older Boy Scouts were also Explorers.
In the fall of 1965, Air Explorer squadrons became Aviation Exploring posts. Squadron leaders (SPL equivalents) became post presidents. Air/Aviation Explorers were given until the end of 1966 to complete the Silver Award. No one could begin working on it after October 1965.
The 1978 Insignia Control Guide confirms that the Silver Award knot may be worn by holders of Ranger, Ace or either Silver Award.
The Young American Award was created by the US Department of Justice in 1954. In 1968, the BSA began assisting in identifying candidates and worthy recipients. In 1971, the government transferred control over the award to the BSA, and this became a significant award available to Explorers. It was not a rank; one was nominated for it.
After 23 years with no real advancement regime or highest award, the Explorer Achievement Award was introduced in 1981. The award focused on leadership and personal development and requirements were meant to be tailored to the specialty of the Explorer’s own post. The requirements were developed by youth. The 1986 Insignia Control Guide lists the Explorer Achievement Award as an award for which the Silver Award knot may be worn. During the time the Explorer Achievement Award (and its successor) existed, the Young American Award was clearly more prestigious, but the Explorer Achievement Award looked more like a highest “rank” or award, since it involved defined requirements and goal setting. So, it was the Explorer Achievement Award that got knot status.
In 1995, the Explorer Achievement Award was renamed and got a much nicer design. It became the Explorer G.O.L.D. Award with G.O.L.D. standing for Growth Opportunity in Leadership Development. The requirements for G.O.L.D. were more tightly described than they had been for the EAA, and there needed to be six personal growth goals as opposed to two. The tenure requirement was reduced from 18 to 12 months, but the requirements were more difficult to complete.
The 1995 Insignia Guide lists the G.O.L.D. Award as an award for which the Silver Award knot may be worn. It also lists the Young American Award as the seventh award for which that knot may be worn, finally according the respect the Young American Award deserves.
While they existed, the Explorer Achievement Award and the G.O.L.D. Award were available to all Explorers, including Sea Explorers.
With the launch of Venturing in 1998, the G.O.L.D. Award was discontinued. (Of course, there was a new Venturing Gold Award that had no relationship to the G.O.L.D. Award.) However, the Young American Award remained in existence. It is no longer administered nationally, and councils have the option to present it, if they wish. Insignia Guides during the decade of the 2000s that listed the Silver Award knot contained a statement that said, "All awards must have been earned prior to August, 1998.” This clearly targets the Young American Award and means a knot may be worn to represent it only if it was earned while Exploring was a traditional Scouting (i.e. not Learning for Life) program. It also gives a clue that we should consider ourselves done with adding awards to the list of things this knot represents. It is not meant for anything after August 1998. To summarize, the knot may be worn for:
- Explorer Ranger
- Explorer Silver (1949-1954 version)
- Explorer Silver (1954-1965 version)
- Young American Award earned prior to August 1998
- Explorer Achievement Award
- Explorer G.O.L.D Award
I have not seen the Silver Award square knot authorized for wear to represent any other award including the Girl Scout Gold Award or any of its predecessors. I know there are people who insist that it could/should be worn by those who received the Explorer Leadership Award, which existed from 1982 to 1998. However, this isn’t in writing anywhere, and this award was much more like today’s Venturing and Sea Scout Leadership Awards than anything else. Personally, I think recipients of the Explorer Leadership Award should be permitted to wear the Venturing/Sea Scout Leadership Award square knot. Sea Explorers during that era would have been eligible for the Explorer Leadership Award. There were council, regional/area (green only, no silver) and national versions, but no area version. The award was redesigned in 1995, and the ribbons look identical to those used for Venturers and Sea Scouts today. In fact, the medallion looked much like the one one the Venturing award with a different logo. The redesign coincided with a change in policy making the awards available to adults. They had previously been presented to youth only. See Scouting magazine, October 1995, p. 56.
I hope this helps. It was fun.