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National Park Service Uniforms
Badges and Insignia 1894-1991
Number 1


From the early days of Yellowstone National Park, there was a need to distinguish the men who would protect the national parks from those who would damage them. The first rangers, such as Harry Yount, did not wear uniforms and may or may not have carried a badge. The first clear reference to badges for rangers relates to their use by Yellowstone park scouts. The 1898 U.S. Department of the Interior badge was evidently the first universal badge to be used by the "forest rangers," as the rangers in Interior's parks as well as forest reserves were then called. From then until the first uniform came into being a decade later, badges were all that identified rangers. The uniform enabled the greater public recognition that was desired.

In the beginning, the National Park Service had the trappings of a military unit similar to the U.S. Army, which it replaced in some of the western parks. Materials and ornamentation for the officers (those who were not rangers) were of higher quality than those for the rangers. Officers wore serge instead of heavy wool and gold fill instead of nickel plate or German silver. Patches, or brassards as they were called, were used to distinguish the various positions. These distinctions came to an end, for the most part, in 1928 when it was decided to raise the ranger in the field to the same level as those in administration.

The following is a history of the various articles of adornment that have been used over the years to identify the National Park Service ranger. This information has been gleaned from public records as well as the Service's Harpers Ferry Center Archical collection of badges and insignia that have been donated over the years by people interested in perpetuating the history of what the "man in the field" wore. Past and present National Park Service employees plus a small but elite band of private collectors have helped immensely in this endeavor by opening their minds and boxes of treasured memorabilia.

I would especially like to thank Jack Williams for the inspiration of his earlier history; Barry MacIntosh for making sense out of my research; Tom Durant, whose help was invaluable in locating images to illustrate items used by the rangers; Deryl Stone and Ron Howard for allowing me to utilize their badge and insignia collections to fill in the gaps; David Guiney and Susan Myers for the many hours they spent in putting this all together, and last, but by no means least, the many men and women throughout the Service that contributed objects, information, photographs and assistance that made this study possible.

With the publication of this booklet, no doubt other objects and information will come to the surface. I surely hope so. National Park Service rangers have made their mark in the history of this country and deserve recognition.

cartoon by Keith Hoofnagle
Keith Hoofnagle originally drew this cartoon for the final issue of In Touch, Summer 1982, but it wasn't used. In Touch was a monthly magazine for interpreters.


Last Modified: Thurs, Jul 28 2000 07:08:48 am PDT

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