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


In 1883 Congress authorized the use of Army troops to protect Yellowstone National Park. When they started patrolling in 1886, however, they were not empowered to arrest offenders. They could only escort them out of the park. Here and in the California national parks after 1890 the troops sometimes employed ingenious methods, such as expelling offenders from one side of the park while driving their flocks or casting their weapons out the opposite side. But a more regular form of law enforcement was needed. For this duty civilian rangers, or scouts as they were known in Yellowstone, were hired. These early forest rangers, as they would be called, displayed their authority in the form of a badge, usually from some local jurisdiction, or in the case of Yellowstone, the park.

The earliest known badge attributed to a national park is that of the "Yellowstone Park Scout." It probably came in after the 1894 Lacey Act, when scouts were hired to enforce the hunting prohibition in the national parks. It was silver, round, 2-inches in diameter, with YELLOWSTONE PARK SCOUT stamped around the perimeter. The middle was cut out in the shape of a star and a badge number was stamped in the center. It was made by the J. P. Cook Company of Omaha, Nebraska. The chief scout's badge was sterling and cost $1.25. The other scouts wore badges of German silver and were charged 75 cents if they lost them, probably the replacement cost. [1] These badges were probably worn by rangers at Yellowstone National Park until after the formation of the National Park Service in 1917.


Chief scouts (sterling silver)

Scouts (nickel-plated)

2-inch diameter, convex, pierce star

It is not known exactly what the badges issued to rangers in the other parks looked like. But from correspondence and photographs we know that they were being worn. There are three extant photographs of rangers in Sequoia National Park wearing what appear to be two different badges, a round badge over one with a shield configuration.


Worn by rangers at Sequoia National Park

Documentation incomplete

Two of these photographs are circa 1902; the other one, while undated, shows one of the rangers from the other photographs, Lew Davis, wearing the same clothes. So it can be assumed that it was taken about the same time as the others. The two 1902 photographs are of the same four rangers, taken on the same day. The images are not very clear, but from the shadows on the badges of the two rangers in the center of one of them, the top badge appears to be the size of the 1905 National Park Service "eagle" badge (for want of a better term at this time).

There is a forest reserve ranger badge in a private collection that is stamped "Department of the Interior." This indicates its use before the 1905 separation, for Gifford Pinchot, chief of Agriculture's new Bureau of Forestry, immediately ordered a new badge when he obtained the forest reserves. A photograph in the Forest Service photo collection depicts William Watts Hooper wearing what appears to be this badge. (Hooper received an appointment as a forester in the Kenosha Range country of Colorado sometime after 1887 and moved to Agriculture with the forest reserves in 1905.)


All forest rangers (park & reserve), except Yellowstone National Park

2-inch diameter, nickel silver

The badge in the private collection was made by the John Robbins Manufacturing Company of Boston, Massachusetts. It is 2-inches in diameter, convex in shape and made of German, or nickel, silver. It has US in inch-high letters in the center with FOREST RESERVE RANGER around it in 3/16-inch letters. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR is superimposed over the US in 1/8-inch letters. As was common practice with badges at the time, all the letters are stamped into the metal instead of being raised. The park rangers may have worn this badge or one stamped "park ranger" rather than "forest reserve ranger." If this was the case, though, it seems logical that they would have been known as park rangers instead of forest rangers.

This is probably the badge alluded to by Frank F. Liebig in an article he wrote in 1944 for the Forest Service, concerning his recollections as a ranger on the Flathead Forest Reserve in 1902. "The Supervisor gave me a notebook or two and a nice shiny silver badge," he recalled. "It said on it, 'Department of the Interior, Ranger.' " [2] No example of a "Department of the Interior Ranger" badge from this era is known, so Liebig's recollection may have been faulty. The US and FOREST RESERVE are much larger than the DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR and it seems likely that he would have remembered them if indeed this was the style of badge issued to him. Yet such a badge may have been used before 1905 when the national parks and forest reserves were both under Interior, with "National Park Service" supplanting "Ranger" after the forest reserves were transferred to the Department of Agriculture. "National park service" then denoted Interior's park function, not the future bureau. It is interesting to note that he also has what appears to be a second small badge under his ranger badge.

The origin of the bottom shield badge in the photographs is unknown. It would appear to be some kind of patrol badge. To complicate matters further, the shield badge on Charlie Blossom is different from that on the other three rangers, but it has the most contrast of the group. The sketch in the badge layout is the best interpretation possible from magnification.

To clarify the narrative from here on, the badges are assigned numbers based on their dates of introduction.

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

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