BADGES and UNIFORM ORNAMENTATION
of the NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
Uniforms and symbols designating units have been part of the military scene for well over two thousand years. They were first introduced to distinguish friend from foe, but later became a source of esprit de corps as uniformed organizations throughout the world vied with one another by wearing distinctive uniforms and unique symbols to set themselves apart and display their status to others of the same culture.
In the American military distinctive uniforms and emblems have, and still are, used to differentiate between the ranks of the personnel within the different Services. A series of metal insignia identify officers, while chevrons set the non-commissioned officers apart from the lowly private. In addition, special emblems were devised to identify those individuals with unique talents and positions.
Each branch of the Army (Infantry, Armor, Artillery, etc.) has it's own special emblem and to further identify, as well as contribute to the elan of the organization, the various units within each branch (Divisions, Regiments, etc,) also have their own special identification in the form of a patch.
The uniform, badges and ornamentation of the National Park Service is an outgrowth of the military's presence in the Nation's parks during the early years of their existence, as Bryce Workman so ably illustrates in this volume. The Department of the Interior utilized the military example even in the early parks that had no martial presence and the National Park Service, when it was formed in 1916, attempted to follow this same military tradition of setting the officers apart from the men. The early insignia assigned to each group amply reflected this desire.
In addition, following the example of the Army, the Service instituted a system of unique symbols to reward specialists, who incidently were all officers and just like the Army, even though the Park Service is a much smaller organization, it carried the specialists badges too far. What at first looked like a good idea went from sub-group to sub-group to sub-group, ad nauseam. This ebb and flow from general to the specific is a frequent theme in the subject of badges and devices. The present Army uniform is a perfect example. Everyone wears the same coat and then we hang special badges and devices all over it, so that one begins to look like an Edsel.
To alleviate the rapidly growing confusion, it became necessary for the Service to completely revamp their mode of operation and thinking. It would seem that we Americans must always have some sort of unique and special identity and wish everyone else to have it as well.
This volume should be very beneficial to those National Park Service employees interested in the history of the badges and ornamentation that have adorned the uniform of the National Park Ranger over the years, as well as collectors of Park Service and military memorabilia. This is the first serious study dealing with this subject and will certainly clear up a lot of myths within the National Park Service concerning this material.
It is truly amazing how quickly people forget where some of these devices came from and when they were introduced. There is many a ranger who believes that the arrow device must go back to the dawn of time or at least to the very beginnings of the Park Service. They will be stunned to discover the date that the arrowhead device was introduced to the Park Service uniform was 1952. This is but one of the many discoveries and surprises to be found in the pages of this interesting volume.
William L. Brown