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NPS Associated


Arrowhead Patch
Cap Insignia
Collar Ornaments
Hatband & Straps
Law Enforcement Insignia
Length-of-Service Insignia
Sleeve Brassards
Tie Ornaments & Pins




ORNAMENTATION: Collar Ornaments

The first documented collar ornament to be worn on the uniform of a park ranger was the US from the collar insignia of Army officers. This shows up in two portraits of rangers in Sequoia National Park circa 1910 and 1912-16. It was easy to obtain and dressed the uniform up to look official.

Although the Secretary of the Interior had authorized the use of a uniform in the parks in 1911, nothing was said about distinctive insignia. Consequently, the various parks were left to their own devices.

Joe Cosley
Joe Cosley, c.1911. Cosley was a ranger at Glacier National Park, 1910-1914, and was one of the first recipients of the new 1911 uniforms. Photograph was taken prior to the arrival of his uniform. He is wearing a 1910 US Army coat with GNP on the collar. The park solicited the department to allow them to have this applied to their new uniforms, but it was denied. NPSHPC/GLAC#HPF1987

Charles W. Blossom
Charles W. Blossom, Sequoia National Park, 1901-1916. Charlie is wearing the 1912 National Park service uniform with an Army Officer's U.S. collar insignia. (Image is reversed) He was killed in an automobile accident on April 22, 1916. NPSHPC/SEQU#08838

In 1916, Washington Bartlett "Dusty" Lewis, then supervisor at Yosemite, had Meyer's Military Shop in Washington, D.C., make up several NPS insignia. [49] When Lewis proposed that the National Park Service adopt an ornament for the new 1920 coat, he offered one of these as a possible model. From the correspondence, it would appear that these were simply letters attached to a bar, which could be pinned to the collar. Responding to Lewis, Acting Director Cammerer wrote, "There are a number of serious defects in the design, which is a stock-cut proposition put out in the cheapest possible way for the largest gain." [50]

No examples of this ornament have been found, but it shows up in a couple of photographs depicting Yosemite rangers from around 1919. One is of Forrest Townsley, taken while he was on temporary duty at Grand Canyon National Park and the other is of William "Billy" Nelson, from the Ansel Hall Collection. If stock, as Cammerer states, the letters would probably be 1/2".

1919 NPS uniform
1919 National Park Service uniform. This coat is forest green wool with NPS buttons, backstamped "Sigmond Eisner", and N.P.S. embroidered on a patch attached to the collar. NPSHC/YELL Cat#1648

The Old Information Office with Rangers Billy Nelson (left) and Jimmy Lloyd, ca.1920. Nelson is wearing a pair of Lewis' N.P.S. collar ornaments. NPSHPC/YOSE#346

In late 1917 or early 1918, Service headquarters started requiring "N.P.S." to be stitched on the collar of the uniform in bronze thread, "to match the buttons." [51] There is a 1919 forestry green cloth coat in the Yellowstone collection with NPS on the collar. [52] In this case the N.P.S. is embroidered on a piece of coat material and then stitched to the coat collar. The original bronze-colored thread has faded to an orange. This coat would indicate that the NPS was used from it's introduction until the new metal USNPS collar insignia came in with the 1920 regulations. Glacier had earlier requested that G.N.P. be applied to their collars, but this was turned down.

The 1920 uniform regulations ushered in what was to become the second oldest insignia still in use by the National Park Service: the USNPS collar ornament. Only the button is older. Building on Lewis's suggestion, the Service finally decided to use the NPS but with US over it. A drawing of the ornament shows that the letters were to be 1/4-inch high and states: "Device to be supplied with strong pin with safety catch, pin to be attached length wise of device. and so fixed to same that pin does not project beyond outer edge of device. Die to become property of Government."

Officer's ornaments were to be heavy gold plate. ranger's. No. 12 gauge German silver, and temporary ranger's, bronze (plated brass). The die was retained by the Service and loaned to the successful bidder whenever new ornaments were required. From the appearance of the extant examples of this early pin, the die must have been rather crude in comparison with later ones.

collar ornament
Original drawing for the 1920 collar ornaments. National Archives RG 79

drawing of 1920 uniforms
Drawing of 1917 coat that has been altered to conform to the new 1920 uniform regulations. It was sent to suppliers for new coats, the only change being the elimination of the embroidered N.P.S. on the collar. It was replace by the metal USPNS. National Archives RG 79

collar ornament
Sketch of new collar ornament proposed by Thomas C. Vint, chief landscape architect. It was returned with the suggestion that the US be made smaller. It was but one of many designs submitted but not approved. National Archives RG 79 208.30

The USNPS collar ornament was a source of much ridicule since few outside the Service understood the significance of the letters. As a result of this, it was decided at the 1926 superintendent's conference to replace it with a new insignia consisting of the Interior Department or National Park Service seal or words superimposed with the letters US. The Landscape Engineering Division was assigned the task of coming up with design recommendations and the field was invited to send ideas to the chief landscape engineer for consideration. [53]

The first offering returned by Thomas C. Vint of the Landscape Division was a pencil sketch of a circle with a large US in the center surrounded by DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR/NATIONAL PARK SERVICE. [54] Shortly thereafter, a blue print was forwarded to the Washington office. After examining the blueprint, Acting Director Cammerer returned it suggesting that the US be made smaller, so as not to fill the entire circle. The following months brought forth a number of drawings of suggested collar devices. Unfortunately, none of these have been found with the correspondence. The favorite seems to have been a shield-shaped device. Apparently the draftsman thought that this design had the inside track, as well, for he included it on one of the initial drawing of the 1928 regulation uniform.

drawings of 1928 NPS uniforms
An early drawing of the 1928 National Park Service uniform. The draftsman must have thought the proposed shield design collar ornaments had the inside track since he included them on the drawing. NPSA RG 55Y

Willard M. Danielson
Willard M. Danielson. The USNPS collar ornaments show very clearly on his uniform. NPSHPC/HFC#FC2102

It was decided at the superintendents' conference in 1928 to dispense with the silver and bronze collar devices and to have everyone wear gold ornaments. But no agreement could be reached on the design, so the ornament revision was tabled. In January 1931 it was decided that because of the lack of "inspiration," the Service would keep using the old ornaments until "something really appropriate can be devised." [55] And that is where it stands today.

While retaining the same basic design, the ornaments have undergone minor changes over the years. in the late 1930s the fastening device was changed to a screw post like that used by the military. This was changed again in the 1960s to the popular and much more convenient bayonet pin with spring fasteners. In the 1961 handbook, released in November 1959, the colors were changed again. Now only the superintendents and assistant superintendents were to wear gold collar ornaments and everyone else was to wear silver. With the 1971 uniform regulations, gold devices once again became the standard for all uniformed personnel. They remain so today.

For a while in the 1980s, plastic collar ornaments were being sent with the uniforms. It was difficult to distinguish these from the metal ornaments, although they would scratch and break if handled roughly. The current ornaments are again of metal.

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Last Modified: Fri, Jan 17 2003 07:08:48 am PDT

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