Hatband & Straps
Law Enforcement Insignia
Tie Ornaments & Pins
of the NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
While technically not an insignia, the ranger hat has
become synonymous with the ranger service. Even though Smokey is
actually a motif of the Forest Service, most people think of the Park
Service when they see him. Similar police hats are also called "Smokey
the Bear" hats.
It would appear that this "Stetson" style of felt hat
evolved from John B. Stetson's first "Boss of the Plains," which he
marketed in 1863.  This style has long
been known as the "ranger" hat, no doubt from being used previously by
the Texas Rangers. This style of hat was so popular in the West that
"Stetson" became a generic term, like Fedora in the East.
Sigmund Eisner drawing of the
"Alpine" hat ordered by the department in 1912.
The first hats worn by rangers in the Park Service
were "Stetsons" like those of the Army. These were usually creased fore
and aft, but there were no regulations on the subject and it was left to
the ranger to do whatever styling he wished.
When the first "authorized" uniforms were ordered in
1911, they included a "felt camping hat after the Stetson style."  It can be assumed that this was a
continuation of what the rangers were familiar with. With the ordering
of uniforms in 1912, though, an "Alpine" style hat was specified.  From the drawing submitted by Sigmund Eisner,
it would appear that this was the forerunner of the current
stiff-brimmed hat. Photographs bear this out. They show a hat similar to
what the rangers wear now, except for a higher "Montana" peak, or pinch.
This would seem to prove that when Mark Daniels attempted to formalize
the Park Service uniform in 1914, the hat was already being used. 
The hat was first formally specified in the 1920
uniform regulations. They stated that it would be "Stetson, either stiff
or cardboard brim, 'belly' color", a shortening of "Belgian Belly".
named after the beautiful pastel reddish buff color of the underfur of
the Belgian hare from which some of the finer hats were felted. Here
again, this was more than likely a ratification of what was already
being worn by the rangers. 
Richard G. Doyel, Guide,
Mammoth Cave National Park, 1941. Doyel is wearing the soft cap worn
by rangers assigned to motorcycle duty and in some of the Eastern parks
and monuments. National Archives/RG 79-SM-32
The 1932 regulations specified that the "Stetson hat"
was to have a "three inch stiff brim," was to be equipped with the
"prescribed National Park Service leather hatband," and was to be
considered the standard headpiece for use in all National Parks and
National Monuments." There were exceptions to the "all." Employees in
the eastern parks and monuments and rangers assigned to motorcycle
duties were authorized to wear an "English Army Officer" style, of the
same material as their uniforms.
In 1935, there was some agitation from the field,
especially the western parks, for a wider brim to help protect the head
from the sun and rain. Office Order No. 324 of April 13, 1936, changed
the hat specifications to call for a "Stiff brim 3 to 3-1/2 inches wide,
and 4 - 4-5/8 inch crown, side color." Why the color was changed from
"belly" to "side" is not known. The John B. Stetson Company, which
started selling hats to the Park Service in 1934, initially had trouble
with the "side color," and the Service ordered all purchases from the
company to stop. In September 1936 the company notified the Uniform
Committee chairman that it had "developed the exact color desired by the
National Park Service" and was in a "position to manufacture hats and
fill orders." It also agreed to replace all hats of the wrong color
previously ordered at no charge. The Service rescinded the stop purchase
Office Order No. 350 of June 15, 1938, changed the
color back to "belly" and added three ventilator holes on each side.
They were to be arranged in the "form of an equilateral triangle. bottom
leg of triangle 1-1/2 inches above brim, legs of triangle 1 inch."
Ranger force at Mesa Verde
National Park, 1929. Prior to 1959. when blocking was done at
the factory, rangers were only instructed to "put four small dents in
the crown," resulting in all sorts of variations.
Left to Right: front row: Bert Hart. Paul R. Franke, James
Dalton (US Commissioner), Dwight W. Rife, Horace M. Albright, Jesse L.
Nusbaum. C. Marshall Finman, Richard D. Hager, Lyle Bennett; back
row: Raymond Devlin, Paul Rice, Norris Bush, Stephen J.
Springarm. Proctor L. Dougherty, David H. Canfield, James Armstrong,
Virginia Jessip (secretary), (?) NPSHPC-George Grant
Until 1959, the only instructions to employees
concerning the blocking of the hat was to put four small dents in the
crown. Thereafter the dents were blocked at the factory for
Uniform regulations issued in November 1959,
effective January 1, 1961, were contained within a National Park Service
Uniforms Handbook. This handbook contained uniform specifications and
other information pertinent to the wearing and care of the various
garments. Under the heading of hats, it stated: "Care should be used in
selecting the correct size and head shape. Width of brim should be
chosen to suit shape of face and physical appearance. Generally, average
sized individuals should wear 3-1/4" brim, short stocky persons or those
with long thin faces should wear the 3" brim. The felt hat is available
in "long oval," "regular oval" and "wide oval." If the hat fits the head
properly, it will be more comfortable, look better, and will not be
easily dislodged by sudden gusts of wind. The average life expectancy of
a felt hat is three years. It should be worn at a slight angle to the
right side and not tilted forward over the eyes or worn on the back of
the head. The cloth hat band that comes with new hat should be
removed and never should be worn under the uniform leather hat
Regarding hat care and maintenance, the handbook
stated: "Excessive sweating or the use of hair oil will quickly ruin the
appearance of the felt hat. Accumulations of oil around the sweatband
and brim will also penetrate the hatband. For this reason, care should
be used in placing an old hatband on a new hat or the new hat will be
soiled. Clean the hatband with saddle soap. A compound of carbon
tetrachloride "Carbona" is available for cleaning hats and the inner
surface of hatbands. French chalk may be used to remove fresh grease
stains. If the hat becomes wet it can be satisfactorily dried by turning
the sweatband outward and allowing the hat to stand on the sweatband
until thoroughly dry. Sandpaper or a nail file can be used to remove
accumulations of dirt and grease.
The Stetson Company will recondition felt uniform
hats for $7.50 if the hat is not too far gone."
Barton Herschler, custodian, Muir
Woods, 1933. As this photograph attests, ventilation holes had been used
in the hat for many years prior to their becoming specified in the regulations.
HPSHPC-George Grant photo-HFC/MUWO#6a
Roger Allen, superintendent,
Everglades National Park, 1967. Allen is wearing the standard
ranger straw hat with the pine cone version of the hat band.
In 1959, a straw version of the standard hat was
inaugurated for warm weather wear. Its specifications were as
Style--"National Park Service" ventilated milan braid
material, Belgium Belly color, crown specifications same as for the felt
hat. Stiff brim, flat set, average width 3-1/4", marine service curl,
leather sweatband and hat [sic]. Indentations in crown, same as for the
A transparent plastic hat cover was made available
for the protection of both the felt and straw hats.
1970. Scanlon is wearing the 1970 women's version of the
standard hat at the unveiling of the new women's uniforms at Independence
National Historical Park, Freedom Week, June 27, 1970. It was of a
softer, lighter grade of felt, similar to that worn by other women, and
could did not stand up to the rigors of even moderate use. Consequently,
most women preferred the standard men's hat when one was needed.
NPSHPC-Cecil W Stoughton-HFC#70-249-5
Ranger James E. Putman and a
friendly opposum, c.1968. Putman is wearing the rain cover
for his hat. He also is wearing the 1960 name tag and 1968 badge.
The 1970 regulations concerning women's uniforms
brought with it another version of the standard hat. Unfortunately, it
was more a victim of style than function. It closely resembled the
standard men's hat and while made from a quality felt, it was
nevertheless of light-weight material like other women's hats, instead
of the heavier men's grade. Because of this lack of body, the brim
didn't remain stiff, nor the hat in general, hold up to the rigors of
everyday use. Most women that were required to wear a hat, opted for the
man's felt or straw, depending on where they worked.
These hats have carried over to the present time.
Down through the years there has been an array of other headgear, but
nothing has stood out as a symbol of the National Park Service like the
regulation "Smokey the Bear" felt hat.