Sunday, July 19, 2009

Public Health Service

Public Health Service,
originally uploaded by waterclock.
U.S. Public Health Service Sanitarian hat badge.

No hallmark, however, manufactured by Gemsco, NY (General Merchandising Co.) with Second World War pattern dies. Same die used for base was also used for Master, Mate, and Pilot union hat badges.

Badge is plated with 1/20 10K Gold.

I personally think this design is horrible; the eagle is not at all graceful. The pattern for the anchor and caduceus continues to be used on contemporary U.S. PHS hat badges.


Badge base reverse.

Shield base plate obverse.

Shield reverse; incuse punch detail.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

American President Lines

American President Lines hat badge.

Gemsco hallmark on flag. Eagle and shield sterling; wreath brass/gold-plate. House flag, enamel with gold fill. Second World War era.
badge: 60mm x 65mm
flag: 25mm x 22mm

American President Lines was formed by the U.S. Maritime Commission in 1938 to stave off the impending bankruptcy of the Dollar Line, the leading carrier between the U.S. west coast and Asia. It is estimated that the company's total liability in 1930s dollars was $17 million, with assets around $11 million and debt interest at $80,000 per month. Along with the government bail-out came a corporate restructuring, with allied changes in logos and insignia. The flag, as designed by the U.S. Maritime Commission, is red with a white eagle and a white star in each corner, recalling the Dollar Line's red and white colors while evoking the U.S. Presidential flag - which at the time was blue with an eagle and four white stars.

During the Second Word War, American President Lines acted as an agent for the U.S. War Shipping Administration, overseeing vessel manning, equipping, overhaul and repair, handling of cargo and passengers, and fueling. Ships' officers and crew insignia changed to match that of the U.S. Maritime Service; officers' hat badges, such as the above example, changed from the usual shipping company house flag on wool-backing with wire and thread wreath to that of the house flag on Maritime Service eagle - this was a precedent followed by many U.S. shipping companies at the time.

The company’s fleet was used for the war effort alongside hundreds of Liberty and Victory ships. Later in the war, the U.S. War Shipping Administration began to use containers to ship vital supplies more quickly and efficiently than traditional break-bulk methods. As such, the U.S. government built 16 additional specially-fitted ships for American President Lines.

By the end of the war, the American President Lines' assets were estimated at $40 million. R. Stanley Dollar, the heir of the Dollar Lines company, initiated the "Dollar Case" in order to force the government to return the company to his family. The case continued for the next seven years with Dollar eventually prevailing. By 1947, American President Lines returned to peacetime activities, once again providing passenger service on routes like the company's celebrated round-the-world service. Insignia changes followed suite; with officers licensed by the U.S. Maritime Service wearing U.S. Maritime Service hat badges with their company uniforms - if so desired. In 1988, American President Lines officially changed its name to APL, Inc.; the company is now a subsidiary of NOL (formerly Neptune Orient Lines) of Singapore.

House flags of American President Lines:
  • Red with a white eagle and a white star in each corner. 1938-1955
  • White with a red eagle and "American President Lines" in white over span of eagle. 1955-1980
  • White with a red eagle and "American President Lines" in blue beneath eagle. 1980-1988
  • White with a red eagle and "APL" in blue beneath eagle. 1988-present

A reference I found useful for tracking house flags is Lloyd's House Flags and Funnels. A facsimile of the out-of-print 1912 edition available here:

Panama Railroad Steamship Company

Panama Railroad Steamship Company hat badge.

30cm x 30cm
White enamel swallowtail house pennant (flag), black enamel P and gold fill.
No hallmark, but definitely Gemsco. The rear screw and flag style dates to it to the 1940s-50s (see below). This could either have been mounted on a wool-backing in the center of a wire and thread wreath or applied to Maritime Service-syle eagle (although the shank is too short for the latter).

Panama Railroad Steamship Company (also known as Panama Steamship Company and Panama Line) was incorporated in New York in 1862 (or 1889) and operated to 1981. There are differing accounts of how and when this line was established: it could have been in 1862 to funnel passengers and freight to the newly constructed Panama Railroad; or it was established in 1889 by the French Isthmian Canal Company to support its construction efforts. After Panama became independent of Colombia with U.S. support, the United States government took over the canal-building effort and purchased the assets of the already bankrupt French company, including the shipping line. The line's heyday was during the construction period; once the canal was finished in 1914 the line settled down to a more mundane level of business supporting the maintenance and operation of the canal and its supporting infrastructure, including the railroad. During the Second World War, the U.S. War Shipping Administration militarized the ships and crew, since cargoes traveling through the canal were of critical national importance; some graduates of the Maritime Service schools in Tampa, Florida and Pass Christian, Mississippi manned the company's ships. After the war, it was the target of constant attacks by privately owned shipping firms who disliked having to compete with a government-owned line, but the Panama Line was so efficiently run that it managed to stave off calls for privatization until Panama took over responsibility for maintaining the canal and railroad in 1981.

The Panama Line used two different house flags:
  • A white swallowtail with a black P. 1912-1950s. P. Sources: Lloyds (1912), Wedge (1926), National Geographic (1934).
  • A blue over red swallowtail with a white triangle in the hoist extending to the fork, and a blue P on the white triangle. late 1950s-1981 (conjecture). Source: US Navy H.O. (1961).