Sunday, November 22, 2009

Massachussetts Maritime Academy



The late 1800s saw a flurry of state nautical school openings with funds provided by U.S. Congress. One of them, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy began its life as the Massachusetts Nautical Training School in 1891. In 1913, along with training vessel and curriculum changes, its the name changed to the Massachusetts Nautical School. And, along with its move to Hyannis from Boston in 1942, its name changed its present form.


The Second World War saw many changes in the structure of MMA corps of cadets. Like other state and federal maritime schools and academies, cadets were ushered into a rush program of 16-18 months from matriculation to graduation. America's entry into the war called for an increased number of men to serve on the many convoy ships, merchantmen and ocean-going vessels either under construction or underway. The US Navy instituted the v-12 program whereby to increase the number of young men joining the ranks of the Navy's officer corps.

With each change in name, MMA's cadet insignia changed, with the exception of uniform buttons. The buttons depict the central device of seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. MMA's hat and uniform insignia have mirrored those of the U.S. Naval Academy, albeit with hat badges having "M.N.T.S." and "M.N.S." above the anchor; if you look at this page, you can see an example of the later. In the 1940s until the present, MMA has used insignia indistinct from the USNA - including the abandonment of woven for metal anchor devices on hats. It is the aforementioned indistinct insignia that has prompted this entry and a means for sleuthing an insigne's period.



When I had originally purchased this grouping, I was told that all items are from the United States Naval Academy and from the Second World War. I looked a bit closer and noticed the curious buttons. After examining the shoulder boards and corresponding rank ladders - those of a midshipman battalion lieutenant (junior grade) - I knew spot-on that the insignia was from the MMA and from the cited period.

Here are my meandering notes:
* Interestingly, unlike USNA boards, the stars are not metal, rather woven. The shoulder boards came from a private uniform shop, "Boston Uniform Co." - it was located on 66 Chelsea St. in Charlestown, Massachusetts. The company last appeared in public records in 1958. But! Embroidered shoulder boards were not worn in the 1950s.

* The ladders are plainly marked with the Hilborn-Hamburger manufacturer's mark - "H-H" within a stylized eagle; such a mark was used on H-H insignia prior to the mid-50s. The fact that the insignia is clutch back - as opposed to pin - means that it was issued mid-war onward.

* The buttons are brass, and were manufactured by Waterbury Button Co. in Connecticut. Waterbury now has its archive online; however my specific button was not present - in this case a useful tool proved not so.

* Regarding the anchor devices: in a MMA setting, these would specify the class of wearer. Each collar insigne is unmarked. And, of the many examples present (4 pairs), they are either brass or gold-plated - you can still see the Brasso residue on a pair.

* A blacklight test would show that the cap-band is not made of synthetics, but of Mohair; the band stitching corresponds to 1940s patterns. Mohair has a distinct warp and weft; the band has the correct texture for the period.

If I hadn't the other items alongside the cap badge, I would have been hard-pressed to determine the correct era and I would have mis-identified the piece as being merely a Navy ROTC or perhaps USNA hat badge. And such is the joy of collecting.


Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
Cadet hat badge, reverse.
Threaded screw and one non-rotating point (bent).
Unmarked, cast. Gold metal plate over white metal.
Circa Second World War.

mma cadet insignia group

Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
Shoulder boards.
Cadet/Midshipman Battalion Lieutenant (Junior Grade).
Wool over hard board, gold bullion woven star and rank stripes.
Brass fastener with Commonwealth of Massachusetts seal.
Manufacturer: Boston Uniform Co., Charlestown, Mass.
Circa Second World War.

mma cadet insignia group

Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
Collar insignia, class rank anchors.
Three examples, gold plate and brass.
Clutch-back.
Manufacturer: no mark.
Circa Second World War.

mma cadet insignia group

Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
Collar insignia, rank ladder reverse.
Cadet/Midshipman Battalion Lieutenant (Junior Grade).
Gold plate.
Clutch-back.
Manufacturer: encuse Hilborn-Hamburger mark (H-H in stylized eagle)
Circa Second World War.

Please see: Hilborn-Hamburger maker's mark on reverse of MMA rank ladder for detail.


mma cadet insignia group


Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
Reverse hat band, stitching detail.
Band: Mohair. Hat screw post holes, worn with stitching.
Badge plate: Leather and wool.
Circa Second World War.


mma cadet insignia group