Saturday, September 4, 2010

References for the Collector

U.S. Maritime Service Commissioned and Warrant Officer hat
Winter hat; navy blue wool with wicker frame, ½-in. wide. gold bullion chinstrap and two 22½-ligne gilt cap screws.  (note: if strap is ¼-in., hat would be that of a warrant officer).

Circa Second World War.

It is one thing to collect, and another to actually know what one is collecting. In a previous post, I detailed some known fakes and fantasies, and mentioned a few print sources for the collector. As follows is a reference bibliography; I will keep running updates as articles and works of interest appear - some are followed by a link to a downloadable pdf.

Rudy Basurto. "Insignia of America's Little Known Seafarers, 2nd Ed." Privately Printed, nd.  pdf here.

Rudy Basurto. "Insignia of America's Little Known Seafarers, 3rd Ed. (edited and revised by Steve Soto and Cynthia Soto)."  Privately Printed, 2008.  pdf here.

Herbert Hillary "Sarge" Booker, 2nd. "Crow's Nest #1 (Summer 1992)." pdf here.

Herbert Hillary "Sarge" Booker, 2nd. "Crow's Nest #2 (Autumn 1992)." pdf here.

Herbert Hillary "Sarge" Booker, 2nd. "Crow's Nest #3 (Winter 1992)." pdf here.

Herbert Hillary "Sarge" Booker, 2nd. "Crow's Nest #4 (New Year's Special Issue - 1993)." pdf here.

Herbert Hillary "Sarge" Booker, 2nd. "Crow's Nest #5 (Summer 1993)." pdf here.

Herbert Hillary "Sarge" Booker, 2nd. "Crow's Nest #6 (Mid-Summer 1993)." pdf here.

Herbert Hillary "Sarge" Booker, 2nd. "Crow's Nest #7 (Autumn 1993)." pdf here.

Herbert Hillary "Sarge" Booker, 2nd. "Crow's Nest #8 (Special 1993 Encyclopedia Edition)." pdf here.

Herbert Hillary "Sarge" Booker, 2nd. "Crow's Nest #9 (Fall 1993)." pdf here.

Herbert Hillary "Sarge" Booker, 2nd. "Crow's Nest #10 (1994 New Year's Special)." pdf here.

Herbert Hillary "Sarge" Booker, 2nd. "Crow's Nest #11 (Spring 1994)." pdf here.

Herbert Hillary "Sarge" Booker, 2nd. "Crow's Nest #11 (Spring 1994 - The Issue That Never Was)." pdf here.

Herbert Hillary "Sarge" Booker, 2nd. "Crow's Nest #12 (Summer 1994)." pdf here.

Herbert Hillary "Sarge" Booker, 2nd. "Crow's Nest #13 (Fall 1994)." pdf here.

Herbert Hillary "Sarge" Booker, 2nd. "Specialty and Distinguishing Marks: U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Maritime Service, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Public Health Service, 3rd Revision."  Privately Printed, 1996.  pdf here.

Dave Collar. "Insignia of the Army Transportation Service in World War II." ASMIC: The Trading Post October-December 1994: 29-43.

Dave Collar.  "Insignia of the United States Maritime Service, World War II." ASMIC: The Trading Post April-June 1995.

Dave Collar.  "Insignia of the United States Shipping Board." ASMIC: The Trading Post  October-December 1996.

William K. Emerson.  "Section XIII. The Army's Navy: Chapter Thirty-Six.  Army Transport Service and Harbor Boat Service." Encyclopedia of United States Army Insignia and Uniforms. Norman, Oklahoma:  University of Oklahoma Press, 1996. 331-352.

Steve Soto and Cynthia Soto.  "A collector's guide to the History, Uniforms and Memorabilia of the U.S. Merchant Marine and Army Transport Service during World War II." Privately Printed, 1996 (revised 2008).

Joseph J. Tonelli.  Visor hats of the United States Armed Forces: 1930-1950.  Atglen, Pennsylvania:  Schiffer Publicartions, 2003.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fakes and Fantasies

For a collector of period items there is nothing more vexing than a fake or forgery offered as an original, vintage item. The higher the rarity, the greater the amount of fakes circulate.  Unfortunately, in the field of nautical insignia and hat badges in particular, there is a cottage industry of unscrupulous vendors offering fakes and thus inserting into an already small field a score of spurious items. Some collectors unwittingly scoop up these fakes, to the financial gain of the faker and detriment of the hobby.

An issue with maritime industry and U.S. Merchant Marine hat badges is that published references are few and far between for the interested student and serious collector. It is often difficult to determine what is truly a period or piece, given the paucity of information and relative sophistication of fakers.  Coupled with the aforementioned, insignia items are often altered, defaced or invented by bored mariners, thus provenance and determination of "genuineness" is at times problematic. Fortunately there exists a small number of references devoted to the subject: a self-published book by Rudy Basurto acts as a general catalog and starting point for anyone interested in the subject - it is not an academic treatment of insignia, rather is more a collection of images and pithy descriptions and some of the insignia depicted exist only in long-lost regulations; a smattering of articles published in the ASMIC Trading Post by Dave Collar and Bill Emerson have depth to their descriptions and illustrate insignia quite well; a more specialized treatment of U.S. Maritime Service and Army Transport Service (in its various guises) is found in a self-published work by Steve Soto and Cynthia Soto; ATS-only topics are treated by Bill Emerson in his encyclopedia survey of U.S. Army Insignia; perusing Herbert Hillary "Sarge" Booker's newsletter "Crow's Nest" details some of Basurto's material and offers variations of maritime insignia; Joseph Tonelli, in his Visor hats of the United States Armed Forces presents some handsome examples of many common and not-so-common head wear of the sea services, with the Maritime Service and Merchant Marine included.  In a future post I will provide a list of the majority of published and "self-published" works on the topic.  Readily accessible, Collar and Emerson are indispensable; take care in looking at  Basurto's "book"; it is a good starting point, however many of the hazy depictions of insignia have been picked up by forgers.

As follows is a gallery of fakes, plain and simple, along with a discussion of each. A great many of these items were manufactured in the 1980s and began re-surfacing in the early 2000s to the present day.

ATS Chief Petty Officer
This device comes up in online auctions from time-to-time with examples in bronze. The dead give-away for this badge is the "hand applied" rope. The wire is loose, and the reverse solder is blotchy. Fakes of this badge often have the NS Meyer hallmarks - this is due to the fact that the dies were sold at auction in the 1990s when the NS Meyer plant closed - every quarter about 3-4 of these badges find their way to sale.

USMS Chief Petty Officer
The applied anchor is a dead giveaway. No USMS CPO devices were ever manufactured that have said application.

US Coast & Geodetic Survey Officer
This is a fun badge. The eagle is actually a MSTS eagle with a USCG shield and USN anchors. US C&GS hat badges from the time of the Second World War are exclusively woven. Only postwar did metal hat badges come to be manufactured; and with those matching NOAA examples from the present day.

US Coast & Geodetic Survey Senior Chief Petty Officer
This badge is problematic in several ways. It was not until 1968 that the US Navy Uniform Board approved a Master and Senior Chief Petty Officer cap insignia - similar to their collar devices, with one or two silver stars superimposed on the anchor, inverted and centered on the stock. The US Coast Guard soon followed the US Navy's lead in 1970, as did the US C&GS. The US C&GS never had Chief Petty Officers, per say, as all unlicensed mariners aboard ship were un-uniformed Federal, civil-service employees. Proposed insignia tables were published in 1965 without examples being produced. With the transfer of the agency to the Environmental Science Services Administration, all non-commissioned officer positions were removed and finally ceased to be with the 1970 reorganization into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Further complicating matters for this particular hat badge is the fact that the star is not of the type used by any of the licensed manufacturers of US Military establishment insignia, and and the anchor itself is that of a US Navy ROTC/Anapolis midshipman. The only US CG&S true device is the triangle within the circle.

USMS Supply Officer
This purports to be a hat badge, however, it may be an attempt to create a collar badge which existed only in regulation form.

US Navy Commissioned Officer
This is quite frankly a fantasy. An actual US Navy Commissioned Officer hat badge of the "pre-1940s" type has been detailed previously. This badge may also be seen in a similar configuration as a WSA badge with bronze anchors. Caveat emptor.

USMS Gunner
No such badge was ever produced or existed. Unofficial ATS examples are without supporting strut and are wreaths with a pin-on center device; the same is true for MSTS hat badges.

ATS Radioman
This is sometimes advertised as either an ATS Electrician or Radioman. See above.

ATS Craftsman
See above.

ATS Clerk
See above.

US Army Harbor Boat Service - Tug Boat Service
This is a fantasy.

Harbor Boat Service Officer
This is a fantasy, and a fun one, at that. Oftentimes fantasies will purport to be a variation by the mere application of a small device on the shield of a US Navy Commissioned Officer's hat badge. Given that not only is the hat badge incorrect for the period (pre-1940), the US Army Quartermaster's device is also incorrect for the same.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mersey Docks Harbourmaster/Pilot

Mersey Docks Harbourmaster/Pilot hat badge
Wool backing and wreath of silver thread.
Central device, stamped white metal.
Circa Second World War era.

A fact often overlooked by those interested in convoy history is that each ship that entered or left a port area was piloted by an individual versed in the particulars of the waters surrounding the port; when a ship was straffed by airplane fire, those on the bridge were targeted first with many a casualty being the pilot.

To this day, pilots are still employed and are organized in associations and pilotage authorities much as they have been for the past hundred years.  A major pilotage house, such as the Virginia Pilot Association, has about 40 active pilots, who steer a yearly 2000 or more vessels in and out of Hampton Roads.  These days, they are fortunate that their launches are motorized, as in years past, the vessels were predominantly powered by sail and oars.  Following in the Anglo-American tradition, apprentice pilots live on station, work some seven days a week around the clock, and are subject to U.S. Coast Guard examinations, tests and practical demonstrations.  Moreover, to prove their knowledge of the sea about them, apprentices must re-create mariner's charts of Hampton Roads from memory.  All of these skills are needed for a knowledgeable and professional group of pilots - all ready at a moment's notice to bring an oil tanker or yacht to port, the former's stopping distance measured in miles.  These individual work hard, and without whose dedication to knowing their waterways shipping depends, precious cargoes would remain offshore.  In interesting article about pilots on the C&D canal may be found here, View from the Bridge.

Much like Hampton Roads, Liverpool was a major embarkation port and convoy terminal during the Second World War; the city's port and train facilies were key links in the Allied war effort's supply chain, and as such the Germans considered it a major strategic target.  Despite the constant barrage of aerial bombings, on average a convoy either entered or left Merseyside each day for the duration of the War.  Interestingly enough, the last house destroyed by Luftwaffe bombing was Hitler's half-brother Alois' previous residence at 102 Upper Stanhope Street in Toxteth.

Presented is Mersey Docks and Harbour Board offical's hat badge.  This device was worn by both Harbourmasters and pilots in the Liverpool Pilot Service.  In the United Kingdom, a Harbourmaster is an appointed position once held exclusively by Navy Officers, they issue local safety information, oversee the maintenance and provision of navigational aids within port areas, co-ordinate maritime emergency response, do vessel inspections and oversee pilotage services.  In a large port, such as Liverpool's Merseyside, there is a head Harbormaster assisted by a small staff of assisting officers - during the Second World War, about 20; a priviledge of office is a white-bordered Union Flag with a white central disc bearing the initials "QHM" (or "KHM") beneath the crown, which is flown from the gaff or yardarm either afloat or on land.

The Liverpool Pilot Service has historically been an independent cooperative association, and is now operated and licensed by the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board (MD&HB) the Port of Liverpool authority.  Its stations are located at Point Lynas on the North coast of Anglesey and at the Mersey Bar.  At its inception up until the 1960s, the Liverpool Pilot Service covered the approaches to all ports around the Eastern Irish Sea from Holyhead in the South, to Barrow in the North, and the East coast of the Isle of Man; now, pilots are employed to guide ships to the River Mersey ports, which include the Liverpool and Birkenhead Docks, the Manchester Ship Canal and Garston.  It is worth mentioning that at latter, vessels are handed-over to a once fierce rival:  the Manchester Ship Canal Company Pilots.

Mersey Docks, Hat badge, obverse.
Metal and silver wire on wool backing. Metal central device.
Circa Second World War.
In terms of harbor agencies and government boards, this hat badge follows the British standard design of large laurels leaves with a municipal central device. More often than not, the leaves for other agencies are gold bullion - the Mersey Docks wreath is unusual in that respect, but still within "symbolic bounds." The central device is quite interesting being that it is Athena in a throne over Posideon; this hearkens to Liverpool's claim to being the "Athens of the North." Interestingly this same device is not found anywhere in Mersey Docks and Harbour Board Offices building except on the uniform buttons of the Harbourmasters and pilots.

Mersey Docks, Hat badge, obverse.
Metal and silver wire on wool backing. Metal central device.
Circa Second World War.

Mersey Docks, Hat badge, obverse, detail.
Metal and silver wire on wool backing. Metal central device.
Circa Second World War.
Mersey Docs

Views of the Mersey Docks & Harbour Building
on the river mersy, liverpool

Monday, June 14, 2010

U.S. Maritime Service Chief Petty Officer

U.S. Maritime Service Chief Petty Office hat badge (1st design, 2nd pattern)
One piece construction.  Seal, 25mm diameter; Anchor, 50mm length.
Obscured AE CO N.Y. hallmark (American Emblem Company).
Anchor and device stamped nickel; blue enamel band and red, white & blue shield.

This is the second pattern of the first design of the USMS CPO hat badge; it was worn from 1939, with the creation of the USMS training program, until  the dissolution of formal Coast Guard management of training program and its transfer to the War Shipping Administration in 1942.  1942 saw a re-design of U.S. Maritime service insignia, and with it, the USMS CPO hat badge.  Both the first pattern of the first design and second design have been respectively treated before, here and here.

This specific badge is often misidentified as a USMS Warrant Officer device; this is an understandable error, as mid-war, individuals who trained at USMS Radio Officer schools were issued USMS CPO hat badges and collar disks, and upon graduation held the appointed rank of Warrant Officer within the U.S. Maritime Service. Compounding some of confusion is that by war's end, USMS Regulations published in 1944 stated that officers in the Radio Department, depending upon vessel tonnage and class, and certificate status could rank anywhere from Lieutenant to Ensign, vid.: U.S. Maritime Service Officers' Handbook, 1944 p5.

USMS CPO Hat badge, obverse.

USMS CPO Hat badge, obverse detail.

USMS CPO Hat badge, reverse.
Note that the screw post and pins have been sheared off and replaced by a flat pin. It, like its predecessor has the curious "CO N.Y." or "CD N.Y." hallmark.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

British Petroleum Shipping Co.

British Petroleum Shipping Co. Officer hat badge
Metal, gold wire and colored thread on wool backing.
Circa 1960s.

With contemporary events unfolding regarding the catastrophe in the Gulf, it is worth pausing for a moment to think about transport of petroleum products. One of the safest, economical and most expedient methods to transport liquid petroleum and its derivatives is via ship. In fact, about 34% of all worldwide seaborne trade is devoted to the transport of oil. This entry is the first of several regarding oil tanker fleets and officer insignia.

British Petroleum was originally formed as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in 1909 to exploit oil deposits in Persia. The British Tanker Co. Ltd started in 1915 to handle sea transport and achieve a contained, integrated oil company model akin to its American counterparts. The parent group was renamed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1935. In 1951 the company's Iranian assets were nationalized, a crisis partly resolved by negotiation in 1954 when the company was re-named British Petroleum. In 1955, the fleet was re-christened BP Shipping. During the 1970s BP extended its oil interests to the North Sea and Alaska, and eventually moved to major oil fields in the Middle East and Gulf of Mexico. The fleet and its manning remained in the province of BP until 1986 when staffing went the way of a modern crimping system known as "agency manning" concurrent with BP re-flagging its fleet under various flags of convenience.

At present, BP Shipping is based out of Singapore and operates a fleet of 77 vessels and charters an additional 115. Its vessels are comprised of crude oil tankers, product tankers and LNG (liquefied natural gas) carriers. In its employ are some 2300 mariners and 600 onshore personnel. In all, 50% of BP's maritime cargo is carried on these ships worldwide. BP remains one of the few major oil producing corporations that continues to man a fleet under its own house flag.

British Petroleum Shipping hat badges may be found in three distinct variations:
1. 1915-1926. Merchant Navy-style hat badge with the current house flag - a red flag with a horizontal white band expanded at the centre in the form of a circle, the band bearing the black letters "BTC", the "T" being larger. I have read of the red being bordered in black; however I have yet to see an example.

2. 1926-1955. Similar to the illustrated hat badge, with then current house flag - a St. George's flag with a green diamond in the center - with a golden lion passant gardant above all.

3. 1955-1968 (present?). The illustrated badge; the golden lion replaced by a red lion rampant.

Images and analysis of several of the older badges may be found here.

Bill Harvey, BP Tankers: A Group Fleet History. London: Greenhill Books, 2006.

British Petroleum Shipping Co. Officer hat badge, obverse
Metal, gold wire and colored thread on wool backing.
Circa 1960s.

In terms of British hat badges, the BP Shipping follows the British standard design of house flag as central device, Royal Navy wreath and Tudor maritime crown surmounting all. Over time, the embroidered leaves have grown thicker; and catalogs may denote the badge as belonging to the agency placing Deck and Engineering officers aboard BP vessels - Chiltern Maritime Ltd.

British Petroleum Shipping Co. Officer hat badge, detail.

British Petroleum Shipping Co. Officer hat badge, variation.
Circa 1950s.

Note the bronze-toned Tudor crown and the British Merchant Navy-style wreath.

British Petroleum Shipping Co. Chief Petty Officer hat badge, obverse.
Metal, gold wire and colored thread on wool backing.
Circa 1960s.

British Petroleum Shipping Co. Chief Petty Officer hat badge, detail.

British Petroleum Tanker Co. Ltd.
House Flag.
914.4 x 1422.4 mm
Circa 1955-67

The house flag of the BP Tanker Co. Ltd. On a white field, there is a red St. George's cross with a green diamond in the center, bearing a red lion, rampant. This design was in use from 1955 to 1968 and was re-introduced in 1984. The flag is made of a wool and synthetic fibre bunting. It has a cotton hoist and is machine sewn. The lion is printed. A rope and two Inglefield clips is attached.

British Petroleum Tanker Co. Ltd.
House Flag.
Circa 1940s.

The house flag of the BP Tanker Co. Ltd. from the 1940s. On a white field, there is a red St George's cross with a green diamond in the center, bearing a golden lion passant gardant. This design was in use from 1926 to 1955. The flag is made of a wool and cotton bunting. It has a cotton hoist and is machine sewn. The lion is printed.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

U.S. Maritime Service Chief Petty Officer

U.S. Maritime Commission Cadre /
U.S. Maritime Service Chief Petty Office hat badge (1st design, 1st pattern)

One piece construction.  Seal, 25mm diameter; Anchor, 50mm length.
Obscured AE CO N.Y. hallmark (American Emblem Company)
Anchor and device stamped gold-patinated brass; blue enamel band and red, white & blue shield.
Pre-to-early Second World War era; 1938-1939.

This is the first design of the USMS CPO hat badge; it was worn from 1938, with the institution of the USMC, up until the formal creation of the USMS training program in 1939.  The badge itself may be found in plain brass or gold, as well as plated silver or nickel.  The early gold-patinated brass patterns were issued in 1938-1939, followed by plated silver or nickel badges and then a new design came about in 1942.  A description of the second design may be found here.  In practice, in the period leading up to the Second World War, USMS CPOs, more often than not wore the more handsome embroidered hat badges - which were of the same design as the stamped metal device, albeit without the band of stars - as evidenced by an image in the article "Heros of Wartime Science and Mercy" in National Geographic Magazine, December 1943 page 717, as seen here.

Concurrent with WSA control of the USMS, and the stripping away of the ship-building component of the USMS,  came a color and design shift:  for the hat badge: the illustrated deco motif of a stylized Federal "classic shield" gave way to a detailed foul anchor charge on "official shield" of finer detail.  Whereas the first design was predominantly blue, the color changed to red - perhaps to echo the red of chevrons and other woven cloth devices found on an enlistedman's uniform.  My research has alluded to that late in the war, the CPO badge further changed to match the pattern found on USMS buttons (1942-1954); I will post an image of this badge at a later date.

J. Tonelli in Visor Hats of the US Armed Forces incorrectly asserts that the illustrated hat badge was worn by USMS Warrant Officers; however, regulations of the time state that Warrant Officers wear the same devices as regular, commissioned officers.  This is a commonly made mistake when attempting to devise a typology of hat devices for a relatively small organization with a small array of hat insignia.

Overall, the USMS only had a handful of CPOs and these were attached to USMS enrollment offices, training stations, officer schools and the US Merchant Marine Academy; CPO insignia was not issued to regular seamen who were matriculated from or were certified by the USMS. CPOs represented unlicensed seaman hired by the USMS skilled in the maritime industry with some seniority or specialized skills not satisfying the grade of Warrant Officer; it is useful to think of USMS CPOs as experienced Able Seamen (AB).

USMS CPO Hat badge, obverse.
This device was worn by Merchant Mariners attached to the US Maritime Commission involved in training duties; this badge eventually found its way to be only worn by senior unlicensed personnel (CPOs).  This hat badge continued to be issued until stocks were depleted and eventually replaced by a badge of the same design - albeit in nickel (pre- and early war), and then replaced by the more familiar USMS CPO device.  There is some speculation that the USMC/USMS CPO device was modeled after the US Coast Guard enlisted hat badge; however, it is worth remembering that the only badge this specific device resembles is the brass US Coast Guard Shore Installations hat badge - however the USCG badge went into production in 1942, half-decade after the production of the USMC/USMS badge.
The mystery of the design lies in the double-anchor and seal motif.  If analyzed closely, the badge hearkens to the precursor agency of both the US Maritime Commission and US Coast Guard:  the US Revenue Cutter Service.  In this light, the anchor stock and flukes, and as well as the rope on the stock themselves echo the old seal.  At the time of its creation, it was not stated in USMC regulations, but the uniforms and ranks of the soon-to-be-formed USMS were eventually codified to mirror that of the US Coast Guard.  In time, in an effort to create an esprit de corps and the forging of an independent identity, the badge change to the second design.

USMS CPO Hat badge, reverse.

USMS CPO Hat badge, reverse (detail).
Note the curious "CO N.Y." hallmark - the complete "AE CO N.Y." mark is obscured by the post - this is of the American Emblem Company of Utica, New York. This firm produced a number of Merchant Marine and Maritime Service items during the Second World War, most notably the ubiquitous Merchant Mariner pin.  In regard to this specific badge, NS Meyer produced a very similar insignia set for USMS officers using a similar central device. With the button and device change in 1942, AE Co. was no longer contracted to make USMS CPO badges; rather, the jobbing went to Coro.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps

U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps (pre-1942)
Yellow-goldenrod thread.
Embroidered anchor on wool backing and mohair band.
Pre-to-early Second World War era; 1939-1942.

From the period following the First World War through the Depression, the U.S. Merchant Shipping industry was in a shambles: once profitable companies faltered and fell, ocean-going trade evaporated and even intercoastal shipping dried up. As a result, companies went bankrupt, very few ships were built and crews manning the ships dwindled to a very few. It is also during this period that U.S. maritime unions started operating in full swing, and involved themselves in vicious internecine fighting and bitter struggles with steamship carriers. Of those seamen that survived the wreckage, their efficiency and morale was at an all time low. With the passing of the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, Congress abolished the ineffective U.S. Shipping Board and ushered in a new age for the U.S. Merchant Marine. The formerly under-regulated industry came under federal control and found itself subject to an array of programs and regulations. A few of salient features of the Act were the formulating and subsidizing the construction of U.S.-flag ships, as well as the formal training of men to man the ships.

With the passage of the Merchant Marine Act, the U.S. Maritime Commission came into being. The organization was ostensibly "to further the development and maintenance of an adequate and well balanced American merchant marine, to promote the commerce of the United States, and to aid in the national defense." It too, became embroiled in the old system of unions and steamship carrier falterings. To prop up the maritime industry, the USMC eventually bought out insolvent carriers thereby ringing whole shipping lines under federal control. With the storm clouds of war looming on the horizon, the Merchant Marine Act defined the entirety of the U.S. Merchant Marine as a military auxiliary in the event of war; furthermore, officers and crew of U.S.-flag ships could be pressed into the service of the U.S. Navy.

One of the most sweeping changes made by the act was that the Merchant Marine be "manned with a trained and efficient citizen personnel." The Act did not offer any specifics for the USMC; but soon after, the Bland Amendment of June 1938 created the United States Maritime Service for "training of licensed and unlicensed merchant marine personnel." Shortly thereafter, Congress enacted the Naval Reserve Act bringing all officers of U.S. public vessels into the U.S. Navy reserve as well as cadets (now cadet-midshipmen) at Federally-funded state maritime and the soon-to-be-created Federal system. It is worth mentioning that the U.S. Maritime Commission's first report to Congress in January 1939 suggested the establishment of a federal cadet system augmenting the pool of graduates from state and private schools - moreover along with traditional sea-handling, the system should emphasize naval science. Congress acted quickly and a series of Maritime Service cadet schools opened in the Pacific, Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Navy, Coast Guard and USMS personnel trained the cadets, with licensure remaining in the hands of the Coast Guard. With the declaration of war, the training of the Merchant Marine Cadet Corps was transferred to the Coast Guard in February 1942 and then to the War Shipping Administration in Fall of the same year.

The presented hat badge dates from the period between the founding the the Federal Merchant Marine Corps just prior to the Second World War and the institution of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in 1942 through the creation of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Cadet Corps Regiment on Dedication Day, November1943. By early 1944, midshipman-cadets began wearing midshipman hat badges mirroring their colleagues at the U.S. Navy Academy in Anapolis.  This hat badge is an embroidered anchor on a wool backing and mohair band; this specific example was removed from a hat and stored over the period of several years. Bands, such as this were an integral part of the hat to which it was affixed, and did not slide off easily as is the case with removable covers and bands of the present-day; hats were spot cleaned or taken to the cleaners. With the United States' formal entry into the war, the U.S. insignia industry servicing maritime and Naval concerns changed its means and modes of production. The older, elegant hat devices made of woven bullion and metallic thread were replaced by metal hat badges and other removable devices; although, those who had means and money continued to purchase and wear embroidered insignia. For cadets, who were rapidly moved through the federal training system, it was more expedient and cost-effective to use stamped metal devices and removable bands. This badge is the last of an era; from this point forward, stamped devices were and continue to be employed.

U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps hat badge (pre-1942), obverse.
Period photographic evidence points to the fact that leading up to the Second World War and in the initial year of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy's operation, cadet-midshipmen wore embroidered hat badges, rather supplanted by the more common stamped metal (brass, gold plated or gold fill). The presented item may be a custom piece - as the majority of cap devices of the period were comprised of metal thread (bullion) on wool backings - as opposed to silk or composite thread.  It is important to remember that the USMMCC was quite small in the period leading up to the institution of the USMM school system and uniforms were not always that - uniform - young men on the Gulf coast did not always wear the same kit as their colleagues on the West or even the East coast.

U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps hat badge (pre-1942), obverse detail.

U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps, pre-1942 reverse

U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps cadet-midshipman, SUNY Maritime period (1939-1941).

U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corps cadet-midshipmen, SUNY Maritime period (1939-1941).
The cadet-midshipmen are shown photographed in working khaki manning a monomy in Long Island Sound. Note that the young gentlemen are not wearing garrison hats, pointing to the fact that this photograph is pre-Regiment. The make of their combination hats is consistent with late-1930s and early Second World War construction. Their uniform shirts lack insignia of any sort, underscoring the same.

Monday, March 8, 2010

U.S. Maritime Service Chief Petty Officer

Maritime Service CPO Hat Badge
U.S. Maritime Service Chief Petty Office hat badge (2nd design)
One piece construction. Seal, 25mm diameter; Anchor, 50mm length.
Coro (Cohn & Rosenberger) hallmark.
Anchor and device stamped brass, sterling plated (marked); red enamel band and shield.
Mid-to-post Second World War era; 1942-1947.

This is the second design of the USMS CPO hat badge; the first was worn from 1938, with the institution of the USMS training program, up until WSA control of the USMS in 1942. The former badge may be found in plain brass or gold, as well as plated silver - as is the case of this badge. The second design is always in silver plate, any other is a pattern or reproduction. The illustrated badge differs from the first with a few stylistic differences - a difference in shield configuration and the inclusion of a motto, and punctured anchor ring. The first employs blue enamel as opposed to red. Interestingly enough, the changed design did not stylistically match that of contemporary uniform coat, cap and shoulder board buttons and snaps which were altered at the same time as the hat badge.

A miniature of this device was authorized and manufactured for wear on overseas caps.

USMS CPO Hat badge, obverse.

USMS CPO Hat badge, reverse.
A close-up of the reverse details the Coro (Cohn & Rosenberger) hallmark as well as the Sterling denotation. Coro, as a corporate name came to be in 1943; however, the incuse hallmark "Coro" with a distinct curly-queue C in serif font dates to 1940 and underwent minor variations until 1945. Moreover, due to wartime metal shortages, Coro produced Sterling insignia items under Government contract from 1942-1947. With the aforementioned in mind, this hallmark adequately dates the device to the early-to-mid 1940s, contemporaneous with USMS insignia change.

USMS CPO Hat badge, production hub.
This hub is composed of hardened steel; of interest are the alignment pins used in the creation of dies. I have already written about production methods specifically outlining the purpose of a hub, here. If you visit the image's page on Flickr, and select "All Sizes", the original size can give you a better idea of the intricacy of design and even the parts of the hub that have been buffed and chiseled.

One reason that dies do not show up often in collections is that as dies wear out, they are taken out of production, defaced and melted down; hubs survive due to the fact that more than one master is required for die production. In terms of USMS hat insignia, hubs are few and far between as there were not a whole lot of insignia houses producing USMS devices.

This specific die was sourced from an estate in Rhode Island; which corresponds to the fact that this is perhaps indeed a Coro hub (see above). Prior to, during and following the Second World War, Coro had a large jewelry factory in Providence, Rhode Island. Thus far, I have only seen period USMS CPO badges with Coro hallmarks.