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Rusty Greaves

US Dept of State Special Agent's Badge 1917

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Gentlemen, I am seeking some additional information or research source suggestions about the earliest form of the US Dept of State Special Agent's Badge. The first badge was created in 1917, and I am curious about the final date this badge was used before the design was changed. I also am interested in determining whether it is possible to find listings of Special Agents by their badge numbers. The badge I have is the is the 1917 design and is badge No. 12, but I do not have any of the associated paperwork that originally accompanied this badge. I have had minimal luck with internet searches or initial keyword searching through a couple of University library catalogues. I do not find any examples on auction sites to get a sense of whether this is a common item or its relative value. Any information and research suggestions are greatly appreciated. 

US Dpt State badge obverse .JPGlarge.5841c8df7e0db_USDptStatebadgereverse.JPG

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I have completed some of my research on this Dept of State Special Agents’ Division badge, with help from many generous people in the collecting community. This is apparently an authentic and extremely rare original badge of the 1917 design. This badge, numbered 12, probably came out of the New York office of the US Dept. of State, set up by first Chief Special Agent Joseph M. “Bill” Nye in ~ 1917 or 1918 (approximately contemporaneous with the establishment of their office in Washington, D.C.), and overseen by the first Special Agent of the NY office, Robert S. Sharp. Almost all (all?) examples most folks have seen are restrikes, possibly made as early as the 1970s, but more likely from 1989 when the Dept of State probably authorized a restrike for the bicentennial celebration of the 1789 ratification of the US Constitution and establishment of the Dep. of State. Many (most?) of these were encased in Lucite, at least some with the obverse obscured by a colored backing. The restrike design of the obverse differs somewhat from the original (see first illustration below) and the quality of the engraving is not as fine as the orignals’. The style and wording of the reverse markings also are different on the restrike, although I have not seen an illustration of that face. There is no enamel in the “US” or anywhere else on obverse of the original badge, while it appears that at least some restrikes may have enamel. The image on the internet Dept. of State history document (History of the Bureau of Diplomtic Security of the United Sate Department of State, October 2011, Global Publishing Solutions; Figure: Service Badges used by Special Agents (1917-present), and by DS Diplomatic Couriers and DS Security Engineers (present) on pg v.; https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/176589.pdf) appears also to show this restrike rather than an original example (second illustration below). I was sent a single image of the obverse and reverse of another original example by a researcher (the third and fourth illustrations below), this badge’s precise current whereabouts is unknown in the US collector community. The low-resolution image does not show the badge number. The consensus on the period when this design was in use is probably from 1917 until ~1930, and its termination may have coincided approximately with the end of Frank B. Kellogg's term as Secretary of State in March, 1929. There is some ambiguity about what precisely represents a commission document that would have been the position authorization and sanction to wear this badge. There may be large “diploma-sized” documents that represent a commission number associated with a particular badge number (see reverse image of this badge on the original post of 12/2/2016) that may not change for any particular agent continuing to serve as a Special Agent under new Secretaries of State. Alternatively, new commissions may have been issued as smaller documents in leather cases with new numbers assigned following the appointment of new Secretaries of State. Because the badge’s reverse state that the badge and commission numbers must match, if these smaller documents are the authorization, then badges might have been re-assigned after each change of Secretary. One collector shared images of these smaller documents that carry signatures of the Chief Special Agent and the Secretary of State. If these are the Commissions, then it suggests that badge #12 predates 1920. Images I was sent of those original credentials are for the first Special Agent (Robert S. Sharp) put in charge of the New York office (probably in 1917-18) by the first Chief Special Agent Joseph M. “Bill” Nye during the term of Secretary of State Robert Lansing. Sharp was one of the first 3 recruits Nye selected, who were all former Postal Inspectors. Sharp’s cancelled credentials from 1920 and 1925 (both would be renewals of his first commission that would have been signed by Nye and Lansing) were signed by Chief Special Agent Joseph Nye (1920), and a renewal of those credentials for Sharp in 1925 by the second Chief Special Agent, Robert C. Bannerman. Interestingly, these cancelled commissions would also show that with the new terms of at least two Secretaries of State (Bainbridge Colby in March 1920, and Kellogg in March 1925) badges may have been re-issued to Special Agents continuing to serve the Special Agents’ Division. The rarity of these badges may argue against the re-issue and proliferation of new badge numbers. It is unclear whether new commission numbers may have issued to Special Agents, as the wording on the reverse of the original states that badge and commission numbers needed to match, so either badges might either have been re-assigned or new ones issued. Currently, there is variation between federal agencies about which credential documents match badge numbers issued to agents. Although the round hinge and machine-made safety catch of the attachment on the badge I initially illustrated are more common in the late 1920s-30s, several examples from 1900-1910+ federal, state, and city law enforcement badges are shown in several well-illustrated internet photographic morgues for auction sites. My research indicates that although the collector community is aware of one other original example, no other originals have come to light other than the one I have illustrated in my first post on this badge. The final image below is another photo of the obverse of this very rare badge. 

58c5b5fb05c31_1916USDeptofStateSpecialAgentrestrike2.thumb.jpg.92cb58be4b3418c8c452c0da4f9da231.jpg

Image of the obverse of a restrike of the original 1917 design of this badge, probably struck ~1989. Note the less fine engraving than the original, some design element differences - especially the shield on the eagle's chest, length and thickness of the rays emanating from the eagle;  the enamel in the "US"; and the background areas between the scrollwork of the "US" shield and the stylized scroll reading "DEPARTMENT OF STATE".

large.58c5b91601f72_DeptOfStateillustrationpgv.JPG.9613ad7fb64350f117516ea9552d0457.JPG

Image from the US Dept of State document (History of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security of the United State Department of State, October 2011, Global Publishing Solutions; figure "Service Badges used by Special Agents (1917-present), and by DS Diplomatic Couriers and DS Security Engineers (present)" on pg v.) that appears to illustrate a restrike version of this badge rather than an original.   https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/176589.pdf

 

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This is one of the few other examples known of an authentic 1917 design US Dept. of State Special Agents' Division badge, provided by a collector.

large.58c5c3dd8f50a_STDEPT2.jpg.dd22744e3ec4b33a050963375d3fb5b6.jpg

This is an image of an authentic original 1917 design US Dept of State Special Agents' Division badge's reverse provided by a collector showing the same marking on the reverse referring to the Commission document as in my original post of 12/2/26.

large.58d6b8468421c_USDeptofStateAgentsbadge.jpg.c728c6a7b8eaa765ff0c485d78220461.jpg

Another obverse image of the authentic 1917 design U.S. Dept. of State Special Agents' Division badge # 12. Note the fine engraving and design element differences compared with the ~1989 restrike.

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You know -i would have thought this is something friends of mine would have known about - but this is a completely new subject area for me. I smell PHD. thesis to be honest. Have you asked over at USMiliteria? 

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Ulsterman, Thanks for the suggestion about the US Militeria forum, I'll see if that uncovers anything. Given the difficulty in getting info about this badge online and the scarcity of solid knowledge even in the collector community, it seems that this is a job for document research sleuthing. I am planning on a visit to some of the National Archives to look for potential agent lists. Not sure this is Ph.D. dissertation material (no original question), maybe an M.A. thesis, but more likely just a good story. Hanging out in the Widener reading room eh? Any position on removing puritans from the song "Fair Harvard? 

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I would like to illustrate a couple of the possible commission documents for the earliest period of the US Dept of State Special Agents' Division relevant to my post of March 25, 2017 summarizing some of my current research on this badge. These images were sent to me by a collector, and I have mentioned them in the March 25 post. Additional correspondence with other collectors of US Federal badges and individuals serving with the Diplomatic service indicate that it is very common, both historically and currently, for there to be mismatches between authentic commission documents for agents and the badges used by them. Apparently, the only exception is the US Customs service. This still does not resolve how thorough any past destruction of previously issued badges for the US Dept of State Special Agents' Division may have been, or whether they continued to be used with updated commission documents that appear to have been renewed with each appointment of new Secretaries of State.  I am especially interested in these credentials for Robert S, Sharp, the first Special Agent in charge of the New York Office of the US Dept of State Special Agent's Division who was appointed in 1917 or 1918. This office was set up by the first Chief Special Agent of the US Dept of State Joseph M. “Bill” Nye during the term of Secretary of State Robert Lansing. This was approximately contemporaneous with the establishment of their first office in Washington, D.C. The New York office interests me as this is the likely location where the agent who was assigned badge #12 worked from, given the source of this badge. 

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Credentials (commission document?) for Robert S. Sharp (the first Special Agent in charge of the New York office of the US Dept of State Special Agents’ Division, 1917 or 18 though ?), 1920, signed by Joseph M. Nye (the first Chief Special Agent, 1917-20) and Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby (1920-21).

large.5a1cdb3c2aad6_Sharpcredenetials1920zoom.jpg.9778faf4c968d8e5e688b3a27f4bccc7.jpg

Higher resolution image of the signature page for Robert S. Sharp’s 1920 credentials.

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Credentials (commission document?) for Robert S. Sharp (the first Special Agent in charge of the New York office of the US Dept of State Special Agents’ Division), 1925, signed by Robert C. Bannerman (the second Chief Special Agent 1920-40) and Secretary of State Frank Billings Kellogg (1925-29).

large.5a1cdb6ec97d4_Sharpcredentials1925cover.jpg.918248c96b045d961c88435428a88f1e.jpg

 Cover of Robert S. Sharp’s credentials from 1925

 

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