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US Dept of State Special Agent's Badge 1917


Rusty Greaves
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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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  • 3 months later...

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".

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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.

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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.

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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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  • 3 weeks later...

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? 

 

Yes. I hate it. Harvard  bureaucrats  since 2011 seem hell bent on trying to show how virtuous they are, whilst steadfastly refusing to honor the schools’ tax free status by making tuition free. Most Deans I know do very little, but earn $150,000 plus a year. 

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  • 7 months later...

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).

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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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  • 9 months later...
  • 1 month later...

Ulsterman, thanks for your continued visitation of this thread. Several folks on Pinterest with interest in law-enforcement badges borrow images of the first US Dept. of State badge, but they inevitably all choose the ~1989 restrike image with the enamel and less well-exectued engraving rather than the photo of the actual rare original 1917 badge. GMIC is a much more satisfying forum dedicated to accurate information, background data, and not just "pretty" pictures. 

The Dept. of State Special Agents originated in the early WWI period with government concerns about abuse of the US neutrality by visiting diplomats, especially Germans. The war created significant new security problems not experienced by the US Government previously, and these became even more complex in the aftermath of WWI as the US emerged from a relatively isolated nation to a world power. 

In the early phase of WWI, the US was subjected to an array of espionage events that violated the tenants of diplomatic immunity and placed US neutrality in danger. These included abuses on US soil as well as the treatment of US (and other countries') diplomats oversees. Violence against the British embassy in Berlin, attacks on trains carrying diplomats, and rampant interception of diplomatic communications often confused Americans with the British, although the German government tried to get the populace to distinguish neutral Americans from the British who were at war with Germany. Interestingly, this may be where the wearing of US flags on diplomats lapels originated, as Americans tried to distinguish themselves from the British. The security of diplomatic pouches was a critical issue, and the US Postal service implemented a number of security measures that made them leaders in counter-espionage as it was experienced in relation to communications. This is one of the reasons that the first US Dept. of State Special Agent, Joseph "Bill" Nye selected postal inspectors as his initial Special Agents for the Washington and New York offices. The German Embassy in Washington ran a number of espionage, propaganda, and sabotage efforts (i.e., the realized plot that resulted in a 1915 attack on 10 US factories that produced munitions for Allied countries), in defiance of US neutrality. Passport fraud also was a major problem. Prior to 1914, passports were not required for travel in most parts of Europe, however this changed and new restrictions were implemented for the issuance of US passports. Despite these efforts, abuse of the passport system was rife. The German espionage & sabotage efforts were overwhelming challenges to the US government that lacked effective experience for these challenges. 

Robert Lansing, the US Secretary of State, was responsible for realizing and acting to try and combat these threats to US neutrality and sovereignty. He instituted a strict pass system and escort protocol for foreigners and US citizens (including Congressmen and reporters) visiting the Dept. of State. He created a "secret service" to meet these challenges, and moved to coordinate the various agencies trying to implement better security against concerted espionage. President Wilson was reluctant to authorize Lansing's proposed overseeing agency, and he created the "Secret Intelligence Bureau" in April 1916, under the direction of Leland Harrison from the Latin American Division. Harrison coordinated collection of intelligence form various US govt and military agencies (although it was recognized this work was "extra-legal"), and had regular contact with comparable British agencies. Surveillance of the German Embassy in Washington and the German Consulate in NewYork uncovered a number of German plots. Joseph M. Nye, a Secret Service squad leader, was one of the investigators who provided significant wire-tap information from the German Embassy, specifically in relation to the German intentions to continue unrestricted submarine warfare, one of the actions that led to US involvement in WWI. Nye was assigned as the Special Assistant to the Secretary in 1917, and subsequently Lansing  made him the Dept. of State's first Special Agent. 

Most of the first year of Nye's work was escorting foreign dignitaries, protecting them, and making all travel arrangements for them during their visits to the US. The first 3 new Special Agents he recruited were froth Postal Office Inspectors; James O'Connell, Robert S. Sharp, and Robert C. Bannerman. Postal Inspectors were widely trained in detecting fraud, theft, transportation of weapons, firearms, and other banned materials, identifying crimes affecting postal officials, and determining whether such activity was external or internal to the Postal Service. They had an array of investigative experiences  and skills critical to this new of the Dept. of State Special Agents Division. As I've noted elsewhere, they opened offices in Washington and New York, with Sharp overseeing the New York office.

The Special Agents Division was created just as President Wilson was preparing to declare war on Germany & Austria-Hungary. Lansing and his agency focused on diplomatic security particularly in communications as their principal WWI security  effort. They also provided security for US diplomats and foreign dignitaries. They surveilled various organizations whose wartime activities were considered "disloyal", and because of the perceived threat to Great Britain by groups being funded by the Germans to overthrow British colonial rule, they targeted Irish revolutionaries and Hindu nationalists. Nye was involved in the case agains the Hindu nationalists. The Hindu group was only trying to incite rebellion against British rule (in other areas of Asia and in Africa as well), but the Irish group was being funded through German agents in Mexico that also plotted sabotage attacks in the US. 

The post-WWI period resulted in even greater security and intelligence challenges as the US became an emergent world power, and target for more concerted espionage. The increase in the US diplomatic presence abroad resulted in even greater needs to maintain communications security, develop secure courier services, and counter-intelligence than during the war. Nye also continued the critical role of protecting foreign diplomats visiting the US. Special challenges included escorting Japanese royalty safely despite significant security threats, and, more delicately protecting diplomats from Liberia and other African countries while accommodating Jim Crow laws and explaining other racist conventions those diplomats were expected to practice with white officials and businessmen. 

After WWI, security responsibilities increase, but budgetary and personnel cuts were implemented. Joseph "Bill" Nye resigned in 1920, going to work for Guaranty Trust Company to improve detection of fraud. Nye was replaced by Robert C. Bannerman. Robert Sharp lost his commission as head of the New York office in 1920 following personnel cuts reducing the Special Agents Division from 10 to 2 Agents. However, the increased responsibilities of the Special Agents Division resulted in re-hiring several of those individuals in 1921 including Sharp, again overseeing the New York Office now with a staff of 25 people. The renewed duties included internal investigations of leaks of sensitive information, theft, background investigations of potential Dept of State employees, illicit importation of liquor by the British Embassy, and passport & visa fraud that became an important tool in deporting foreign agents involved in espionage during the 1920s and 30s.   

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1916- Robert Lansing, 42nd US Secretary of State (1915-1920) under President Woodrow Wilson

(US Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division; Harris & Ewing Collection; File: Robert Lansing; digital ID: cph.3b47713.jpg; Created: 31 December 1918)

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1917-Joseph “Bill” Nye, The Department of State’s first chief special agent, served from 1917 to 1920.

Library of Congress. "1917: The first Chief Special Agent of the U.S. Department of State, Joseph M. Nye, was appointed by U.S. Secretary of State Robert Lansing in 1917 and served until 1920. His principal duty initially was to monitor enemy diplomatic activities in Washington and to protect foreign dignitaries visiting the United States, during the period of the First World War." (Source: Library of Congress; direct quote from: https://www.state.gov/m/ds/rls/c31108.htm) http://www.afsa.org/ds-100-tradition-vigilance

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Joseph Nye's US Dept, of State Special Agents Division credentials, cancelled in 1920 when he left the Dept. of State. 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/usdiplomacycenter/25569676257/in/photostream/

https://diplomacy.state.gov/archives/438#gallery[photonic-flickr-set-1]/25569676257/

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Cover of Joseph Nye's US Dept, of State Special Agents Division credentials

https://www.flickr.com/photos/usdiplomacycenter/38630527820/in/photostream/

https://diplomacy.state.gov/archives/438#gallery[photonic-flickr-set-1]/38630527820/

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"1920: Robert C. Bannerman replaced Joseph M. Nye as Chief Special Agent in 1920 and served in that position until his death in 1940. He expanded the tasks of the office to include personnel background investigations, passport fraud, courier oversight, and internal investigations. His son Robert L. Bannerman was appointed head of the Department's Security Office in 1945." (Source: DS Records /1920) https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/176705.pdf

 

Edited by Rusty Greaves
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  • 2 years later...

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Attached is a low-resolution image of a more recent restrike of a version the original 1917 US Department of State Special Agents' Division badge design. The blue enamel in the "US", the lettering of the banners, and between the outer margin of the lower scrolled shield and the inner margin of the banner with the inscription contrasts with the black enamel that is only within the "US" portion of the other example of a restrike badge that I illustrated in a high-resolution image on this thread as the 1st the photo in my post of 25 March, 2017. This restrike would normally be encased in lucite with a blue underlayer, but is one of the few examples not encased in lucite. I am expecting a higher-resolution image of this badge in the near future. I do not have a date for this restrike. The Dept. of State Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) is apparently re-issuing updated versions of this original badge design to agents for use on special occasions, probably later this year. I expect to be able to post a bit more information about this version the restrict shown above as well as the new versions of the original badge design in a few months. The DSS refers to this original design affectionately as the "Peanut Badge", the "Old Badge", the "Original Badge" or the "1916 Badge" to commemorate the 4 April, 1916 date of the founding of the Bureau of Secret Intelligence by Secretary of State Robert Lansing, under the direction of the Foreign Service Officer Leland Harrison, the organization that has become the modern Diplomatic Security Sevice. The original badge design was instituted under Joseph M. "Bill" Nye, who was made the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State in 1917 and later became the first Special Agent. 

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Since a few years prior to the centennial anniversary of the establishment of the US Dept. of State Diplomatic Security Service (the descendant organization of the Special Agents' Division) in 2016, there has been an increased use of a logo derived from the design of the original 1917 Special Agents' badge. Below are 2 examples of this logo. 

 

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Motto for the DSS using the original 1917 badge logo from page 2 of the online pdf document History of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security of the United States Department of State, printed October 2011, Global Publishing Solutions, First Edition. (https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/176589.pdf). This is the same document that illustrates a series of historical badges for Special Agents that I previously included, in a cropped form, on this thread as the 2nd photo in my post of 25 March, 2017. I have included the uncropped version of that illustration below. 

 

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Illustration from page 6 of the online pdf document History of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security of the United States Department of State, printed October 2011, Global Publishing Solutions, First Edition. (https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/176589.pdf). In my previous 25 March 2017 post I did not include the 3 badges in the bottom row. No information is provided on the dates of the different badges. I am only familiar with the example on the far left of the upper row. As I noted when I initially posted this image in 2017, the badge pictured is not an example the original 1917-design US Dept. of State Special Agents' Division badge, it is a later restrike. The enamel in the "US" and probably in the lettering on the upper & lower banners as well as the margins between the lower scrolled shield and the inner margin of the lower banner (as in the blue-enameled restrict example shown in my 20 March 2021 post here) indicates that it is one of the later restrikes of this badge (exhibiting a different distribution of enamel from the high-resolution image of a restrike that is the 1st photo in my post of 25 March, 2017). 

 

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A red, white & blue version the same logo based on the original 1917 Special Agents' Division badge shown in black & white in the first image of this post. This image is from an archived US Dept of State website(from a previous administration) including a link to the same online article, "Diplomatic Security : Then & Now" as uses the black & white format shown in the first photo of this post. This version in red, white & blue appears to have specifically been used  in celebration of the 2016 Department of Diplomatic Service Centennial and is now part of archived information that was released from Jan 20, 2009 - January 20, 2017 (https://2009-2017.state.gov/m/ds/c66769.htm).

 

I have some additional information on restrikes of the original 1917 badge. A collector who specializes in US federal badges determined that the original dies for the 1917 badge was made by the US Mint and then given to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and was likely later sent to the State Department. The first restricts were probably made by V. H. Blackinton, currently located in Attleboro Falls, MA. Because of concern for the potential damage to the original die, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing did not allow Blackinton to use the original, and they used a costly method to copy it that did not impact the integrity of that original die. It is currently uncertain if that die may still exist or its precise location. A particularly appalling tale of Govt. economy in disregard of the importance of the history of the US Dept. of State relates to at least one version purported to be a restrike embedded in lucite. A collector with a second "restrike" in lucite removed it from the encasement to discover that it was cast, not die struck, and there was no engraving - the design was a lot less detailed because it was not engraved but had a vinyl sticker placed on the obverse. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Rusty Greaves
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  • 4 months later...

I am including below 2 high-resolution photos showing the obverse & reverse of the very rare original 1917 design US Department of State Special Agents' Division badge #12 taken by a professional photographer. These offer superior views of this badge and its design compared with my own less skilled efforts shown in a couple previous posts on this thread.  

 

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Edited by Rusty Greaves
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  • 5 months later...

I just saw illustrations of the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service's new commemorative badge that uses elements of the original 1917 design (DSS calls it the 1916 design, I believe the first badges were minted and distributed in 1917). The illustration below is from an article by Julia Paccone, "DSS unveils new commemorative badge at U.N. General Assembly", State Magazine, In the News, December, 2021 (https://statemag.state.gov/2021/12/1221itn04/). 

 

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Above is the only illustration for this brief Public Affairs article. This high-resolution image can be zoomed to view better details of the new DSS badge design. The associated caption reads: "Diplomatic Security Service Director Carlos Matus (top left) and Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Gentry Smith hold a DS commemorative badge at the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, Sept. 16. The new DS commemorative badge (bottom left, and top center) imitates the original special agent badge (bottom center, and right) from 1916, purportedly designed by Tiffany & Co. in New York. State Department photos"  Tiffany & Co. is probably not the designer or manufacturer. No hallmarks of any kind are present on the badge. To date, no confirmation has been found that either the the U.S. Mint, or the Bureau of Engraving and Printing manufactured this badge. 

 

The article reads: "Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) special agents received a new addition to their credentials while they protected foreign dignitaries at the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 76), Sept. 21-27. Rather than their typical badge, agents sported the “Diplomatic Security Commemorative Badge,” a permanent special alternate badge recently approved by DSS. This commemorative badge is the first of its type to be issued and is a replica of the original special agent badge from 1916.

 

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Domestic Operations Mark Sullo led the design effort, narrowing it down to two designs: a modification to the current DSS badge or an upgraded version of the original silver badge. The modified badge was selected as the new DSS active badge. Given the popularity of the original badge replica, Sullo successfully lobbied to make it a commemorative badge.

 

The new commemorative badge is only authorized by the director for use during special occasions, such as UNGA, the Olympics, and other events where DSS agents protect dignitaries and participants. DSS Director Carlos Matus authorized agents to utilize the DSS commemorative badge for the first time during UNGA 76.

 

“I am very proud of the work the team did on this once-in-a-generation project. The new designs reflect not only how special we truly are, but it is also a sign of respect to those agents who went before us and laid the foundations of the modern day DSS,” said Sullo.

 

Upon conclusion of UNGA 76, agents reverted to using their new standard-issue badge but will hold on to their commemorative badge for future use at special events. 

 

Julia Paccone is a public affairs specialist in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Service Public Affairs Office."

 

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large.834060188_DSScommemorativebadge2.jpg.49e297afb8bcd3aba9250c2cb15a7978.jpg

 

Here is a cropped image of the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service's new commemorative badge for use during special events, from the same illustration in the State Magazine, In the News, December, 2021 article that is referenced in the above post from yesterday (https://statemag.state.gov/2021/12/1221itn04/). Image credit is also: State Department photos. This shows better the elements borrowed from the 1917 badge design, most executed in relief rather than through engraving, and in less detail than the original badge. Some design elements are borrowed from the way that later restrikes (not the ~1989 restrike) were designed. Compare this image to the restrike with blue enamel shown glued to a mounting backing in the post of 20 March, 2021. This can be zoomed slightly for a little bit of additional detail.  

Edited by Rusty Greaves
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Illustrated below are images of Special Agent Robert S Sharp's U.S. Dept. of State credentials for 1921 signed by Robert C. Bannerman, the Chief Special Agent at the time (1920-his death in 1940). These complement the 1920 and 1925 set of credentials for Robert S. Sharp that I illustrated previously. Sharp was one of the first three individuals recruited as Special Agents by the first Chief Special Agent Joseph M. “Bill” Nye (all former Postal Inspectors) during the term of Secretary of State Robert Lansing (1915-1920). Sharp was the first Special Agent in charge of the Dept. of State Special Agents Division's New York office established probably in 1917-18 by Bill Nye. Badge No. 12 was probably issued to one of the early Special Agents at this New York office. These images are courtesy of an anonymous current DSS Agent. 

 

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See also the illustrations of Robert S. Sharp's 1920 (signed by Joseph M. Nye) and 1925 (signed bu R. C. Bannerman) credentials in my post of 29 November, 2017 on this thread. Joseph M. Nye's U.S. Dept. of State Special Agents Division credentials, cancelled in 1920 following his resignation from Dept. of State in 1920 to work for Guaranty Trust Company to improve detection of fraud, are shown in the 3rd and 2nd-to-last photos in my post of 9 November, 2018 on this thread. 

Edited by Rusty Greaves
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I have been scrutinizing the photos of the only other known example of the 1917 original badge of the US Dept. of State Special Agent's Division that I included as the 3rd-4th photos in my post of  25 March, 2017 on this thread. As noted, these unfortunately poor-quality photos represent the only evidence of another genuine original badge known to the knowledgable US Federal and other law enforcement badges collector community (that excludes me, I have only benefited form the generous help of many collectors). I have been looking at the reverse of this badge because of a rumor that the DSS may have had an original badge in their possession for several years, and that it may be badge #1. I have been looking at the poor quality photo of the reverse of this other original 1916/1917-design badge recently, comparing enlarged views with badge #12.  The number "12" on the high-resolution photos of badge #12  has the "1" oriented above the "B" in "BADGE". The "2" is centered over the "AD". Of course, it is really tough to see anything on that part of the photo of the other original badge. However, there appears to be no number over the "AD", indicating this badge probably only has a single digit number. It is not a "curvy" or "wide" number such as 2, 3, 4, 5, or 8 (as conservative examples, the calligraphic forms of 6, 7, or 9 also seem unlikely to me). In enlarged viewing of the area of the badge where the number is (unfortunately made even more difficult by the tarnish or dirt that formed/accumulated underneath the pin), there may be a bracketed serif (supportive curved line, in this case at the base of a calligraphic stroke) on the number as is seen in the style of the "1" on badge #12. Could this be an image of badge #1? Only original badges have a number and the statement that: "THIS BADGE CONVEYS  NO AUTHORITY UNLESS ACCOMPANIED WITH COMMISSION OF SAME NUMBER SIGNED BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE". This form of calligraphy, along with the number and commission inscription are not present on any restrikes that the knowledgable federal badge collectors have seen. If the DSS badge that supposedly represent badge #1 has this placement and form of number and the inscription, it would most likely be a genuine original example (no image of the badge that DSS may have is currently available). The photo of the reverse of this other original badge is ambiguous because of the low quality and poor focus. However, I feel it must be a single digit number, and what I can see of the engraving is only consistent with a number "1". If the pictured badge is number 1 (and if this is an image of the the badge in the possession of DSS), that would probably be Joseph M. Nye's or Robert C. Bannerman's badge. Nye resigned in 1920 after just 3 years as Chief Special Agent, going to work for Guaranty Trust Company to improve the detection of fraud. Bannerman served in that role from 1920 until his death in 1940. The number of years Bannerman served, the later date of 1940 as the end of his term, and the fact that he died in the role, statistically makes it more probable that his badge might be the mysterious #1 that DSS claims to have had for years. Bannerman's son, Robert L. Bannerman, also worked at the Dept of State and was appointed head of the Department's Security Office in 1945. 

 

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Cropped and enlarge photo of the reverse of badge #12 showing the calligraphic style of the numerals and the orientation of the number "12" in relation to the word "BADGE" for comparison with the lower resolution image below. 

 

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Cropped and enlarged image from the poor-resolution of the other original US Dept of State Special Agent's Division badge. This image can be zoomed slightly, but clearly shows that only one number is present on the reverse of this badge, centered of the "B". It may show the bracketed serif comparable to the form seen on number "1" of badge #12 above. What is visible of a vertical line does not appear, in my current opinion, likely to be any number other than "1" (although with a dearth of other badges, the calligraphic forms for numbers 3-9, and zero are unavailable for comparison). The vertical line at the superior margin of the badge is the open hinged pin. Apparently this pin is loose enough that it can open about 180 deg from its closed position. The form of the pin on the above badge appears to be the same as that on badge #12. As can be seen in the 2nd photo of my initial post of 2 December, 2016 on this thread, the pin on badge #12 is not as worn and loose, it only opens to a bit less than 90 deg from the closed position. This round hinge and machine-made safety catch on badge #12 are more common in the late 1920s-30s, however, I've seen several examples from 1900-1910+ federal, state, and city law enforcement badges that also employ this form.

 

Part of the rumors about DSS still having badge #1 is that it has been sent out to be "restored" and "encased" (in lucite as done for restrikes?) for eventual display in the entrance of the newly renovated headquarters. Is there a collective cringe about the potential indignities being wrought on possible badge #1 by Dr. Frankenfixer as "restoration" on its way to a lucite bath?

Edited by Rusty Greaves
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I just sent the information I discussed in my earlier post today to the collector who graciously shared the photographs of the other original 1917 design US Dept. of State Special Agents Division badge with me. He wrote me that he: "retrieved the original photo and using a magnifying glass I can say without a doubt it is badge number 1."

 

So, although these are not good photos (I did previously post this as the 3rd and 4th images in my post of 25 March, 2017), here is the first-issued 1917 design US Dept. of State Special Agents' Division, original badge #1. It was issued either to the first Chief Special Agent Joseph M. "Bill" Nye in 1917, or to the second Chief Special Agent Robert C. Bannerman in 1920, or passed from Nye to Bannerman in 1920. Now we need to wait and see if (and how) it may reappear with the Diplomatic Security Service. 

 

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Obverse of the 1917 US Dept. of State Special Agents' Division original badge #1 

 

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Reverse of the 1917 US Dept. of State Special Agents' Division original badge #1 

Edited by Rusty Greaves
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  • 3 months later...

I recently came across 2 images of replica badges (both probably issued by the Dept. of State) based on the design of the original design of the 1917 US Dept. of State Special Agents' Division barge. The first is another example of one of the commemorative restrikes. The second is an alleged miniature badge based on the original Special Agents badge design that may have been a commemorative item issued by the US Dept of State Diplomatic Security Service. 

 

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Above is a moderate-resolution image of a restrike of the original badge design with blue enamel. Compare this example with the other restrikes illustrated here in my posts of 25 March, 2017 and 20 March, 2021. This image comes from a posting of 10 July, 2021 by Cobra 6 Actual on the U.S. Militaria Forum (https://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/336271-badge-collection-military-government-police-fire-some-help-needed-too/page/2/). The person posting felt this was an original badge, and notes that the reverse is marked "Sterling", although no photo is provided of the reverse. The original badges were not silver, and as seen on this thread the reverse should also have the badge # and the inscription: "THIS BADGE CONVEYS NO AUTHORITY UNLESS ACCOMPANIED WITH COMMISSION OF SAME NUMBER SIGNED BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE". No date is available for the issuance of this badge. The person posting this wrote me that her thought the reverse also is marked "1917". This would be of interest to me, as the DSS normally refers to this as the 1916-design, although my best indication for the initial manufacture and distribution of this badge is 1917. 

 

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Low-resolution image of a miniature badge or pin that was supposedly issued by the US Dept of State Diplomatic Security Service. This image comes from an eBay auction of 5 December, 2010 archived on the WorthPoint.com website (https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/diplomatic-security-1916-145729249). The description states that it may be silver plated ("polished silver") with blue enamel. The auction description gives a measurement of the width as 1 inch, but does not provide the height dimension. The date when this commemorative badge was issued is not provided, but I am pursuing some leads to try and get some additional information. 

Edited by Rusty Greaves
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The owner of the restrike from U.S. Militaria Forum, Cobra 6 Actual, just sent me a couple low-resolution images of the reverse of that restrike. It is marked: "V.H.B. STERL". "V.H.B." is Blackinton's hallmark, and "STERL" of course indicates it is sterling silver. After some of the ambiguous information from my enquiry with V. H. Blackinton & Co. out of Attleboro Falls, MA it is nice to have this clear confirmation that Blackinton did create some of the restrikes, probably in the 1980s-1990s. I made an enquiry with Blackinton about whether they had manufactured any of the restrikes as a way to also find out whether they knew anything about the original dies for the 1917 badge. I mentioned what I found out from Blackinton in the 5th paragraph (the 2nd paragraph under the third illustration) of my post of 24 March, 2021 on this thread. 

 

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Illustration of the reverse of the restrike whose obverse is shown as the 2nd-to-last photo in my post here of 10 May, 2022. This shows the use of a similar pin to the original badge. 

 

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Image of the reverse of the same restrike with the tunic pin opened. It shows the hallmarks in low-resolution, reading "V.H.B." the hall mark for V.H. Blackinton & Co., Inc. of Attleboro, MA who cast at least some of the restrikes (probably from the late 1980s-1990s). The "STERL" indicates this restrike was made in silver, unlike the original badge that is probably either nickel or nickel-plated. 


 

Edited by Rusty Greaves
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The small "badge" is not any form of official or commemorative DSS badge. It is a lapel pin that was, at least formerly, available at the Diplomatic Security Special Agents Association (DSSAA) online store (https://dssaa.org/store-back-end/ols/products). They still sell the small badges as cufflinks. 

 

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The above 2 images are from a DSS Agent, showing the form of these cufflinks using elements of the original 1917 badge design. Some of the cufflinks are coated in a clear epoxy, others are not. 

 

In addition to the cufflinks, there is an insulated tumbler emblazoned with a version of the original badge design (updated as a DSS badge) and a coin with a similar DSS badge logo (not currently available) using parts of the original badge design. 

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