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    US Dept of State Special Agent's Badge 1917

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    The U.S. Dept. of State, Diplomatic Security Service published a short article featuring a brief discussion of the original 1917 design badge for the Special Agents’ Division. Unfortunately, some of the information in this article is quite incorrect. However, it does provide a high-resolution image of one of the later restrikes of this badge, identifies dates for three subsequent badge designs, and includes a good-resolution piece of artwork about the recently issued special commemorative badge that is based on the design of the original 1917 badge. This information and four of the photos I'm including here comes from a 15 May, 2023 article on the DSS website titled “Today’s DSS special agent badge – a long and circuitous history” (https://www.state.gov/todays-dss-special-agent-badge-a-long-and-circuitous-history/).




    Above is a high-resolution image of a restrike with a less-detailed adaptation of the original 1917-design of the U.S. Department of State Special Agents' Division badge from the 15 May 2023 DSS article. This photo (and the 5-7th photos in this post) is by the U.S. Department of State. No copyright is identified on these photos indicating that both the information on the State Department website and these photos are in the public domain and may be copied and distributed without permission. This photo has probably been used in several illustrations by the DSS about their history (as shown in several of my previous posts: 2nd photo in the post of 25 March 2017; 2nd photo in my post of 24 March, 2021; and in the post of 18 August 2022). As all of the other images are much lower-resolution, I cannot assuredly link it to the other photos used in composite montages showing the temporal sequence of badges used by the Special Agents’ Division and the subsequent Diplomatic Security Service. The above image is unfortunately identified as an example of the “original silver 1916 badge allegedly designed by Tiffanys [sic.]”. As noted, this is a photo of a restrike not an original badge, the original badges were not made of silver but probably of nickel alloy, and the persistent rumor that Tiffany & Co. made the original badges has no evidence to support it. Inquiries with Tiffany & Co. have produced negative results about their possibly having created the initial dies, any restrikes (although I have been unable to see any photos of the reverse of most restrikes), and there is no Tiffany maker’s marks reported on the reverse of any restrike. This is a very good image of this particular restrike, showing an identifiable scratch to the left of the upper curve of the “S” in the knotted calligraphic central “US” and possible unique minor flaws in the dark blue enamel. My feeling, unsupported by any hard data, is that this is one of the later forms of restrike created for the DSS. I am only basing this on a single photo of a restrike with black enamel (see below, an image I have posted here before) that shows underlying texture within the “US” that is lacking on all other restrikes I have been able to see in photos. Presumably, the statement that this restrike badge is silver is related to a silver mark on the reverse. 




    High-resolution image of a restrike showing the texture visible underneath the black enamel within the “US” (best visible in the lower left of the “U” and the lower tail of the “S” to the left of it, and less visible in the upper left curve of the “S”) that replicates the texture seen within the “US” of the two known original badges. Note that neither of those original badges has any enamel. Unlike the above example from the DSS brief news story (and other lower-resolution images of restrikes), this example only has enamel within the knotted “US” and nowhere else on the badge. Subsequent restrikes (if my inference that a slightly more elaborate restrike of this design is potentially earlier than later versions lacking this additional detail) do not exhibit this texturing. The engraving of this badge is finer than that seen on all other photos of (later?) restrikes. However, as I remarked in my post here of 25 March, 2017 the engraving of this restrike is not as fine as seen on the original Special Agents’ Division badges. As I have previously noted, the first restrikes were probably authorized to be issued in 1989 for the bicentennial celebration of the 1789 ratification of the U.S. Constitution and establishment of the U.S. Department of State. Subsequent restrikes were created probably as special gifts for diplomats, politicians, or even foreign dignitaries. This badge was probably struck by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. 




    This moderate-resolution image of a restrike with blue enamel is similar to the example used by the U.S. DSS in the 15 May, 2023 article to illustrate the design inspired by the original badge. I posted this image as the 1st photo in my post here of 10 May, 2022. This photo comes from a 10 July, 2021 post (#36) 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/page/2/). Following a correspondence with Cobra 6 Actual, he sent me a couple photos of the reverse (shown in my post of 12 May, 2022) that exhibit the maker’s mark “V.H.B” indicating manufacture by V. H. Blackinton & Co. of Attlelboro Falls, Massachusetts. The reverse of this restrike also is marked “STERL.” indicating sterling silver. I detailed some information from the U.S. federal badge collecting community and enquiries with Blackinton about both the original dies used for the 1917 badge and Blackinton’s subsequent restrike in the 5th paragraph of my post of 24 March, 2021 on this thread. This is the only restrike with a confirmed manufacturer’s mark. Many of the restrikes from ~1989 to more recently have been encased in lucite with a blue backing, obscuring any view of the reverse. 




    Above is a low-resolution image of a restrike with a lighter blue enamel than the other two restrike badges shown above, apparently glued to a mat backing (previously posted here on 20 March, 2021). This example is similar to descriptions of other restrikes that were encased in lucuite. I detailed a first-hand account of another “restrike” removed from its lucite encasement in my 24 March, 2021 post that was found to be cast, not struck, and the less-detailed obverse design was just a vinyl sticker printed with the design. 




    Above is a montage of three U.S. Dept. of State badges from the recent 15 May, 2023 article on the DSS website (by the U.S. Department of State). The same badge photos, at much lower resolution, were part of previous DSS image'simage's of the sequence of Special Agents’ badges used by the U.S. Dept of State in its print and online historical document: History of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security of the United States Department of State, 2011. Global Publishing Solutions, U.S. Department of State., Figure caption: “Service Badges used by Special Agents (1917-present) and by DS Diplomatic Couriers and DS Security Engineers (present)” shown on the 5th unnumbered page before the preface (https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/176589.pdf). I used a cropped version of that photo showing these same three badges (plus the image of the restrike representing the 1916/1917 design that is probably the first illustration in the 15 May, 2023 DSS article) as the 2nd photo in my post of 25 March, 2017 and illustrated the full figure as the 2nd photo in my post of 24 March, 2021. Neither of those illustrations provided any dates for these badge designs. The current version of this image above does identify the 1920 date of adoption of the second badge design for the Special Agents’ Division, something I have been interested in confirming for some time. Apparently, like most U.S. Federal agencies (with the notable exceptions of the F.B.I., the Secret Service, the A.T.F [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives], and the I.R.S. [Internal Revenue Service]) the Dept. of State has not provided good temporal data on their past badge designs.




    Low-resolution cropped close-up of the1920 badge design from the above grouping (by the U.S. Department of State). It is curious that this badge has a central Seal of the President of the Unites States, rather than the Great Seal of the United States, used by the Department of State. I have not yet found a better illustration of this badge. This same badge, number 305, is illustrated in Lucas, Kenneth W., Sr. 1991. Federal Law Enforcement Badges, published by the author, Beltsville, MD, pg. 190 (that page also shows examples of the badges identified in the 15 May, 2023 DSS article as 1950 and 1970 issue badges; and pg. 191 shows an addition example of a 1950 and 1970 badge along with a more recent DSS Special Agent’s badge, the same version shown on the far left in 2nd row [bottom] of the 2nd photo in my post of 24 March, 2021 and on the far right in the image in my post of 18 August, 2022). The dating of the second badge design to 1920 raises an interesting question about the genuine original badge #1. If the new design was issued in 1920, it would potentially weigh the scale in favor of badge #1 having been that of Bill Nye, then first Chief Special Agent, rather than Robert Bannerman's (the second Chief Special Agent). Although of course, nothing precludes a handover of the badge for Bannerman's use for a short period of time before he oversaw the creation of a new design under his administration that lasted through 1940. However, this is the first indication of the re-design of the U.S. Dept. of State Special Agent's badges correlates with Nye's retirement and Bannerman's assumption of the position of Chief Special Agent and implicates the potential use of badge #1 by Bill Nye. 




    The last graphic of interest in this 15 May article is the good-resolution artwork above (by the U.S. Department of State) showing the design of the new "Diplomatic Security Commemorative Badge" (right), a tribute to the original design of the 1917 Special Agents’ Division badge, unveiled on 16 September, 2021 (see my post of 18 January, 2022 and of 20 January, 2022). This illustration also shows the most recent, counterfeit-resistant version of the DSS Special Agent’s badge (left). 






    Edited by Rusty Greaves
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    • 3 months later...

    Below are two additional photos of the obverse of the original 1916 design of the U.S. Dept. of State Special Agents' Division Badge #1. This comes from an Instagram posting by statedeptdss, the Diplomatic Security Service (https://www.instagram.com/p/CsWIICbNTZ_/?img_index=1). 




    This is a different image from DSS than the ones I previously posted on 2 May 2023. The above image is slightly higher-resolution than the image of the obverse in my previous post, the lighting is somewhat better, and the image can be zoomed for good detail of the badge design and execution. 




    An oblique view of the obverse of U.S. Dept. of State Special Agents' Division Badge #1. The focus is variable, especially affecting the inferior portion of the badge and inscription in the foreground and the superior legend on the badge. 

    Edited by Rusty Greaves
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    • 7 months later...
    Posted (edited)

    The US Dept of Diplomatic Security (DSS) just published a set of historic photos of some of their different badges on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/p/C66ws5hLslw/?img_index=1). This exhibit at the National Museum of American Diplomacy (NMAD) celebrates National Police Week, and is on display only from 6 May through 22 May, 2024.  




    These moderate resolution images can be zoomed for additional details. 




    The rumor about Tiffany's having designed the badge persists at DSS. There is no indication this is so. Tiffany's has no record of designing this badge and there is no Tiffany's hallmark on the badge.










    I am unsure why there is no display of the current, counterfeit-resistant version of the DSS Special Agent’s badge (shown on the left of the artwork illustration in the 7th image of my previous post of 22 June, 2023). 




    The new commemorative badge inspired by the design of the original 1916 badge. 



    A cropped moderate-resolution image of the original 1916/1917 design. This image of badge #1 is different from the others I have posted on this thread. 




    Above is a low-resolution image of the display from an email sent to DSS agents. The caption on this photo reads: "The evolution of the Diplomatic Security Service special agent badge display at the National Museum of American Diplomacy in Washington, D.C., May 6, 2024 (U.S. Department of State photo)".  Unfortunately, when the image is enlarged it is still difficult to read the exhibit text. 



    Edited by Rusty Greaves
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