Shared History

Not all National Park Service (NPS) history is in the NPS! There are many public, corporate, and private collections with objects or documents that relate to NPS history. The NPS History Collection staff created a list of NPS History Resources to help researchers find documents, photographs, and other materials in museum collections or archives. However, museums and archives aren't the only ones that care for NPS-related collections. Companies that have done business with the NPS sometimes have information and objects related to that work. Families of former NPS employees often treasure objects that tell both personal and institutional stories. Collectors sometimes acquire rare or unusual materials that reflect their love for national parks.

These collections are a great way to build community! We love it when our research leads us to new folks who love national parks and the NPS. Some choose to donate objects to the NPS as businesses transform, families disperse, collectors need more space, or for other reasons. Many continue to admire and care for the objects themselves. Often they are willing to share information or photographs of them but don't want to let them go—and that's okay! Sometimes knowing about them is enough to help tell the story. No one should ever feel pressured into donating their objects to a museum or archive.

Below are some of the objects and documents shared with us. If you would like to share something that speaks to NPS history in your private collection, please contact the archivist.

First NPS-issued Ranger Badge

Although some earlier park-specific badges were used earlier, the US Department of Interior issued badges to all park rangers in 1906. It was believed that this was the official ranger badge until the NPS created its own badge in 1920. New research and evidence from the Tiffany Archives shows that the first NPS-issued ranger badge was designed in 1916. It was likely used from 1917 to 1920 when it became the center of the new shield-shaped badge. This round badge was used again from 1921 to 1960 as a badge for directors, superintendents, and other officers to distinguish them from rangers. Learn more about NPS badges.

ledger page and medal design page
Left: Manufacturing card for NPS badge, 1916. Right (top image): NPS badge design in Tiffany & Co. medal book. (Courtesy of the Tiffany Archives)

Copyright Tiffany Archives 2023. (Not to be published or reproduced without prior permission. No permission for commercial use will be granted except by written license agreement.)

NPS Hatbands

The official NPS hatband was introduced in January 1930. However, a seemingly unofficial one was worn by many rangers and NPS Director Horace M. Albright at least a year earlier. Learn more about the history of these hatbands.
three views of the same ranger hat with leather hatband
Three views of the same ranger hat featuring one of 10 NPS hatbands designed by Yosemite Chief Ranger Forest Townsley, ca. 1929. (Courtesy of Gail Hopkins)

NPS Hatband Ornament

The silver sequoia ornament was introduced with the NPS hatband in January 1930. It was made from sterling silver and supplied to the hatband manufacturer by silversmiths R. Schaezlein & Son. The company continued to make them until the late 1970s. In 1981 the ornament was changed from silver to gold plated. Four years later the sequoia cone began to be made from brass. It is still part of the NPS hatband today.

Sequoia cone next to metal die and three metal sequoia cone ornaments made from the die
Left to right (not to scale): Original sequoia cone model use to design the silver sequoia cone ornament; two-piece sequoia cone ornament die; and three sequoia cone ornaments. The ornament on the left has been stamped and trimmed. The one in the middle has been antiqued, and the one on the right has a rivet soldered on the back. (Courtesy of Rob Schaezlein)

Marguerite "Peg" Lindley Arnold's Uniforms

These photographs (and others shared from the Arnold family collection) were instrumental in understanding early uniform chronology. Learn more about this uniform history.

Six candid photos of Peg Lindsley with friends and family at Yellowstone
Family photographs of Marguerite "Peg" Lindsley Arnold, ranger at Yellowstone National Park. (Courtesy of the Arnold Family)

Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park

Last updated: October 19, 2023