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Arrowhead patch



Cap insignia

Collar ornaments


Hatband & straps


Service insignia

Sleeve brassards

Tie ornaments & pins





National Park Service Uniforms
Badges and Insignia 1894-1991
Number 1

Arrowhead Patch

Dudley Bayliss' winning design 1949 NPS Emblem Design Contest

For years there had been agitation within the Park Service for some emblem that would identify the Service as the shield did the Forest Service. A contest was held in 1949 because it was thought at that time that the only emblem used by the Service, the Sequoia cone, did not adequately symbolize the bureau. The winner of the contest, Dudley Bayliss, collected the fifty dollar prize, but his "road badge" design was never used. Conrad L. Wirth, then in the Newton B. Drury directorate, served on the review committee that made the winning selection. He thought that Bayliss' design was "good and well presented, but it was, as were most of the submissions, a formal modem type." They had expected something that would have symbolized what the parks were all about. [23]

Dr. Aubrey Neasham's suggested arrowhead emblem

Shortly after the contest was over, Aubrey V. Neasham, a historian in the Region IV (now Western Region) Engineering Division in San Francisco, in a letter to Director Drury, suggested that the Service should have an emblem depicting its primary function "like an arrowhead, or a tree or a buffalo." [24] With the letter Neasham submitted a rough sketch of a design incorporating an elongated arrowhead and a pine tree. Drury thought the design had "the important merit of simplicity" and was "adequate so far as the symbolism is concerned." [25]

When Wirth became director in 1951, he turned Neasham's design over to Herbert Maier, then assistant director of Region IV. Maier's staff, including Sanford "Red" Hill, Cecil J. Doty, and Walter Rivers, were all involved in the design process and ultimately came up with the arrowhead design in use today. [26]

The arrowhead was authorized as the official National Park Service emblem by the Secretary of the Interior on July 20, 1951. While not spelled out in official documents, the elements of the emblem symbolized the major facets of the national park system, or as Wirth put it, "what the parks were all about." The Sequoia tree and bison represented vegetation and wildlife, the mountains and water represented scenic and recreational values, and the arrowhead represented historical and archeological values. [27]

The arrowhead was probably first used on an information folder for Oregon Caves National Monument published in April 1952. It soon gained recognition as the Service symbol and became widely used on signs and publications. Instructions for its use on signs were first sent to the field on September 25, 1952. [28]

Official 1952 NPS arrowhead emblem, also used to make shoulder patch

1954 revision of arrowhead emblem

Amendment No. 12, September 2, 1952, to the 1947 uniform regulations prescribed the use of the arrowhead as a patch for the uniform. Enough of these patches were sent to each area so that each permanent uniformed employee received three and each seasonal uniformed employee received one. The first patches were embroidered on a non-sanforized material and could only be used on coats. Subsequent orders corrected this problem.

At first there was only one size of patch. A reduced version was soon produced for women. The smaller patch was also used on hats and the fronts of jackets.


First authorized to be worn on uniforms in September 1952. Large size (top) was initially used by both men and women. Women later used a smaller patch (bottom). From 1964-1970, the small patch was used on women's hats. In 1970 it began being used on the standard cap for men and women.

To forestall unseemly commercial uses of the arrowhead design, an official notice, approved March 7, 1962, was published in the Federal Register of March 15, 1962 (27 F.R. 2486), designating it as the official symbol of the National Park Service. [29]

First day cover commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the National Park Service. It was also the inauguration of PARKSCAPE U.S.A.

In 1966, following MISSION 66, Director George B. Hartzog, Jr., came forth with a new agenda titled PARKSCAPE U.S.A. Hartzog assured employees that the symbol accompanying the program, three interlocking angles surrounding three dots, would supplement rather than supplant the arrowhead. In 1968, however, when Secretary Udall adopted the new Interior seal (designed by the same New York firm of Chermayeff and Geismar Associates), Hartzog seized the opportunity to replace the arrowhead with the Parkscape symbol. With the buffalo gone from the Interior seal, he rationalized, the arrowhead with its buffalo was no longer relevant. Field reaction to this move was nevertheless unenthusiastic, for the representational arrowhead was far better liked than the abstract Parkscape symbol.

On March 3, 1969, Acting Director Edward Hummel sent a memorandum to all regional directors ordering the removal of the arrowhead shoulder patch. "In keeping with the Director's desire to act positively on field suggestions, it has been decided that effective June 1, 1969, Service emblem shoulder and cap patches will not be worn on any National Park Service garments," he wrote. Before this unpopular directive could be implemented, Secretary Hickel reinstated the buffalo seal. Hartzog thereupon reinstated the arrowhead as the official NPS emblem and continued its use as a patch in a memorandum dated May 15, 1969. Perhaps as a gesture to the few supporters of the Parkscape symbol, he simultaneously ordered its retention as the official NPS tie tack. The arrowhead has continued to be worn on the uniform and to enjoy strong acceptance among Service employees. [30]

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Last Modified: Thurs, Jul 28 2000 07:08:48 am PDT

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