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NPS Associated


Arrowhead Patch
Cap Insignia
Collar Ornaments
Hatband & Straps
Law Enforcement Insignia
Length-of-Service Insignia
Sleeve Brassards
Tie Ornaments & Pins




ORNAMENTATION: Arrowhead Patch

From the first, the men guarding our parks looked for an identity. They wanted a uniform and all of the trappings that would let the world know who they were. When the National Park Service was inaugurated as a bureau in 1917, an "officer and men" mentality prevailed, with the basic rangers being the "men" and everyone else "officers." This was reflected in the first insignia allocated to each. In succeeding years many different things were tried, polished, and in some cases abandoned before the great "leveling" of the 1928 uniform regulations. The following is a breakdown of the various insignia that have been used, or proposed for use in some cases, by Service personnel.

Emblem used by the National Park Service prior to the Arrowhead being adopted in 1952. NPSA/HFC RGY55

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 modern type." They had expected something that would have symbolized what the parks were all about. [28]

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." [29] 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." [30]

Dudley Bayless' "open road" design, winner of the 1949 National Park Service Emblem Design Contest. NPSA/HFC RG Y55

Dr. Aubrey Neasham's suggestion for the National Park Service emblem. NPSA/HFC RG Y55

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. [31]

The arrowhead was authorized as the official National Park Service emblem by the Secretary of the Interior on July 20, 195l. 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. [32]

Official 1952 National Park Service Arrowhead emblem. This design was also used to make the shoulder patch for the uniform. NPSA/HFC RG Y55

1954 revision of Arrowhead emblem. NPSA/HFC RG Y55

Starting in 1952, the arrowhead began to be used on the cover of park information folders with the first probably the one published in April of that year for Oregon Caves National Monument. It soon gained public 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. [33]

Amendment No. 7, July 29, 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 patch was to be "sewn in the center of the sleeve, with the top of the insignia 2 inches below the shoulder seam, so that the arrowhead will appear perpendicular when the ARM is held in a relaxed position at the side."

Ernest L. Karlstrom
Park Naturalist [Ernest L. Karlstrom] in Acadia National Park shows two park visitors species of sea life found in the park. 1961. NPSHPC-Jack Boucher photo-HFC#586-5

brochure cover
Arrowhead was probably first used on this information folder for Oregon Caves national Monument published in April 1952. NPSA/ORCA

The patches were extremely unpopular with uniformed employees when first issued, but quickly "grew" on those wearing them.

At first there was only one size of patch, 3-3/4" high by 3" wide, but it was soon realized that a reduced version was needed for women. These smaller patches, 2-1/2" x 2", subsequently also made their appearance on hats and the fronts of jackets for both 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. [34]

patent form
Arrowhead was probably first used on this information folder for Oregon Caves national Monument published in April 1952. NPSA/ORCA

Prior to World War II, the majority of visitors to national parks, especially those out West, came by train. But during the war, visitation dropped off drastically and a number of the parks were used by the military as training grounds or rest areas. During the War, park appropriations had been cut to the bone and ten years after the cessation of hostilities were still a million dollars under that of 1940, even though a number of new parks had been established. The automobile had come into its own and visitation was up three fold. Time and traffic were turning the Nation's parks into a shambles and because of the lack of finding, sanitation was deplorable and the other utilities were taxed to the utmost.

This was the park system confronting Wirth when he became director. In 1956 Wirth initiated a ten year program, entitled MISSION 66, to revitalize the parks. This was to be completed for the 50th anniversary of the National Park Service.

PARKSCAPE U.S.A. logo. Hartzog wanted to replace the arrowhead with this emblem.

In 1966, to celebrate the Service's birthday, an exhibit entitled PARKSCAPE was erected. This exhibit featured a conservation logo designed by the New York firm of Chermayeff and Geismar Associates consisting of 3 triangles enclosing three balls. The triangles represented the outdoors (trees and Mountains) with the 3 balls being the standard symbol for preservation.

In addition, the same firm designed a new seal for the Department of the Interior. Secretary Stewart L. Udall had attempted to change Interior's name to either Department of Natural Resources or Department of Conservation, but this met with great opposition. He did, however, manage to have the seal changed from the buffalo to a stylized pair of hands holding a circle (sun) over two large triangles (mountains) which inturn were over nine small inverted triangles symbolizing water. The hands motif had been suggested by Vince Gleason as an abstract symbolizing that the Nation's natural resources were in good hands.

Following closely on the heels of MISSION 66, Director George B. Hartzog, Jr. (1964-1972) came forth with a new agenda titled PARKSCAPE U.S.A. Among it's facets was one that dealt with the upgrading and modernization of the image of the Service itself. Hartzog had become enamored with the logo of the PARKSCAPE exhibit and adopted it for his new program.

Hartzog used the occasion of an article in the July, 1966, issue of the National Geographic Society Magazine concerning the National Park System to launch his new program. He assured employees that the triangle symbol would supplement rather than supplant the arrowhead.

In 1968, however, when Secretary Udall adopted the new Interior seal (designed by 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.

Nevertheless, boards were made up by Chermayeff & Geismar showing how the new symbols would look on the various pieces of clothing, as well as on vehicles and signs.

Design boards made by Chermayeff & Geismar to illustrate the appearance of the new emblem on the National Park Service ranger uniform. Two styles were proposed. NPSA/HFC RG Y55

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.

Since then the arrowhead has continued to be worn on the uniform and to enjoy strong acceptance among Service employees. [35]

The first patches were filly stitched, creating a 2-dimensional appearance. They were embroidered on a non-sanforized material and consequently could only be used on coats. Subsequent orders corrected this problem. As new orders were placed over the years, the patch slowly evolved into a solid stitched, self edged patch with heavy top stitching, where the various elements were layered onto the field, giving an almost 3-dimensional effect. This, in turn, has given way to the various elements being layered directly onto the base material, thus substantially reducing the cost. This is the arrowhead most often seen today. Lion Brothers, Baltimore, Maryland, have been involved with the development and manufacture of most, it not all of the arrowhead patches made for the Service.

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Last Modified: Fri, Jan 17 2003 07:08:48 am PDT

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