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Ironing Out the Wrinkles




Appendix A

National Park Service Uniforms
Ironing Out the Wrinkles 1920-1932
Number 3

Ironing Out the Wrinkles

With the creation of the National Park Service in August 1916 and the subsequent appointment of Stephen T. Mather as director, the desire of park rangers for a national identity mounted. Mather, aided by men like Horace Marden Albright and Washington Bartlett "Dusty" Lewis, set about making the Service a cohesive organization with regulations applicable to all the parks. Standard uniform regulations were a logical ingredient.

The 1920 National Park Service Uniform Regulations stipulated what the personnel of the Service were to wear, as well as what it was to be made of. An officer and ranger mentality pervaded the Service, no doubt a carry-over from the Army days in the parks, and this was carried through in the uniform regulations. Although all personnel were required to wear the same uniform, the officers' material was of a finer quality (12-14 oz forestry serge, versus 16-18 oz forestry cloth) than that provided for the rangers. This forestry green became the standard color for National Park Service uniforms and, except for minor color variations, remains so today.

Up until this time, only the hat, coat, shirt, breeches, and occasionally, the overcoat were stipulated. But with the new regulations all articles of the uniform, from hat to shoes, were covered.

Instead of "alpine", hats now were classified as "Stetson, either stiff or cardboard brim, "belly" color." This was a shortening of "Belgian Belly", named after the beautiful pastel reddish buff color of the underfur of the Belgian Hare from which many fine hats were made. [1]

Collar ornament
Collar ornament, 1920. This ornament, introduced in the 1920 Uniform Regulations, was made in three different metals. Gold (officers), silver (rangers), and bronze (temporary rangers). NPSHPC - HFC

Although it had been decided at the meeting that the coat have an open collar, with four buttons, when the regulations were published they still contained the original wording "or English convertible collar" which required five buttons. This was not corrected in supplementary regulation changes until 1928, even though all coats were made with four buttons and an open collar. The embroidered N.P.S. on the collar was eliminated and replaced by a detachable pin insignia. This new insignia consisted of 1/4" letters with US centered over the top of NPS. The buttons remained the NPS style initiated in 1912 and still used today.

After much discussion, it was concluded that a medium grey shirt would be preferable to the olive-drab previously worn. And since the coat would now be worn open, a tie would be needed. Black and dark green were debated with the consensus of opinion being that a dark green four-in-hand tie would be the most appropriate for the forest green uniform.

Footwear had been left to the discretion of the individual ranger, who had worn boots, or shoes with either canvas or leather leggings or puttees (a form of legging, but firmer, similar to the top of a boot). Colors had ranged from the tan canvas leggings to black shoes and all shades of brown in-between. Now tan or cordovan (preferred) colored riding boots or leather puttees, with matching shoes, were to be worn, with leather puttees and shoes prescribed for dress occasions.

Officers and rangers were further differentiated by their overcoats, with the former having a five-button ulster type and the latter a four-button mackinaw.

In addition, there were a number of other rank and service designations included. The regulations also specified that rangers wear their uniform whenever they would be in contact with the public while on duty and were also encouraged to wear it under the same circumstances while off duty.

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