From our department’s inception in 1888, on through to the present day, our members have worn a variety of different badges. The department’s Historical Library staff has been busy researching and documenting the evolution of the department badge. We have scoured our archives, reached out to our members both past and present, and have studied several private collections. We invite you to join us on our journey through the years. This is a work in progress and will continue to be updated as we gather more information along the way.
Now, let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
The First Badge
The earliest evidence we could find in regard to our badges was the badge in the portrait of our first Chief, William V. Wilson. Although, as of this writing, we can find no written documentation of when or where this badge originated, we do have several examples of this style.
Above is the badge in Chief Wilson’s portrait. Below is the badge from Chief Thompson’s photo. He became Chief in 1893.
These are the earliest examples of our department’s badges on record. The New Haven Fire Department had a very similar style badge featured below.
You will notice that the initials “VFA” are included on the lower portion of these badges. In 1862, the thirteen volunteer companies that made up the New Haven Fire Department were disbanded to make way for the paid department. In 1879, the former members of these volunteer companies formed the Veteran Volunteer Firemen’s Association. Being that the West Haven Fire Department was formed just nine years later, we can assume that our first badges (featured below) were either patterned after the New Haven badges or that this style was just what was available and popular at that time.
Although it is difficult to see clearly, the above righthand badge seems to match the badge in the photograph of Chief Thompson. The angle of the trumpet in the center scramble appears to be the same. The portrait of Chief Wilson is less clear and, being a portrait as opposed to a photograph, we can only assume that the artist took no liberties with their representation of his badge.
So there you have it, our first badge. This article is the first of a series showcasing our department’s badges throughout our history. Look for our next installment.
~Photos Courtesy of the WHFD Historical Library.
~Badges Courtesy of the Charles E. Raubeson Collection.