Officer

The goal of collecting badges is to obtain an authentic department issued, officer-worn badge. With the Metropolitan Police Department, there isn’t always an accurate test to know if what you are looking at was a departmental issued badge or whether it is a copy produced by any number of companies, a secondary badge from the stamping company or a novelty knock off.

Most of the officer badges of the Metropolitan Police Department were not Hallmarked. At times Lamb Seal & Stencil Company, Inc. would hold the contract however they may have sourced out part of the order to another company like Blackinton. Additionally, companies like Northeast Emblem and Badge, and Blackinton would not only provide badges to the Metropolitan Police Department, they would also sell badges to the FOP or other outlets where second and novelty badges could be purchased.

So, what is an authentic badge? If an officer was issued a Blackinton badge with no hallmark but wore an FOP purchased Northeast badge, which badge would the collector find more desirable? The departmental issued Blackinton badge which stayed in the sock drawer or an officer’s second Northeast badge, which was not authorized but was carried for the bulk of the officer’s career? Chances are those badges looked exactly alike and a collector looking at them five, ten or fifteen years later may not see any real difference.

On September 11, 1861, the first installment of men for the Metropolitan Police Department were qualified and on September 12, 1861, the bond for William B. Webb was approved and he was officially appointed by the Board of Police Commissioners to be the Metropolitan Police Department’s first “Major and Superintendent.”

The newly formed police force not having any insignia to display for their authority, Webb’s first act was to procure temporary badges for the Metropolitan Police Department. In doing so, Major and Superintendent Webb was given a budget of twenty dollars to provide a badge for 9 Sergeants and 110 patrolmen and those numbers were climbing as more men were added to the rolls.

Henry Polkinhorn was given the contract to print the first badges for the Metropolitan Police Department at a cost of fifteen dollars.

Henry Polkinhorn was born in 1813 in Baltimore, Maryland.  His father, Henry, Sr., was an English immigrant who was a saddler by trade and ran a successful saddle company.  As a saddler in Baltimore, Henry Sr. was successful but instead of staying with the family business, Henry Polkinhorn, Jr moved to Washington, D.C. and married Marianne Brown in 1839.  Henry became a printer and Marianne and he had six children together.  Marianne died in 1857 and Henry married Rachel Ann Barnes less than two years later. Henry Polkinhorn was extremely successful as a printer and a few years after starting his print shop, he built his own building at 634 D Street, N.W. where he printed the first badges for the Metropolitan Police Department.

Henry Polkinhorn from the Harvard Theatre Collection

Henry Polkinhorn was given the contract to print the first badges for the Metropolitan Police Department at a cost of fifteen dollars.

Henry Polkinhorn was born in 1813 in Baltimore, Maryland.  His father, Henry, Sr., was an English immigrant who was a saddler by trade and ran a successful saddle company.  As a saddler in Baltimore, Henry Sr. was successful but instead of staying with the family business, Henry Polkinhorn, Jr moved to Washington, D.C. and married Marianne Brown in 1839.  Henry became a printer and Marianne and he had six children together.  Marianne died in 1857 and Henry married Rachel Ann Barnes less than two years later. Henry Polkinhorn was extremely successful as a printer and a few years after starting his print shop, he built his own building at 634 D Street, N.W. where he printed the first badges for the Metropolitan Police Department.

The uniforms adopted in the early days were not as gorgeous as those that have since taken their place. The Superintendent wore a frock-coat with police- buttons, the sergeants double-breasted frock-coats, and blue pants, while the patrolmen were attired in navy-blue coats with rolling collars and nine buttons, two fastened at the hips and two on the skirt, blue waistcoats, and pants with white cords down the seams. The coats were to be buttoned at all times when officers were on duty, and hats were the official headgear for all members of the force.

The blue arrow on the map points to 634 D Street, N.W. in 1861.

On September 23, 1861, the Capitol building of the United States was selected as the emphasis for the patrolmen’s badge. The Superintendent’s badge was adorned with a shield of gilt or gold, surmounted with an eagle, while for the Sergeant’s badge was chosen to be a silver plate with an eagle and a number.

The badges were supplied by Lamb Seal & Stencil Co. and after 1895 by the Bastian Brothers Company of Rochester, New York.

As the department moved into the 1900s, the officer badges moved away from an engraved or stamped number in the oval and the department went to applied numbers. Starting in 1904, a revision of the badge was undertaken not only for officers but officials as well [the Rank of Sergeant and above]. The officer badges were a shell back with applied numbers to the front of the badge. The letters “D” and “C” were added to the sides of the Capitol dome. Blackinton, Northeast, and Bastian Brothers became the major suppliers of badges to the department.

In 1919, only the letters “D” and “C” were applied next to the Capitol building. Beginning in 1920, a period was applied to the rear of the “D” and “C” initials.

Prior to 1926, members of the Metropolitan Police Department had to purchase their uniforms at their own expense. This had led to wide variations in what was a uniform. In 1915, nine different styles of caps were worn by members of the department. In 1924, a request was made for a change in uniform coat changing from a stiff standing collar to the lapel or roll collar type.

Around 1918, a short-lived badge style cap plate was introduced for the force. That cap plate lasted for approximately 10 years until it was replaced by the current style of cap plate.

As the years went on, these badges were often referred to as having punch out numbers. The rumor being that if an officer was engaged in an activity they may not wish to be identified, they could simply punch out one of the numbers on the badge so that anyone writing down the badge numbers would have the wrong person.

In 1999, the department began adding plates with stamped numbers where the applied numbers would be, which sometimes was called, ‘closing the window.’ This saved a lot of repairs to the applied number badges. What it did was create a police force with a grab bag of styles and badge numbers. Even those with applied numbers would find that over the year’s fonts had changed and their badge number may be applied with digits in different fonts. The department began to remedy that. On October 1, 2005, the department discontinued the use of the applied numbers or “punch-out” style badges meaning that they no longer carried any police powers. Officers who had those badges were instructed to report to property and that they would be issued a Temporary badge with a T number.

In November 2005, the department revamped its badge system. Blackinton was chosen as the official provider of department badges. These changes included going to a solid back badge as well as:

*Creating a new block numbering system for all badges and cap plates by rank from the Chief of Police down through Officers to include reserves, cadets and crossing guards.

*Placement of badge numbers on the front of all badges with rank labels for officials on the front of all badges.

*Creation of a serial number tracking system and the placement of the serial number on the back of all badges.

What before was guesswork of trying to determine issued badge from other has now turned into a relatively simple exercise. After examining the front and rear of a badge it is readily obvious whether the badge is a Blackinton departmental issued badge or not.

Cap Plates

An original badge from September 1861 made by Lamb Seal & Stencil Co. of 824-26 13th Street, NW, Washington, D.C.The solder on the right side of the back of the badge shows where the watch chain would attach. The Sergeant's badge with the watch chain is shown just for an example. An officer's badge has always been larger than an official's [Sergeant and above] badge.

This was the second issued badge still using the dies of the Lamb Seal and Stencil Co. of 824-26 13th Street, NW. This badge is often referred to as the skinny dome badge. This badge was struck in the 1860s and was produced before the Capitol dome was completed which may account for the skinny dome. On the right side of the rear of the badge, you can see the solder mark of where the watch chain would attach.

This is a badge made by the Bastian Brothers Company of Rochester, New York. It was struck sometime between 1895 to 1917. The Bastian Company, originally a jewelry store was incorporation in 1895 but quickly moved into badges and has supplied the Metropolitan Police Department with different types of badges up until 1993.

This badge is a second issue from the second die produced by the Lamb Seal & Stencil Co. of Washington, D.C. The badge number, number 104 is stamped into the front oval of the badge. The badge was issued to officers between 1880s to the early 1900s.

This badge is a second issue from the second die produced by the Lamb Seal & Stencil Co. of Washington, D.C.  where the badge number would be stamped into the oval on the badge. This badge was issued between the 1880s to the early 1900s.

Langenbacker & Sons Badges

This badge is a FAKE.

D.R. Langenbacker & Sons Company of Bluffdale, Utah produced many fake and novelty badges and they didn't miss the Metropolitan Police Department. This is a fake badge which has been crafted to appear as a legitimate original issue MPD badge.

Patina (the surface appearance of an item) dirt and wear are not indicators of age or authenticity. In fact, forgers spend countless hours making badges and other items "look right."

Be very cautious of an original MPD badge with number 203.

Badge #552 is a shellback style badge which is not hallmarked and is an early example, most likely from the 1920s through the 1930s of the current style of issued badge of the Metropolitan Police Department. In 1904, the department began changing its badges to the current style in use today. Badge #552 is a light weight metal stamping with the “D.” and the “C.” added to the sides of the Capitol dome. The point of the Capitol dome was moved from beneath the “T” in curved METROPOLITAN to between the “I” and the “T” as it currently is. The oval was removed and in its place was an expanded blank area where numbers could be applied. As with all things in regards to collecting, if you like the item then purchase it if you feel comfortable with the price.

Around 1918, this second series cap plate was introduced. This was the first time that a badge style cap plate was used. This style of cap plate was used for approximately ten years before being replaced with the current style of cap plate with applied numbers.

Metropolitan Police Department cap plate circa 1888 - 1910. Maker-marked: C. J. HELLERS and PAT. APR. 10. 88 (Patented April 10, 1888). Multi-piece "vaulted" construction with the badge number 3 being silver over a brass/copper mount.

Metropolitan Police Department cap plate circa 1888 - 1910. Maker-marked: C. J. HELLERS and PAT. APR. 10. 88 (Patented April 10, 1888). Multi-piece "vaulted" construction with the badge number 23 being silver over a brass/copper mount.

A non-Hallmarked badge and cap plate with a blank number plate. The number plate can be removed and a badge number applied or a badge number can be etched onto the plate.  In 1999, the department began issuing badges with etched numbers on the number plate as opposed to the applied numbers.

 

This is a curved badge with no hallmark with the badge numbers applied. I was told that this was an officer’s issued badge. The applied numbers were attached with glue and they have a similar font to other officer badges which were believed to have been street worn issued badges. As with all things in regards to collecting, if you like the item then purchase it if you feel comfortable with the price.

Two examples of badge#288, with both badges being curved. The engraved numbered badge appears to be defective. The engraving is unfinished as the 2 and the 8’s are slightly out of alignment. The misalignment causes the engraving to enlarge the top of the 8 and not complete the circle on the bottom of the 8’s. Finally, the epoxy enamel was roughly applied to the engraving and wasn’t cured.

The applied numbered badge is hallmarked Northeast Badge, which is applied on the back of the badge just below the “C.” Compare the stamping on this badge to the Hallmarks on badge #2307. This badge was produced as an officer’s second badge.

Two examples of badge#288, with both badges being curved. The engraved numbered badge appears to be defective. The engraving is unfinished as the 2 and the 8’s are slightly out of alignment. The misalignment causes the engraving to enlarge the top of the 8 and not complete the circle on the bottom of the 8’s. Finally, the epoxy enamel was roughly applied to the engraving and wasn’t cured.

The applied numbered badge is hallmarked Northeast Badge, which is applied on the back of the badge just below the “C.” Compare the stamping on this badge to the Hallmarks on badge #2307. This badge was produced as an officer’s second badge.

 

A badge used for a Metropolitan Police Office in the television show, the X-Files. A letter dated November 21, 1996 from Marta McLaughlin, Prop Assistant on X-F Productions letterhead attesting to the authenticity of the badge.

 

District of Columbia police chief Jerry Wilson stands near the body of officer William Sigmon on May 25, 1971, who was killed in the line of duty.

Badge number 755 was worn by Officer William L. Sigmon who was killed in the line of duty on May 25, 1971.

On May 25, 1971 Lawrence Caldwell, Eros Timm and Heidi Ann Fletcher robbed a savings and loan company at Arizona Avenue and MacArthur Blvd. NW, Washington, D.C.

There had been a spate of bank robberies across the District and police had staked out this savings and loan.

As the two men made their way out of the bank to their getaway van driven by Fletcher, two police officers burst from the back of the loan company.

Caldwell and Timm said their guns were tucked away when officer William Sigmon opened fire.

Caldwell wrote a letter to the Washington Post explaining his version:

“We were coming out of the parking lot with our backs to the door when I heard, ‘alright, hold it right there,’ Our guns were in our pockets, his was drawn. We turned to him and he fired! At that point it became an escape or die situation.”

As Sigmon pursued Timm, the officer took up a defensive position below a stairwell. Caldwell came up behind him at shot him in the back, striking his heart. Timm was wounded in the shoot-out.

The three made their escape, but hours later they were stopped in their van on Connecticut Avenue near Van Ness shopping center and arrested for murder, among other charges.

 

 

Caldwell claimed they were conducting bank robberies in order to buy a farm they hoped to use as a base for revolutionary activity.

Caldwell had a history of political activism and was arrested during a February 1970 march on the Watergate home of Attorney General John Mitchell protesting the convictions of the Chicago 7. He was one of the plaintiffs in a suit against police that resulted in the dropping of all charges against the 142 arrested that day.

He claimed that the three struck against financial institutions not for personal monetary gain, but instead to strike a blow against “banking institutions, stock exchanges, et. al.”

Fletcher, the daughter of a former deputy mayor of Washington, D.C., pled guilty and received an indeterminate sentence under the Youth Corrections Act. She served 53 months before being released.

Timm and Caldwell received life sentences. Timm was murdered in prison in 1983. Caldwell pursued somewhat of a career in prison as a jailhouse lawyer and an escape artist. He was skilled enough at brief writing to obtain hearings, sometimes winning cases including winning damages against the District of Columbia for denying him medical attention.

He tried many times to escape and succeeded for 14 months, but was recaptured. He was ultimately released in December 2003 after 33 years.

Caldwell recalled after his release, “There was a saying: ‘Kill a commie for Christ.’ So we said, ‘Off a pig for Krishna.’”

 

This badge is an example of why it is difficult sometimes to determine what is or isn’t a departmental badge. This badge was purchased from a collector in Baltimore who says that he received the badge from an MPD officer. Because it is a fallen officer’s badge, I am suspicious of that statement. Fallen Officers are supposed to have their badge numbers retired but it has happened that retired numbers have slipped into circulation.

The font of the applied numbers appears similar to other issued departmental badges. The badge is arched in which some were and others weren't.

The back of the badge raises even more questions. MPD did not regularly use the short pin and catch like what is pictured with this badge. I say regularly because it is not a hard and fast rule. If something needed fixing, MPD tended to use the route of whatever was available. It appears that someone may have had the pin and clasp changed out by a second hand person such as a jeweler or badge representative.

In the end, we may never know if this was an issued badge worn by a Police Officer or not. That doesn't mean that the badge is worthless. As with all things in regards to collecting, if you like the item then purchase it if you feel comfortable with the price.

A link to Officer William L. Sigmon's page on the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Memorial and Museum website, a website honoring the 121 Metropolitan Police Officers who gave their lives in the line of duty.

 

https://www.dcpolicememorial.org/fallen-1971-sigmon-w/

Badge #771 is a curved, shell back badge with no hallmark with the badge numbers applied. The numbers applied are a different font than the other applied number badges on this site.  That doesn't mean that the badge is worthless. As with all things in regards to collecting, if you like the item then purchase it if you feel comfortable with the price.

 

Badge #1139 is a curved badge with no hallmark with the badge numbers engraved. Badge #1139 is a fine-looking badge but this particular badge was never issued, instead it was produced to be an officer’s second. That doesn't mean that the badge is worthless. As with all things in regards to collecting, if you like the item then purchase it if you feel comfortable with the price.

 

This badge was obtained from a collector who purchased it from the estate of Cecil Wayne Kirk (1938 - 2011). Kirk served with the Metropolitan Police Department from 1960 to 1980 as a police officer, investigator, Sergeant and photography expert. Kirk’s first photographic with the Metropolitan Police Department was on November 24 and 25, 1963, the state funeral of President John F. Kennedy.

In 1978, Kirk testified before the House Select Committee on Assassinations as a photography expert. During the 1978 hearings, Kirk would help prove the veracity of the often-disputed photographs of Lee Harvey Oswald posing in his backyard with the rifle he allegedly used to assassinate John F. Kennedy. In 1980, he transferred to Scottsdale, Arizona to investigate the murder of actor Bob Crane and revamped the city's forensic investigative unit.

The badge is a curved, traditional shellback design without a Hallmark and with applied numbers. The two interior digits appear smaller than the two exterior digits.

This is a curved badge without a hallmark with an engraved badge number. This is a current style cap plate with an engraved badge number on the plate. Both the badge and the cap plate are seconds and were not departmental issued even though departmental issued cap plates and badges may have been similar. These are another example of why it can be difficult in identifying what was departmental issued and what was bought as a second. As with all things in regards to collecting, if you like the item then purchase it if you feel comfortable with the price.

This is a curved badge with no hallmark with the badge numbers applied. This was not a departmental issued badge but was instead an officer’s second badge. The font of the applied numbers may have been similar to other departmental badges but that just goes to show you the difficulty sometimes in determining what was departmental issued and what was departmental worn. As with all things in regards to collecting, if you like the item then purchase it if you feel comfortable with the price.

This is a flat badge without a hallmark with an engraved badge number. This is a current style cap plate with an engraved badge number on the plate. Both the badge and the cap plate were departmental issued. Speculation is that the department had flat blanks still left and sent the plates out to be engraved with the various badge numbers and then attached those plates to the badges and issued them.

A departmental issued badge and cap plate from the late 1980’s. The badge has original font style numbers while the cap plate appears to be the second issued series plate and that a small number plate was etched and attached to the cap plate. This was probably done in an attempt to recycle the old cap plates instead of purchasing new cap plates.

Is this an original departmental issued badge? It has a Hallmark from a company which produced MPD badges and looks worn. The answer is no. This was a "second" badge purchased from the FOP and worn on the street. As you can see, it is often difficult to determine what is a departmental issued badge and what isn't.

A Northeast badge with a solid back based upon the current Blackinton design. The badge is stamped with the Northeast Badge Hallmark and also has a stamped control number on it.

Is this an original departmental issued badge? It is a flat badge, it has a Hallmark from a company which produced MPD badges and looks worn. The answer is no. This was a "second" badge purchased from the FOP and worn on the street. As you can see, it is often difficult to determine what is a departmental issued badge and what isn't.

Applied number curved badge with no hallmark. Notice that the two center digits appear smaller than the two outer digits.

Badge #2787 is a curved badge with no hallmark with the badge numbers engraved. Badge #2787 is a fine-looking badge but this particular badge was never issued, instead, it was produced to be an officer’s second. That doesn't mean that the badge is worthless. As with all things in regards to collecting, if you like the item then purchase it if you feel comfortable with the price.

Badge 3324 is a nice curved badge produced by OGS Technologies - National Emblem & Badge Company. In January 2000, OGS Technologies, Inc., a privately-owned corporation, purchased the assets of “The Waterbury Button Company” from “Waterbury Companies, Inc.”, a company with a long history of supplying buttons to the Metropolitan Police Department and in 2003, OGS Technologies purchased the assets of Northeast Emblem and Badge, renaming the division, National Emblem & Badge Company.

OGS never supplied badges to the Metropolitan Police Department but their production of early MPD badges is he result of OGS producing 2nd based upon the original dies of Northeast Emblem and Badge.

Badge #4207 is a curved badge with no hallmark with the badge numbers applied. The numbers applied are a different font than the other applied number badges. That fact along with the exceptional condition of this badge means that this particular badge was never issued, instead, it was produced to be an officer’s second. That doesn't mean that the badge is worthless. As with all things in regards to collecting, if you like the item then purchase it if you feel comfortable with the price.

An applied number badge without a Hallmark. Notice that the two interior digits are smaller than the two outside digits. The rear of the badge is interesting in that the badge number appears to have been vibro peened on the rear of the badge. Property Division used to engrave the badge number on the rear of the badges so that when numbers were missing from the badge, the original badge number could be replaced. Does that mean that this is a departmental issued badge? Not necessarily. That engraving is easy to fake but it is consistent with something which the department used to do and may not be widely known.

A curved applied numbers badge with no hallmark. On this badge, the two center digits appear larger than the two outside digits.

This badge is a shellback, non-hallmarked badge with an engraved badge number on the front of the badge.

The "T" series badges were used as temporary badges for officers who did not have their issued badge whether it was lost, stolen or damaged.

A non-Hallmarked badge and cap plate with a blank number plate. The number plate can be removed and a badge number applied or a badge number can be etched onto the plate.  In 1999, the department began issuing badges with etched numbers on the number plate as opposed to the applied numbers.

 

These are second series cap plates with applied numbers which were in use from around 1930 to 1999. These all appear to have been departmental issued and worn. There is not the secondary market for cap plates that there is for badges as such most officers who would order a second badge would not order a second cap plate. As with all things in regards to collecting, if you like the item then purchase it if you feel comfortable with the price.

These are second series cap plates with applied numbers which were in use from around 1930 to 1999. These all appear to have been departmental issued and worn. There is not the secondary market for cap plates that there is for badges as such most officers who would order a second badge would not order a second cap plate. As with all things in regards to collecting, if you like the item then purchase it if you feel comfortable with the price.

These are second series cap plates with applied numbers which were in use from around 1930 to 1999. These all appear to have been departmental issued and worn. There is not the secondary market for cap plates that there is for badges as such most officers who would order a second badge would not order a second cap plate. As with all things in regards to collecting, if you like the item then purchase it if you feel comfortable with the price.

These are second series cap plates with applied numbers which were in use from around 1930 to 1999. These all appear to have been departmental issued and worn. There is not the secondary market for cap plates that there is for badges as such most officers who would order a second badge would not order a second cap plate. As with all things in regards to collecting, if you like the item then purchase it if you feel comfortable with the price.

These are second series cap plates with applied numbers which were in use from around 1930 to 1999. These all appear to have been departmental issued and worn. There is not the secondary market for cap plates that there is for badges as such most officers who would order a second badge would not order a second cap plate. As with all things in regards to collecting, if you like the item then purchase it if you feel comfortable with the price.

Cap plate with badge number 1334. Around 1999, the department switched from the applied numbers to engraved numbers and this included the cap plates as well. This appears to have been departmental issued and worn. There is not the secondary market for cap plates that there is for badges as such most officers who would order a second badge would not order a second cap plate. As with all things in regards to collecting, if you like the item then purchase it if you feel comfortable with the price.

This is a curved badge without a hallmark with an engraved badge number. This is a current style cap plate with an engraved badge number on the plate. Both the badge and the cap plate are seconds and were not departmental issued even though departmental issued cap plates and badges may have been similar. These are another example of why it can be difficult in identifying what was departmental issued and what was bought as a second. As with all things in regards to collecting, if you like the item then purchase it if you feel comfortable with the price.

This is a flat badge without a hallmark with an engraved badge number. This is a current style cap plate with an engraved badge number on the plate. Both the badge and the cap plate were departmental issued. Speculation is that the department had flat blanks still left and sent the plates out to be engraved with the various badge numbers and then attached those plates to the badges and issued them.

A departmental issued badge and cap plate from the late 1980’s. The badge has original font style numbers while the cap plate appears to be the second issued series plate and that a small number plate was etched and attached to the cap plate. This was probably done in an attempt to recycle the old cap plates instead of purchasing new cap plates.

Cap plate with badge number 3172. Around 1999, the department switched from the applied numbers to engraved numbers and this included the cap plates as well. This appears to have been departmental issued and worn. There is not the secondary market for cap plates that there is for badges as such most officers who would order a second badge would not order a second cap plate. As with all things in regards to collecting, if you like the item then purchase it if you feel comfortable with the price.