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Help with ID of WWI Wing


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#1 trenchbuff

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 10:01 AM

These wings were worn by 2nd Lt. Arthur Wilson at the tail end of WWI. I'm not sure whether he received his flight training in California or Texas. Does anyone recognize the maker on his wing? It's a big one, nearly 3 3/4" wide, with a drop in catch and marked only "sterling". Any help with the company ID would be appreciated.

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#2 usncollector

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 10:07 AM

Most unmarked wings have some origins in private jewelers, as I think this piece is. There really wasn't a government contract for this type of item in that era, so you may want to look at where the soldier was stationed to get an idea of the maker.

#3 cwnorma

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 10:31 AM

Trenchbuff,

Wonderful wing!

This is a known pattern, and shows up from time to time. Unfortunately, the maker is probably lost to history.

Most of these solid silver wings were purchased by pilots at the very end of WW1. As Duncan Campbell pointed out; "...many concerns who had never made insignia before got into the wing making business at the tail end of WW1."

Pilots simply did not like the Army-issue embroidered wings, and purchased their own "fancier" wings for wear. The Army Air Service did not actually authorize solid silver wing badges until December 1918. But in light of firm photographic evidence, this change in regulations only served to legitimatize the, by then, common practice of wearing the solid, silver wing badges.

It is my personal opinion, that this pattern of badge was manufactured by a competitor of Shreve and Co of San Francisco. In general style, the two wings (this one and the Shreeve wing) are similar with both exhibiting finely sculpted wings with a squared shoulder and a slight bulge to the lower part of the shield. Both are also slightly over sized.

IMHO, I believe this wing, and the Shreeve and a couple of others with similar features, represent the west coast school of wing design.

Thanks again for sharing this wonderful wing!

Chris

As a general rule, the solid silver, one piece badges with the gold US are the last type before all wings were standardized in January 1919.

#4 cwnorma

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 10:34 AM

National Geographic Article on Wing Badge Development

wings2.jpg



#5 cwnorma

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 10:35 AM

Part 2

wings3.jpg



#6 trenchbuff

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 02:41 PM

Chris, Thanks for the indepth response. I've always noticed a similarity to the Shreve & Co. wings and it would certainly make sense that this would have been another California competitor using a similar design. If I remember correctly, Mr. Wilson told me that he had received some of his flight training at Rockwell Air Field in San Diego. Appreciate the Help!

Mark


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