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  • Location
    New York City
  • Interests
    WWII Air Forces - All Nations - Groupings, Uniforms and Wings.

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  1. After a conversation with J.T. Michelson, son of founders Jack and Mildred and last president of Bell Trading Post, I unfortunately do not have more information about the WWII period wings and badges. It was simply before his time. He did confirm that coin silver pieces were made from melting Mexican pesos. He had more to say about later Vietnam pieces of which he had examples mounted on his wall of all pieces they made then. Also, none of the family was still in the business when it was dissolved in 1982. So no idea where the dies ended up. Here are the pictures of the Bell Trading Post wall
  2. Yes. Is an issue wing for the Nationalist Chinese Air Force (Taiwan) 1960s? tod
  3. Marty, Bell was absolutely a very large manufacturer, no question, and made their own materials. I have not seen Bell wings made out of coin silver, that's new. I have contacted J. T. Michelson and hopefully we will connect and i can get some of the other questions answered. Cheers, Tod
  4. Thanks Chris. I appreciate that complement from another fellow determined researcher! Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  5. Marty, I know you and Patrick have discussed this based on the similarity in findings. I have a file of notes on Walter Lampl. I’m still building his story. So far, I have found no published direct link between the two. However, from what I have read, Walter Lampl was a designer, not a manufacturer or retailer. He was a big brand name like David Yurman today. So he would have had to contract for his designs to get made. Also, note my comments about the OPA and that smiths were buying foreign silver to avoid price and supply controls. It was a short lived window. Also melting coins vs slugs to
  6. 1975 marked the company’s 40th anniversary as it essentially ended its final association with its Trading Post origins, leaving the pueblo building downtown and moving to modern manufacturing facility in West Mesa, NM. The financial landscape for Sunbell continued to decline however and by 1981 the company closed.
  7. By the 1970s, foreign manufacturers started to encroach on Bell business with much more inexpensive and easily copied versions of native and southwestern jewelry and souvenirs. Retailers and buyers of were not that discriminating and happily switched to the less expensive offerings. In a bid to keep growing and staying competitive, Bell reorganized into a holding company in 1971, taking a new shareholder and an infusion of capital. The new company was called Sunbell and featured a new logo, both of which were the brainchild of Jacquelyn Michelson. All three children were still running the comp
  8. Unfortunately, the boom times for the Bell Indian Trading Post were soon tragically cut short. In 1957, Jack Michelson died from his third heart attack and his wife Mildred died just two years later of her first heart attack. This left the three teen-aged children, J.T., Douglas and Jacquelyn with an unclear future. With the help of Leonard Bell (One of Mildred’s brothers and also in the jewelry business), the family pulled together and continued its operation while learning on the job. Bell continued to do well with Indian jewelry, inexpensive southwestern souvenirs, charms and a
  9. Once the war was over, Jack and Mildred were able return to native crafts and wholesale souvenirs with even bigger ambitions. In 1948, they completed an entirely new complex located at 1503 West Central Ave on what was the original Route 66 at the time. What was touted as a “Million-Dollar Investment” at the time by the Albuquerque Journal: “Four hundred employees, men and women eventually will be housed in the two-story Indian pueblo type building.” (AJ, 1/20/1946) Jack Michelson declared, “the new structure, when completed, will be one of the largest factories for jewelry production west of
  10. The fact that Native Americans were now manufacturing military insignia caught the eye of Paramount news and a camera crew and director were sent out to the Bell Trading Post in 1943 to film the workers making wings. In an article about the filming, Jack Michelson talks about how he had to convert to different machinery and labor to make the new items. This included acquiring a 300lb drop press, making dies for the wings at the shop and training workers on how to make and run both.
  11. Starting in December 1941, Jack got the company involved in producing wartime insignia and metal work while also still supporting his domestic business of Indian jewelry. The business came to a crisis however as the price and control of silver meant an end to the Indian souvenir trade. According to an article in the Albuquerque Journal dated Aug 16, 1942, Jack Michelson predicted over 5,000 local silversmiths would be put out of work. The reason being that the US had taking over all silver stocks and was buying silver at 71.11 cents an ounce. The market price was 35 cents an ounce, which Jack
  12. The Bell Indian Trading Post as the company was initially known, started off as most did, as a financial backer, distributor and retailer for local native American craftspeople. In this case, weavers and silversmiths primarily from local Navajo clans. At first, the store would supply raw materials for crafts people to make finished products in their local style and means. For the silversmiths, this was bench and handwork. Suggestions would be made about product types and designs that sold well. Benches and tools would be provided by the trading post to those who wanted to get into the trade. T
  13. The Bell Indian Trading Post was a company born out of the imagination and entrepreneurial ambition of Jack Michelson and his wife Mildred Bell Michelson. Jack was born in St. Louis, MO in 1900. Jack made his way to Albuquerque, New Mexico sometime during the 1920s, which had a nascent Jewish community built around the jewelry trade. He soon met his future wife Mildred, who had also moved to Albuquerque from Kansas, in unique circumstances. According to their daughter Jacquelyn, “My mother, a registered nurse, met my father when assigned as his private duty nurse while he recovered from pneumo
  14. I call it Gwendyr plus as the tailor/wearer decided not only to trim the wing but also frame it with some bullion cord.
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