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cwnorma

World War One Weekly Wing #11

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Collectors often see the phrase "...probably made by Eisenstadt" when describing certain hand-made or bespoke wings. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the firm of Eisenstadt Manufacturing Co. of St Louis Missouri frequently did not mark their wings.

 

While a number of unmarked hand-made wings are similar in style to the badges made (and marked) by Eisenstadt and may be attributable to that firm, there are certainly others with distinctive stylistic differences leading collectors to continue searching for an accurate attribution. This week's WWOWW is one such badge:

 

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Sometimes described as a "bat wing" badge, this wing appears to have been a fairly popular choice among WW1 era aviators.

 

Construction of this badge is very interesting. The badge is entirely made of thin sheets of sterling silver. Each wing consists of three separate pieces stacked, laminated and soldered together to give the badge three-dimensional relief. Each piece is then chased, the design is cut with "bright cuts," and texture is added to the feathers with a fine texturing punch. The entirety of the badge appears to be hand made.

 

The gold US on these badges is also quite distinctive. Constructed again of very thin (gold) sheet laminated to the surface of the shield. These construction techniques; cutting, punching, chasing, and laminating, are in many respects quite similar to that seen in Mexican and Navaho silver work from the turn of the last century:

 

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These construction techniques and artistic design elements suggest these particular badges are likely to have found their origin in the Southwestern United States--most likely from communities surrounding airfields in either Texas or California.

 

Again perhaps owing to their Southwestern influence, these scarce badges, when encountered usually are fixed with screw backs. Sterling silver conchos, such as those illustrated above, frequently utilize screw posts for affixing to leather belts and horse tack. Often, when these badges are found with pin backs, there is evidence of screw posts having been removed.


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The artist who made the badge above also made a few other designs:

 

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The above badge demonstrates identical construction techniques as the badge at the top of this thread, with a different, more rounded shield, and lacking the recurved feathers pointing back toward the shield at the bottom of the wings. Still this is a very handsome design and no doubt was proudly worn by the young aviator. The pilot who wore this badge was stationed at Ellington Field in Texas. Could the artisan who crafted this badge have been from around that area?

 

The hand-crafted badge at the top of this thread was evidently quite popular. The badge below is a product of the Robbins Co of Attleboro Falls Massachusetts:

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Of nearly identical design, but completely different construction, the Robins badge is die struck using a thick silver planchet. The surface of the wing is then hand cut with "bright cuts" to highlight details--approximating the hand-made nature (and sparkle!) of the original badge. Still, the design is a near perfect copy, if slightly refined, of the badge at the top of this page. Since the Robbins version appears to copy the three laminated pieces in the wing's shoulder, we can safely conclude that Robbins copied (some might say improved upon) the original hand made design.

 

Period photographs clearly show that this design, with its pointed shield and wild recurved feathers, in both the hand-made and Robbins versions, was a popular choice among WW1 Aviators.

 

As always, I would love to see more examples of these Southwestern-inspired badges!

 

Chris


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I also have enjoyed this wing. I have one that is biographical to from Lt. Francis "Huckleberry" Hughs. Lt Hughes flew late in the war with the 99th Aerosquadron, seeing some combat just before the end of hostilities (he either got shot down or crashed in no-man's land and spent a few days dodging capture, going from trench to trench until making it back to the allied lines). I got some copies of photos of Hughes from the family and it seems that all his overseas pictures show him wearing bullion wings. He was also the CO of a supply squadron in England during WWII.

 

While these particular wings are very similar to the Robbin's-made wing in pattern, I've never been convinced that they were actually made by Robbins as opposed to an individual jeweler copying the Robins example. Like Chris says, These are hand made wings made of multiple pieces and originally were screw back. Many (including the ones that I have) were converted to pin back sometime in their lifetime. I have never seen any that have hallmarks and are each individually a bit different (obviously because they were hand made).

 

I also had heard that these were "English-made" wings many years ago, but I am inclined to believe other collectors that these aren't English made. In fact, I'm not even sure that Hughes was in England during WWI. As I said, all of his photos from overseas show him wearing bullion wings.

 

The idea that they are from the American South West is interesting. Although in hand, they are more like the hand-made Eisenstadt and Homorichus (I always screw up the spelling) from St Louis and Tennessee. I have some photos of wives/girlfriends wearing these types of wings in and around California and Texas. SO...it could be possible.

Also, here is a closeup of this style wing being worn into the WWII era. This fellow had his converted to command pilot wing.

 

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Are the Eisenstadt "Dallas" type wings also made with sheets of silver as well, or die struck from a single sheet of silver?

 

Thanks again Pat and Chris for taking the time to share your knowledge about these wings. One cannot find such information anywhere in print.

I also have enjoyed this wing. I have one that is biographical to from Lt. Francis "Huckleberry" Hughs. Lt Hughes flew late in the war with the 99th Aerosquadron, seeing some combat just before the end of hostilities (he either got shot down or crashed in no-man's land and spent a few days dodging capture, going from trench to trench until making it back to the allied lines). I got some copies of photos of Hughes from the family and it seems that all his overseas pictures show him wearing bullion wings. He was also the CO of a supply squadron in England during WWII.

 

While these particular wings are very similar to the Robbin's-made wing in pattern, I've never been convinced that they were actually made by Robbins as opposed to an individual jeweler copying the Robins example. Like Chris says, These are hand made wings made of multiple pieces and originally were screw back. Many (including the ones that I have) were converted to pin back sometime in their lifetime. I have never seen any that have hallmarks and are each individually a bit different (obviously because they were hand made).

 

I also had heard that these were "English-made" wings many years ago, but I am inclined to believe other collectors that these aren't English made. In fact, I'm not even sure that Hughes was in England during WWI. As I said, all of his photos from overseas show him wearing bullion wings.

 

The idea that they are from the American South West is interesting. Although in hand, they are more like the hand-made Eisenstadt and Homorichus (I always screw up the spelling) from St Louis and Tennessee. I have some photos of wives/girlfriends wearing these types of wings in and around California and Texas. SO...it could be possible.

Also, here is a closeup of this style wing being worn into the WWII era. This fellow had his converted to command pilot wing.

 

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Are the Eisenstadt "Dallas" type wings also made with sheets of silver as well, or die struck from a single sheet of silver?

 

blind pew,

 

Thanks for the kind words!

 

I have other posts planned for so-called "Dallas" wings, but to answer your immediate question:

 

All so-called "Dallas" wings are made of three major pieces (wings and shield) affixed to a background plate that is covered in cloth (or in the case of the Eisenstadt "EAGLE" badge an enameled back plate). Universally, the silver parts are die struck using the "cliche" method.

 

The cliche method is familiar to German badge and sterling silver flatware collectors. In cliche, the planchet is very thin stock and the struck item being somewhat thin is affixed to a stiffening or strengthening backplate (either by soldering or, in the case of most "Dallas" wings pins are used to affix the badge elements to the back plate).

 

Benefits to the cliche process include less silver required (thin stock) and cheaper production costs (thin, highly detailed strikes require less pressure and therefore can be accomplished on less expensive equipment.

 

Cheers!

 

Chris


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I believe Eisenstadt also produced a two-inch version which closely resembled their stylized full-size Pilot wing...

 

 

Eisenstadt A1.jpg


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Russ,

 

Thanks for sharing your examples of these great wings. The two inch version is seldom encountered.

 

I've never been completely convinced these were made by Eisenstadt, as I've not yet seen one so marked, but certainly that firm would have employed artisans who could have been responsible for these truly wonderful hand-made wings!

 

I especially like the proportions of your three-inch badge. With its slightly rounder shield and thin, delicately curved wings, it is both unique yet clearly related to the others on this thread. Outstanding!

 

Chris


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