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World War One Weekly Wing #19

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World War One

Weekly Wing #19

Maker: Henry Clay Homrighous and Co, Memphis Tennessee

Background

One of the distinctively attractive World War One Wing badges, if there can be said to be a "Dallas Wing", this week's World War One wing is the best candidate to be the "Memphis Wing."  

For years, I searched to learn more about this maker.  Various sources had referred to this jeweler as “Humrichous” or “Homrichous” however, try as I might, I could find no information—at all—on a Memphis jewelry maker of either name.  One afternoon while researching a different project, I happened upon PDF versions of Memphis Tennessee city directories.  Unfortunately they were not searchable but they were complete so I looked up the categories for “jewelers” and “manufacturing jewelers” in the 1918 directory and under the latter discovered “H. C. Homrighous Jewelers” of Memphis.  Eureka!

Initial disbelief.  I have to admit After so many years of reference after reference referring to the maker of these wings variously as; "Homrichous" or; "Humrichous," my first instinct was to think the name had been misspelled in the city directory.  So I broadened my search first to 1917, then 1919 directories and time after time the company name was spelled; "Homrighous."  Once I got past my initial misgivings, a google search of “H. C. Homrighous” in Memphis Tennessee quickly turned up a great deal more information and abundant references in period publications such as; “The Jewelers Circular” or “The Manufacturers Index.”

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Henry Clay Homrighous. Like a number of WW1 wing manufacturers Homrighous could be described as something of a community booster.  Homrighous had financial interests in automobiles, real estate, and banking—as well as manufacturing jewelry.  The scion of a Mattoon, Illinois jewelry making family, Homrighous was also an early leader in the American Numismatic Association.  Similar to Dan Dunham, or George W. Haltom, Homrighous also apparently wanted to court favor with the young aviators in training at nearby Park Field—perhaps envisioning some future role in aviaton-based commerce. 

Associated Airfields:

Besides the fledgling Aviators of Park Field, no doubt other young aviators would fly to Millington from fields like Eberts, Gerstner, Payne, Scott or others.  Perhaps Airmen from even as far away as Ellington found their way during navigation training to Park Field and headed down into Memphis for some Barbecue and purchase of a pair of wings?  A number of men illustrated in the year book “Ellington” can indeed be seen wearing Homrighous wings.

PrimaryPark Field, Millington Tennessee

Secondary:  Eberts Field, Lonoke Arkansas; Gerstner Field, Lake Charles, Louisiana; Payne Field, West Point, Mississippi, Scott Field, Bellevielle Illinois, Ellington Field, Houston Texas

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Description

Manufacture. American made by H. C. Homrighous Jewelers of Memphis Tennessee.  One of the few completely hand-made wings, the type is normally characterized by thick, flat sterling silver billet, carved into the shapes of wings and shield and attached together by thick U-shaped sterling silver wires. The shoulder area of each wing is chased from the rear to create three-dimensionality. 

Hand cut masterpiece.  Expertly executed by hand, the outline and rachis of the feathers are completely done using bright cuts with the vanes using a very fine parallel line making onglet tool.  Behind the first row of feathers, a second row of bright cut and textured feathers blends into the shoulder area, itself textured with at least three different hand texturing tools.

The shield chief usually contains 13 small, hand cut, five-pointed stars. The lower portion of the shield consists of 13 contrasting stripes, again, hand done using bright cuts. The entire perimeter of the shield is beveled, again with bright cuts.

Finally, the US of this type of badge normally consists of flat, 14 karat gold, hand cut into a US with slightly beveled edges and individually soldered to the front of the lower half of the shield.

As all of these badges are individually hand made, every one will show slight variations in execution.

Mountings.  This particular badge has a simple catch and thick, tapered pin.  Other badges encountered have various safety-type catches.  There does not appear to be a consistent type of catch used by H. C. Homrighous--apparently using whatever stock they had on hand.

Markings.  Many of these badges are unmarked but when marked a content mark of "STERLING"  and/or hallmark:

HOMRIGHOUS Co

MEMPHIS.

I'd love to see your examples of H. C. Homrighous wings!


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My example. This was found in bottom of a period jewelry box below the drawers on the boxes floor, perhaps thought to be lost. It was in baby blue soft cloth pouch with shirt like button closures. I also have the pouch which is a tailored fit for the wing and I've always wondered if it might be what the jeweler provided upon purchase. Perhaps the fact that the "G" on my example, as on others I've seen, looks like a "C" is a attributable reason for this maker's historical miss spelling? Thank you Chris for my weekly WW1 wing fix!!s-l1600-3.jpeg.fa3cf3e159f6552984e121bbb20e05dd.jpeg It was inside

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'Just one more wing' away from true happiness...

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Also under close loop inspection I can see a mark and faint line where the 'leg' that would make the "C' a "G" is. This is somewhat visible in the posted reverse closeup.Perhaps the maker's stamp was less than ideal?


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'Just one more wing' away from true happiness...

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3 hours ago, Steve L said:

Also under close loop inspection I can see a mark and faint line where the 'leg' that would make the "C' a "G" is. This is somewhat visible in the posted reverse closeup.Perhaps the maker's stamp was less than ideal?

Steve,

You had the same path of discovery as I.  When I learned the actual spelling I went back to mine and with a loupe saw there was indeed a small partial serif on the inside of the G.  Evidently, that part of the punch is soft... So for all these years, we have all looked at the Hallmark and seen a "C". 

Here is a view of mine, enhanced so you can see the serif on the G:

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Cheers!

Chris


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4 hours ago, Steve L said:

My example. This was found in bottom of a period jewelry box below the drawers on the boxes floor, perhaps thought to be lost. It was in baby blue soft cloth pouch with shirt like button closures. I also have the pouch which is a tailored fit for the wing and I've always wondered if it might be what the jeweler provided upon purchase. Perhaps the fact that the "G" on my example, as on others I've seen, looks like a "C" is a attributable reason for this maker's historical miss spelling? Thank you Chris for my weekly WW1 wing fix!!s-l1600-3.jpeg.fa3cf3e159f6552984e121bbb20e05dd.jpeg It was inside

s-l1600-2.jpeg.935d888312984e15ac1eb61721897916.jpegs-l1600.jpeg.3b29d44729d71889271f76865da5ac45.jpeg

Steve,

Absolutely stunning!

Chris


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You are a treasure!

Homrighous instead of Homrichous?

What in the world possessed you to think that the name was simply misspelled and start looking for different spellings? That is certainly clever, however, that would not have been on my list of reasons for lack of information!

I wish I had a good camera to post mine. I personally find these wings to be the least attractive of all the wings, in that they have a crude, amateurish appearance to them. They certainly are unique!

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On 5/5/2020 at 6:52 AM, blind pew said:

 I personally find these wings to be the least attractive of all the wings, in that they have a crude, amateurish appearance to them. They certainly are unique!

blind pew,

It just goes to show that beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.  

To be sure, these do not have finely sculpted false perspective shield of a Haltom badge or the or the delicate Beaux Arts feathered wings of the Tiffany, Johnson, or Paye and Baker badges.  The cutters of all those dies were clearly masters of their craft:

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What these Homrighous wings lack in sculpted refinement, to my eye, they make up in terms of hand-crafted skill.

I marvel that to make this badge; each individual piece was hand sawn from a flat silver (or gold) billet, chased from the rear to provide three-dimensionality, each individual feather as well as every line and star in the shield was hand-engraved or cut (not punched) with a v-shaped onglet bright cutting tool, then fine texturing tools were used for the vanes in the feathers and the texture in the shoulder area.  The individual pieces were then assembled together and findings added.  I estimate that from start to finish, each of these badges would likely take an entire day's work for one expert, highly-skilled jewelry maker to craft. 

Contrastingly, a semi-skilled employee (die operator and solderer) of Haltom, Robbins, Paye and Baker, or other maker manufacturing die-struck badges could turn out 100s of identical badges over the course of a day's work.

To me, the hand-crafted badges (such as Homrighous, Eisenstadt, Sweeney, etc) are among my most cherished of the WW1 badges:

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Best wishes!

Chris


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I'm in Blind Pew's camp. Although I can't say I would ever turn my nose up on the Homrighous wings and kick them out of bed for eating crackers, as they say!  Still, that ought to make a really good next WoWWI thread: "My favorite wing patterns and why you all are odious bits of vermin for disagreeing with me!"  That should keep the moderators in antacids!  LOL.

P

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Patrick,

I hereby award you 15 imaginary internet points for; "odious bits of vermin."

v/r

Chris


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I have to say I agree with Patrick and Blide Pew on these Memphis wings.  Yes the craftsmen that made these had exceptional metal-working skills, but these are the least attractive WWI wings to me.  The overly large area of shoulder feathers look to me more like plucked chicken skin than finely feathered wings.  Ok, I'm ready to be tossed in with the other vermin.

Marty


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One has to wonder how all the senior officers and NCO's tried to deal with the whole crop of newly minted 1st Lts wandering around camp in jodpurs, riding boots (sometimes with spurs), swagger sticks, silk scarfs and big old shinning wings of any old willy nilly pattern pinned to their chests!  Frankly, I suspect the IDEA behind the early flying programs was much more romantic than the reality of getting into a plywood and canvas flying death machine and tossing yourself about like a drunken zephyr thousands of feet in the air.

While many of us collectors, some 100 or so years later bemoan the change to arguably less interesting Adams-style wing of the post WWI era, I suspect a lot of senior officers had a lot less heartburn.

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19 hours ago, pfrost said:

One has to wonder how all the senior officers and NCO's tried to deal with the whole crop of newly minted 1st Lts wandering around camp in jodpurs, riding boots (sometimes with spurs), swagger sticks, silk scarfs and big old shinning wings of any old willy nilly pattern pinned to their chests!  Frankly, I suspect the IDEA behind the early flying programs was much more romantic than the reality of getting into a plywood and canvas flying death machine and tossing yourself about like a drunken zephyr thousands of feet in the air.

While many of us collectors, some 100 or so years later bemoan the change to arguably less interesting Adams-style wing of the post WWI era, I suspect a lot of senior officers had a lot less heartburn.

Patrick,

I daresay you have hit upon the very reason the Army adopted the Adams wing altogether.  Somehow, the USN seems to have largely escaped the extreme variations in early flight badges that plagued the Army Air Service.  There is plenty of evidence that the Army "brass" was extremely dissatisfied with respect to the state of insignia after WW1 and there was a concerted effort to standardize.  We could write up several paragraphs on the "FROM OFFICIAL DIE" badges which were part of the standardization effort.  With respect to our cherished wings, the Adams designs are the tangible result.  Fortunately, the Adams design wings and the the rest of the interwar badges are also extremely collectible and desirable in their own right.

Thank heavens the Army was busy attending to other things from May 1917 to November 1918--or else we wouldn't have these wonderful badges to collect.

Cheers!

Chris


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20 hours ago, pfrost said:

One has to wonder how all the senior officers and NCO's tried to deal with the whole crop of newly minted 1st Lts wandering around camp in jodpurs, riding boots (sometimes with spurs), swagger sticks, silk scarfs and big old shinning wings of any old willy nilly pattern pinned to their chests!  Frankly, I suspect the IDEA behind the early flying programs was much more romantic than the reality of getting into a plywood and canvas flying death machine and tossing yourself about like a drunken zephyr thousands of feet in the air.

While many of us collectors, some 100 or so years later bemoan the change to arguably less interesting Adams-style wing of the post WWI era, I suspect a lot of senior officers had a lot less heartburn.

Given that their theater lifespan was about two weeks, they probably figured any uniform deviations was a short term problem. 

Like all new branches of military service, it takes a decade or two to gain the formality and decorum of other branches. Witness some of the "costumes" that were worn in the US military in the west and in the confederate army during the Civil War. 

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