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World War One Weekly Wing #21

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World War One

Weekly Wing #21

Maker: E. A. Armstrong Manufacturing Co. Chicago, IL


One of the most challenging aspects of collecting World War One era wings is determining what companies manufactured bullion examples.  While there were numerous companies, large and small throughout the Northeast and Midwest known to be involved in bullion work, most did not mark their small work in any way or on the rare occasion they did it was generally only on paper labels or packaging and long lost to history.  It is a great rarity then in WW1 wing collecting when an embroidered badge can be definitively identified to a specific manufacturer and thereby regionally associated with various Air Service training airfields.

At the turn of the last century, the firm of E. A. Armstrong Manufacturing Co., taking up an entire block on South Wabash Avenue in Chicago, was one of the Midwest’s prominent society goods and uniform makers.  Armstrong competed in the market with firms such as Jacob Reed and Sons, William H Horstmann, M. C. Lilley, and other manufacturers providing society goods to organizations such as Grand Army of the Republic, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, Knights of Columbus, etc.  Additionally, many Midwestern railroads, Chicago-area bands and luxury hotels also purchased uniforms and regalia from Armstrong.  An internet search on the company typically reveals many examples of society-type swords manufactured by Armstrong.  Apparently quite prolific in the regalia trade, Armstrong also appears to have consistently sold military goods however, based on surviving examples, that segment of production does not appear to have made up the greater proportion of their business.  This is most likely due to the relatively small number of large military installations nearby.  All that changed in WW1.

As the nation was expanding its military to fight in WW1 Several enormous National Army cantonments were built in Illinois and the Great Lakes Naval Training Station was vastly expanded.  Also in the spring of 1917, the Aviation Section of the Army Signal Corps stood up several training Airfields in the Midwest; Chanute Field in Rantoul, Illinois, Scott Field in Belleville, Illinois, and Selfridge Field in Detroit Michigan.  All of these airfields became hosts to 8-week courses of basic flight training.  By the onset of winter, it became clear to the Army that southern fields would have longer periods of consistent weather for initial flight training and by December 1917, initial flight training was moved south to fields such as Kelly Field in San Antonio.  Northern tier bases remained open for specialty training during the summer months and when weather permitted flying.

Associated Airfields:  Chanute Field Rantoul IL,  Scott Field, Belleville, IL and Selfridge Field, Detroit, MI




Manufacture. Finely made by E. A. Armstrong Manufacturing Company of Chicago, Illinois.  Distinctive but generally similar to other American-made two tier shoulder wings.  Each wing is characterized by a first row of feathers picked out individually in silver bullion, surmounted by a two-tier shoulder of individual feathers constructed with rachis of faceted bullion and vane contrasting smooth bullion. Armstrong’s bullion workers separated each first row feather by a line of fine black thread.

The shield is highly flared.  The chief contains 13 small neatly spaced "stars," executed in an x-configuration, affixed atop a field of horizontal rows of bullion.  The field  portion consists of vertical stripes made from two contrasting types of bullion. The chief and field portion are separated both by bullion wire coil and thin black thread.

The top three quarters of each wing and shield perimeter are bordered by coiled bullion wire.  Both wings and shield are very highly padded.

Finally, Armstrong executed the US as gold bullion coils configured in a two-strand twisted helix with no apparent serifs or periods.

Mountings.  This badge is mounted on a crescent-shaped metal back plate with a slight depression at the middle top above the shield.  A simple catch and pin back are affixed to the back plate and the entire rear of the badge is covered by lapped background cloth sewn fast.  Finally, a woven label bearing Armstrong’s trade mark is affixed to the rear between the pin and catch.

Armstrong's building still stands and today is a youth hostel.  E. A. Armstrong Manufacturing Co. does not seem to have survived the Great Depression.

Any other E. A. Armstrong wings out there in the collections?  Other maker marked bullion wings?  I'd love to see them!






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I don't have much to add to this thread.  I would love to have one of these marked bullion wings.



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