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World War One Weekly Wing #25

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World War One

Weekly Wing #25

Homrighous Observer




In late April, WWOWW #18 discussed the timeline of US Air Service half wings.  To recap here:  The original badge for Junior and Reserve Military Aviator or Observer, was only authorized 76 days (15 August 1917 —  27 October 1917) when the Army changed wing badges by adding a star for Military Aviator, re-designating the full-wing without star for Junior and Reserve Military Aviators.  The same change assigned the half-wing with shield for Observers.  Again, this change was officially brief as on 29 December 1917, just over two months later, the Army replaced the shield on Observer half-wing badges with the gothic “O.”  This final design would remain the regulation badge for observer until the Adams-designed half wing would replace it in February 1919.  As Campbell (1991) noted, half wings all types are less commonly encountered than full wings; Homrighous manufactured half wings are no different in that respect.



WWOWW #25 -- Second-Type Observer by Henry Clay Homrighous and Co, Memphis Tennessee


The distinctive World War One Reserve Military Aviator Wing badges made by H.C. Homrighous jewelers of Memphis, Tennessee are well known to collectors:



Homrighous Reserve Military Aviator Wing Badge (WWOWW #19)


Apparently quite a few young Reserve Military Aviators training at Park Field in Millington made the 16 mile trip down to Memphis and purchased the popular wing badges.  Less commonly seen however are Homrighous manufactured Observer wings of either type.  Park Field was predominately a pilot training base.  Aviators training at Park Field were assigned to 65th, 87th, 160th and 214th Aero Squadrons for both primary and advanced instruction. As there was no observation training at Park, Observers at the field would normally have been cadre or instructors.  Observers from other nearby fields may also have found their way to Park Field and Memphis during navigation training.


Associated Airfields:


Besides Observers assigned to Park Field, Observers stationed at Eberts Field, Gerstner Field, Payne Field, Scott Field or other aerodromes may have found their way to Millington.  Possibly Observers from as far away as Ellington Field in Houston may have found themselves at Park Field and headed down to Memphis for some Barbecue and purchase of a pair of wings.  Indeed, A number of men illustrated in the year book “Ellington” can be seen wearing Homrighous wings.


Manufacturing Notes


Completely hand-made wing. All Homrighous wings are characterized by thick, flat sterling silver billet, carved into shape and attached together by thick U-shaped sterling silver wires. The shoulder area of the wing is chased from the rear to create three-dimensionality in repoussé. 


Hand carved masterpiece.  Some collectors have expressed discontent with the aesthetic choices made by Homrighous’ craftsmen.  Contrastingly, the badges appear to have been quite popular with Airmen of the era.  The badges were expertly crafted completely by hand; no dies, presses, nor other machinery apparently used.  The only non-hand made parts being the thick silver wires used to join the pieces and the findings. The design is hand cut with the outline and rachis of the feathers fashioned using bright cuts and 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 gothic O is cut from an even thicker silver billet than the wing.  Otherwise flat, the interior and exterior perimeter edges of the O are beveled and bright cut.


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


Mountings.  As seen on other Homrighous badges, this particular badge has a simple catch and massive, thick, tapered pin.  Other badges encountered have various safety-type catches. 


Markings.  This particular badge bears no hallmarks or content marks but is clearly made of sterling silver.


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