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World War One Weekly Wing #32

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World War One

Weekly Wing #32

Jessop Reserve Military Aviator

 

Background

 

Among the least well known pilot badges of the WW1 era, Joseph Jessop’s Reserve Military Aviator wing, with its strong Neo-classical shield and exquisite hand-tooled wings, truly stands out among the many beautiful WW1 badges.

 

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Joseph Jessop (left) overseas three of his craftsmen (right).

 

When told by his doctor in 1892 that European winters were ruining his health, watchmaker Joseph Jessop moved his family from Lytham, England, to San Diego. Jessop opened his first watch repair and jewelry shop on F Street which was so successful it would eventually grow into the J Jessop & Sons jewelry store at 952 Fifth Ave. Joseph Jessop’s legacy outlived him and his first San Diego enterprise, Jessop’s Jewelers, remained in business over 125 years not finally closing until until 2018.  Along with Reserve Military Aviator badges, Jessop also manufactured Naval Aviator badges and other various military insignia as discussed in WWOWW #14.

 

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Jessop's monumental clock (left) and Jessop's watch and Jewelry business at 1317 F Street, San Diego (right)

 

Much like similar jewelers; H.C Homrighous, G.W. Haltom, or Dan Dunham, Jessop was no mere maker of sparkling finery.  A far better description of Jessop and similar men would be “business forward thinker” or “chamber of commerce booster.”  Indeed, in his 1932, San Diego obituary, Joseph Jessop was glowingly referred to as a; “Pioneer of City.”  A man of many interests, Jessop developed San Diego real estate and invested in growing businesses.  He also had a noteworthy collection of ancient bows and arrows.  The Jessop collection today is housed in San Diego’s Natural History Museum in Balboa park.  Moreover, like the Linz Brothers of Dallas, Hertzberg of San Antonio, G. G. Sweeney of Houston, or Haltom of Fort Worth, Jessop dedicated time and resources to developing his community.  San Diego itself had a prominent role, if largely unsung, in early aviation.  Glenn Curtiss opened his primary pilot training school in Coronado on land that would eventually become Rockwell Field and Coronado Naval Air Station.  Prominent men like Jessop and Curtiss would no doubt have hob-nobbed over cigars and whiskey at the San Diego Athletic Club.  Like all of the afore mentioned jewelers, Joseph Jessop paid for and installed a grand monumental clock as a public service to his adopted California home.  Like the others, Jessop envisioned the coming role aviation would play in expanding commerce and wanted to curry favor among the young pilots in training in Coronado since 1912 with Glenn Curtiss and eventually the men of Rockwell Field.

 

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A young RMA wearing Jessop's wings

 

Associated Airfields

 

Rockwell Field and associated Air Service activities in and around San Diego, California.

 

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Description

 

Handsome badge with almost Brutalist, Neo-classical lines.  With its almost rectangular shield and straight “Adams-esque” wings, Jessop’s Reserve Military Aviator badge is practically the antithesis of fancier, more Art Nouveau inspired badges such as those by Shreeve and Co. or G.W. Haltom.  Despite, or possibly due to, its stark modern design, Jessop’s badge ultimately presents a strong, masculine, and forward looking countenance.

 

The shield overall exhibits slight vaulting (often absent in reproductions) with alternating stripes in relief (7) and recess (6) to the escutcheon.  In the chief are 13 five-pointed stars recessed into the smooth background. The Wings are very straight and near mirror image, exhibiting very fine feathering.  A small gold, separately applied, thick gothic “U.S.” (with periods—similar to a very small regulation collar device) is affixed to the shield and also conformally vaulted—fitting perfectly upon the face of the shield.

 

Manufacture

 

Die struck with separately applied die struck gold U.S.  The badge is then extensively hand finished with extensive bright cuts to add sparkle and detail throughout.  The entire perimeter of the shield, each star, and individual feathers are all bright cut to increase the badge’s sparkle.  The gold U.S. is also beveled and tabled to catch more light.  As only the basic design of the badge was die struck, the comprehensive bright cut finishing evident makes each and every Jessop RMA unique as the engravers who completed them—giving them overall consistency of design while retaining hand-made craftsmanship.

 

Mountings.  Thick tapered pin and egg shaped safety catch.

 

Markings:

 

JESSOP

 

STERLING

 

 

Notes.  Duncan Campbell (1991) wrote about this badge (33D p.88) and Terry Morris recapitulated Campbell.  In both works, the text reflect’s Campbell’s badge which had a back-plate glued to the rear of the badge precluding examination for any back mark.  Jessop was apparently not a prolific manufacturer as their Reserve Military Aviator, Naval Aviator, and other military badges are among the more scarce of the WW1 era.   Given their design elements and findings Jessop's World War One era badges may date to the very end of the era.  WWOWW owes a debt of gratitude to forum member 5thwingmarty for graciously sharing his Jessop example for inclusion here.


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Top and bottom direct comparison of two Jessop wings.  Note how only the basic design elements are die struck.  After die striking, the badges were then extensively hand tooled and finished.  The feathering of the top badge is very intricate and ornate, while the lower badge is more elegant and understated yet demonstrating an equal level of handwork.  The differences in finish details likely indicate that two different craftsmen finished each of these badges.

 

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Note:  A number of very poor reproductions of this badge have been floating around the collectors market for years.  All of the reproductions appear to be sand castings and may have some relation to Jessop's original die.  Some of these reproduction badges even have a separately applied gold color US, while none of them show the exquisite level of hand-finished craftsmanship of a correct, and real Joseph Jessop badge.


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In hand the slight drooping of the wings on my badge is much less apparent.  I think my use of the extreme close up camera setting to try and capture the details exaggerated the droop.

 

Comparing the two wings, although the general style of the two wings are similar they do not appear to have been made from the the same die struck base wing.  On the top wing, I count 14 feathers on the outer rows of each wing.  On my wing, I only count 13 feathers on the outer rows.  The next row of feathers on the top wing also curve up towards the top edge while those on mine extend in more of a line and also appear to project out much closer to the wing tips.  The proportions of the shields also look a bit different, but without being able to compare them side by side I can't tell it it is just the camera angles.


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Marty,

 

Jessop wings are so scarce, opportunities to compare two examples side by side are nearly non-existent.  The actual die for the Jessop badges may not have had much detail at all, leaving the finishing craftsman to fill in almost all the design.  Looking closely at the badges leads me to believe that the only details that are die-struck, and appear consistent on both badges) are the stripes, and possibly the stars of the shield.  The rest appear to have been carved, cut, hammered, or engraved into the surface.  The amount of hand work that went into these badges may be a reason why they are ultimately so difficult to find examples of...

 

Regardless, thank you again for sharing this wonderful, and very scarce badge with the forum!

 

Chris


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I didn't think about them starting with a very basic die struck wing as the blank and then the craftsmen adding all of the feather details.  I can add that the stars were also added to the wing, not part of the struck wing.  It doesn't show well in the photo of my wing but the star just to the left of the center star has a flaw where there are two top points.  I think you pointed that out to me when I first sent you more detailed photos of the wing.  

 

If I had thought more about it I would have asked if I could take  photos of the other Jessop that was at the SOS last spring for more comparison.  I am trying to track down a book about Rockwell Field from Hap Arnold to see if there are any more photos of men wearing Jessop wings.  None of the photos I have from the field appear to show anyone wearing a Jessop.

 

Thanks again for all your assistance in reviewing the wing when I acquired it, and for your detailed write-up of it.  I am honored to have such a rare wing and am glad you could share it in the weekly series.

 

Marty


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