Pinning Down The Right Badge

01 November 2017

A collection of postal uniforms is a firm favourite to see in our museum galleries. Our Assistant Curator Jessica explains the journey of reuniting a Messenger Boy’s cap with the right badge.

Preparing objects for install into our exhibition spaces is a focus of the Curatorial department. As part of the ‘War and Uniform’ display, there was one object, a Messenger Boy’s single peaked cap (2015-0076), without its cap badge. The cap appeared to have entered the collection without a badge and so the hunt began to find the right badge to complete the uniform.

Messenger Boy’s single peaked cap, 1920-1935, 2015-0076

I began by researching Messenger Boys’ cap badges. The first images in my search were of a trade card and postcard showing a Messenger Boy, each with a brass badge in the shape of the ‘GPO’ script monogram.

Trade Card, 20th Century, 2005-0082/45

Postcard, Early 20th Century, 2005-0082/53

Cap or Collar GPO Badge, Early 20th Century, 2010-0062/341

Although of the same century, this badge did not have the specific dates that matched the cap, 1920-1935, and so the search continued. Next, I found two photographs (POST-118/126 & POST 118/424) of Messenger Boys, each wearing a cap badge with a Tudor crown at the top and a number in the centre.

Messenger Boy, photograph, 1934, POST 118/126

Paddington Station – businessman sending a telegram. A messenger boy waits to receive the message, photograph (cropped), 1935, POST 118/424

This led me to a cap in our Collection with a similar badge pinned to the front (2011-0108), a style which matched the dates of the cap on display perfectly. Using the keywords of ‘badge’, ‘GPO’ and ‘blue enamel’ in a search of CALM, our Museum collection database, I was able to find a suitable badge – 2010-0062/25. Another reason to use this badge was that we did not have an example of this type due to go on display, whereas we did of the ‘GPO’ stylised monogram badge (2010-0062/341) – it is important to exhibit a range of the objects we have in the Museum Collection.

Messenger Boy’s single peaked shako, c.1920, 2011-0108, Currently on display at the Museum of the Post Office in the Community, Ironbridge.

Postman’s Cap Badge, 1920-1937.

The badge we needed was housed at our museum store, and so I located the box it was in and fortunately it was right on top! Perfect! While there are parts of enamel missing and wear to the badge, this is typical of the type of damage that contemporary badges being worn would, on occasion, exhibit. Unfortunately, there was no pin and any others in the collection were too big.

Locating the badge (2010-0062/25) at our Museum store.

Locating the badge (2010-0062/25) at our Museum store.

Finally came the fun part, without a pin our conservator Barbara Borghese determined that the best way was to sew the badge onto the front of the cap, through the existing holes.

Conservator Barbara Borghese attaching the badge to the front of the messenger boys cap.

Conservator Barbara Borghese attaching the badge to the front of the messenger boys cap.

The research of this object was made much more difficult due to the Museum and Archive being sealed and packed for the move at that time, however, we were successful! Come visit The Postal Museum to view this wonderful object and learn more about uniforms and the Messenger Boy’s role in the postal service. You’ll get to try some on too!

Jessica Woolf – Assistant Curator