History - Identify Yourself! The Badge
and Other Forms of Identification in the U.S. Marshals Service
Marshals and their
deputies have excelled for over 200 years, but a common object
over time is the identifying instrument and documentation
presented while conducting agency business.
A badge denoted official
operational capacity and the special merit that characterized
Whether the badge was a six-sided
"tin star" made famous in western movies or a circular shape
specifying the individual branch of duty, the badge has become a
legend on its own.
There was no uniform badge in the U.S.
Marshals Service until 1941, when the "Eagle Top" variety was
introduced nation-wide. Prior to this time, the badges came in
different shapes and forms. Each district made its own
identifying badge. Other forms of official notice came in the
form of election official ribbons, photo identification
credentials, patches, and business cards.
There have been a wide range of designs of
badges that were worn by U.S. Marshals and their deputies in the
past two hundred years. (Stylized badge worn about the turn of the century) See More Badges
Special instructions were sometimes
provided for the display of identification. (enlarged
photo on left)
One example denoted
a federal election in California in the early 1880's. U.S.
Marshal Moses M. Drew posted an eight point instruction sheet,
including the proper etiquette in wearing the badge.
numbered point stated, "Each deputy will wear his badge of
office outside, on the left lapel of his coat during the time he
shall be on duty."
1980, the badge has been worn with credentials in one unit. The
old shield-shaped badge changed twice, the present form being a
star within a circular ring. Whatever the shape and symbolism,
the U.S. Marshals badge will always be identified with its
- A Badge unto Itself
The credential was official notice of agency powers and since
September 1980 the second part of the official badge unit. In
earlier times, it showed the actual deputation rank such as
Field Deputy or Office Deputy. The U.S. Marshal for each
district was required to sign the credential. Later this
requirement changed to the director. As important and reassuring
as the badge, it was the true authorization to perform assigned
duties. (enlarged version of
credentials shown on right)
The official seal of the United States Marshals Service was
established in December 1968 by Order Number 407-68. Authority
was vested in Attorney General Ramsey Clark by Section 509 of
title 28 and Section 301 of Title 5 of the United States Code to
produce the official symbolic design. The road to the final
decision took six years. In June 1964 the agency began
groundwork inquiries for the official establishment of a
representative seal. U.S. Marshals and their employees were
encouraged to send in their ideas.
In October 1966, U.S. Marshal
Robert F. Morey of the District of Massachusetts was part of a
committee tasked by Chief United States Marshal James J.P. McShane to review various drawings and submissions. The prototype design was ready by Autumn 1968.
The seal was a
fascinating mixture of symbolism and patriotic color. It
contained the six-pointed star of a western resemblance,
surrounded by a field of deep blue. The field contained this
color to represent the same symbols as in the American flag:
vigilance, perseverance, and justice. Over the badge was an
American bald eagle that clutched two symbols in its talons: an
olive branch in one and arrows in the other. A small breastplate
was superimposed over the symbolic eagle and showed all three
flag colors and the date "1789,"
the first year of the agency's
existence. A red ring was outside of the solid blue
background, signifying courage and bloodshed in carrying out
duties. Thirteen stars are over the top half of the seal, while
the agency motto: "Justice, Integrity, Service" is denoted on
the bottom half. Finally a gold-colored ring on the outside
stated the words "Department of Justice" and "United States
Marshal." The outer edge was brown-colored to signify the Earth.
Chief U.S. Marshal McShane wanted
to bring the districts together with a common bond that promoted
its common mission. He noted in a memo to Attorney General Clark
that the seal would "further our development of unity and
cooperation." The Attorney General's Office sent the proposal
through the Army Heraldry Service, the Government Printing
Office, and the Office of Legal Counsel to assure the image
followed guidelines. The Official notice was given six days
Armbands and Caps
During special events,
particularly in the Civil Rights Era, saw the prominent use of
agency armbands for identification. In several high-profile
events, such as the integration of the University of Mississippi
(1962) and the Pentagon Riots (1967), the armband is symbolic.
Norman Rockwell's painting, "'The Problem We All Live With,"
features four deputies escorting a young African-American girl
to school surrounded by signs of racial tension. It was inspired
by four actual deputies escorting first-grade student
Bridges to school in New Orleans in 1960. Rockwell did not paint
the faces of the deputies, but identified them through their
armbands! (enlarged photo)
By the 1970's the cap often
provided informal identification as part of official uniform.
The Special Operations Group was one of the first to incorporate
the prominent identifying cap in operational use.
Buttons, and Miscellany
A more informal notice of
identification is the agency business card. Easily accessible,
but not an official authorization, the cards relate contact
information for the course of business. A large number of these
can be collected over the course of a career. Modern varieties
show the rank, phone, and official address.
Ribbons for Special
The special deputation for overseeing federal elections brought
its own "badge." The ribbon for these events gave the wearer
special status for the event. Some were not professional law
enforcement personnel, but private citizens deputized for the
purpose. There were strict guidelines for the appointees.
Section 5521 of the Revised Statutes of the United States
If any person be appointed a Supervisor of Election or a Special
Deputy Marshal under the provisions of Title "The Elective
Franchise," and has taken the oath of office as such
Supervisor of election, or such special Deputy Marshal and thereafter
neglects or refuses, without good and lawful excuse, to perform
and discharge fully the duties, obligations and requirements of
such office, until the expiration of the term for which he was appointed, he shall not only be subject to removal from office,
with loss of all pay and emoluments, but shall be punished by
imprisonment for not less than six months nor more than one year
or by a fine of not less than two hundred dollars and not more
than five hundred dollars or by both fine and imprisonment, and
shall pay the costs of prosecution.
Due to the large crowds and the need to keep order, special
powers were necessary. The silk or cloth ribbons came in
different varieties, like the two below for the Elections of
1880 and 1892 from New York City. The victors in these two
elections were Republican James Garfield and Democrat Grover
This is a web version of a U.S. Marshals Service Publication, No.
116A: Identify Yourself! For additional information on
the use of the USMS name, badge, seal and other official
name/insignia on commercial products, including intellectual
properties such as books, movies and software.