Observed | Essays

Employee ID Badges

Wartime ID Badges
Last July, John Foster showed us a collection of wartime ID badges. At the onset of World War II, almost every business or manufacturer who did work for the war effort required employee ID badges for permission to enter the premises.

Recently we stumbled upon another person obsessed with these objects. Journalist Paul Lukas — founder of Permanent Record, an object-based history project —  has written about his experience with the badges:
The badges also reflect certain realities about the American workforce of generations past: The overwhelming majority of the photos show employees who were white and male. This isn't surprising, but it's still interesting to see.

Best of all, though, the badges represent a mother lode of stories waiting to be told. Who were these people? How did they come to be working for these companies? Were the photographers professional studio cameramen, or were they just "the guy who takes the head shots" at each company? What happened to the companies (most of which are now defunct)? Were there certain manufacturers that specialized in making the badges? And how did the badges become available on the collectibles market — like, did the employees keep them when they retired and then the badges became available at estate sales when the employees died, or did the companies keep the badges and then the badges found their way to vintage dealers after the companies went belly-up?
Click here to read Paul's full post, including an interview with a collector and some of the historical info he found about one family of badge wearers.

Wartime ID Badges
Wartime ID Badges

Posted in: Arts + Culture, Business, History

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