Friday, November 6, 2015

Texas Highway Department Workman Badge, Division 4, circa 1920's - 1930's

Today we'll be taking a little break from the long line of shovels and spades (don't worry, more shovels to come!).  In keeping with the "digging tool" theme of things, I have an interesting bit of Texas history to show off.


This extremely rare and unique badge was made and issued by the Texas Highway Department, back in the 1920's.  It is a Workman's badge that would have been worn by a "rank and file" Highway Department employee, most likely a road construction worker.

Before the 1920's, Texas highways were basically non-existent.  Most of the state roads were dirt and driving across the state was nearly impossible to do in one trip.  The US Government established the "Federal Aid Road Act" in 1916 to provide funding to the US states so that a formal and reliable highway system could be constructed.  Texas founded the Texas Highway Department in 1917 to take advantage of these funds. Real road construction did not begin until the 1920's and continued at a "break-neck" pace through the 1930's.  This is the era this workman's badge dates to.

The badge is round, which was an extremely common shape at the time for public employee type badges.  It interesting to note that Texas officially kicked off the "modern law enforcement era" during this same time and adopted round badges for the Texas Rangers and Highway Patrol as well.  

This badge has the old style pin pack that is attached with a silver soldered flat plate.  The pin is worn flat on the high spots, indicating that it had been worn for many years, most likely an entire career.
The main badge is made of heavy brass and then nickel plated.  The employee badge number and Highway Department Division  has been hand stamped after the badge was formed.  This would indicate that individual numbered badges were issued to each employee in all of the highway divisions.  The nickel plating has worn off on the high spots of the badge face, again indicating very long and hard use.  You can see "Division 4" on the official Texas Highway Department map below, published in 1918.


There seems to be very few original photos that were taken of the highway work or department employees during this "roaring 20's construction boom", but there are a few.  Here are a couple of historic shots that were taken in the 1920's and 1930's, back when Texas was still a "wild west" state for all intents and purposes!


To finish things off, lets take a closer look at this amazing and very unique badge.


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