Introduction to Public & Private Transit Companies
A NOTE ABOUT THE BADGE PHOTOS: I have been collecting transit badge for over four decades. Although I have seen many hundreds of badges in my travels, I have been very selective in my purchases. Photos of most of my badges can be found on this webpage. In addition to collecting actual badges, over the years I have saved images of badges when I came across them on the Internet. Since I had in mind to some day build this webpage, I always contacted the photo’s owner to ask permission to use his/her photo. Almost always permission was granted. Also, when asking for permission I always offered to give credit for the photos, although many owners declined. That is still my policy. Those who request photo credit are noted under their photos. Photos with no cited credit are either from my own collection, or from owners who did not request credit. Usually photos in the public domain are not credited. Photos other than those of badges, are either owned by this site, used by permission or are in the public domain. (If you send us photos or images, which we are grateful to receive, please be sure you have the right to use them, i.e., you hold the copyright, or have permission from the owner or owners.)
So, Just Whadda Ya Mean by “Badge?”
Without looking up the meaning in Webster’s, off the top of my head I’d say a badge is an identifying mark worn on a piece of clothing and/or a hat. Although for me the word conjures up something made of metal, I’ll concede that the composition does not qualify or disqualify the thing as a “badge.” And so, on this webpage transit badges will include examples made of metal, celluloid or plastic, and yes, cloth embroidered badges.
Rarity & Value
I think we can agree that a “rare transit badge” means that there are few of the things floating around out there. So the big question is, does “rare” equal a hefty price tag? Well, it would if we were talking about coin & stamp collecting. But hey, these are transit badges, for Pete’s sake! How many people do you suppose really want a transit badge, “rare” or otherwise? If you guessed somewhere in the neighborhood of zilch, then you’re close to the mark. That’s why the one-of-a-kind transit badge you found in your grandpa’s old trunk will be lucky to fetch $30 at auction. As with any thing in commerce it boils down to supply and demand—meaning that millions of collectors are scrambling around looking for rare coins & stamps, while the bulk of humanity wouldn’t look twice at a transit badge, rare or otherwise.
With that rant behind me, I’ll concede that there are a few pricey transit badges—a Los Angeles Transit Lines badge being one, and a Greyhound 1933 Chicago World’s Fair badge being another. But these badges attract the interest of many different kinds of collectors, which explains their relatively high prices—well, “high” for a transit badge, but not if one compares them to their counterparts in the world of rare coins & stamps. In fact, I’m gonna give you an example of what I mean: The U. S. Mint struck about 40,000 1913-S Barber quarters; in mint state one of these little rarities can fetch about $5,000. On the other hand, somewhere around 200 Greyhound 1933 Chicago World’s Fair badges were produced and I’ve never seen one of these little darlings sell for over $400. In many ways this disparity is good news for the serious transit badge collector, since the acquisition of a genuine rarity is within the reach of the average Joe (or Jane).
The upshot is that a transit badge, like any antique/collectable, is worth what collectors will pay for it. That is why I don’t offer info on badges prices, since a sold price is simply what someone paid for the thing at the time and a week from now it might not sell at all!
With any collectible, condition does affect the price of a badge. I don’t think I need to get into detail here—anyone should know that a transit badge in pristine condition is more desirable than something that looks like it was run over by a bus! On the other hand, I’m one of those rare ducks who like to see a collectible looking its age, which tells me that the piece has history and hasn’t been residing in a box in a dresser drawer for the past seven decades. In other words, it’s been out there in the trenches and I’m holding a lot of history in my hands! That being said, it’s been my experience that most transit drivers took care of their badges, so for the most part they come onto the market in reasonably good condition. Again, it’s what the thing is worth to you that matters, i.e., eye appeal—a badge that says “buy me at any cost!”
A few years ago there would have been no reason to worry about fake transit badges. But manufacturing technology has advanced so that just about anything can be duplicated and with a fair degree of quality. As noted on the Greyhound badges pages, the New York World’s Fair Greyhound driver’s badge has been duplicated, and the result is something that might easily fool an inexperienced collector. Recently, a Pacific Greyhound badge appeared on eBay that has the look and earmarks of a fantasy badge, i.e., a badge that is newly designed manufactured to appear old. In this case, it not only looks newly-manufactured, but is of a design that I’ve never seen. (See TYPE 1h on the Greyhound badge page.) However, as a whole, most transit badges “ain’t” worth the effort it takes to takes to counterfeit ‘em, so for the most part you’re traveling a fairly safe highway collecting transit badges.
This is a fancy term for knowing the history of the badge you’re buying, or thinking about buying. If it’s an obscure badge—one that’s hard to identify—knowing who owned it will certainly provide a major clue to its identity. But more than that, there’s just something extra special about a transit badge with a known history—to know on whose hat the thing was pinned as he/she plodded along through endless years dealing with a myriad of people, places and situations!
Transit Badge Varieties
Keep in mind that many of the transit companies listed on this site have a long history. What that means to the transit badge collector is that these companies may have issued different badge styles over the course of their existence. In many cases these style changes were a result of ordering new badges from a different company. And so, if we include a badge photo with a company’s history, remember this may be one of several different designs/styles floating around out there!
TRANSIT BADGE MANUFACTURERS
Over the decades there have been many companies that produced badges. However, when it comes to transit badges, more often than not one does seem to encounter just a handful of companies. So, here is a short list of the most commonly encountered transit badge makers:
BASTIAN BROS CO. ROCHESTER N.Y. opened in 1895 in Rochester, New York by brothers Theron Bastian and Frederick Bastian. Originally a jewelry store, the company quickly began producing customized badges, paperweights, lapel pins, and award products. Bastian Brothers is one of the most encountered names in transit badge collecting. The company was still producing badges in the 1970s.
THE EXCELSIOR STAMP WORKS CLEVELAND is often found on badges from the 1920-30s, and often on die pressed badges. The company was in business in the early 20th century but was defunct by 1949.
FIFTH AVENUE UNIFORM COMPANY 19 SO. WELLS CHICAGO is a common manufacturer found on transit badges. Founded by Albert L. Goldman (1895-Feb 15, 1985), a Russian immigrant, in the 1920s.
GREENDUCK CO. CHI. / GREENDUCK COMPANY CHICAGO was founded in 1906 by two Chicagoans: George G. Greenburg and Harvey Ducgheisel. Greenduck Co. Chicago appears on a specific style of transit badges, which we might guess was their own design. However, since this design appears on numerous badges without markings, either the company made their transit badges without their name stamped on the back, or the design was copied by other companies. In 1962 the company relocated from Chicago to Hernando, Mississippi. It went out of business in 2004.
C. H. HANSON CO. CHICAGO This company was founded in 1866 by Danish immigrant, Christian Henry Hanson in Chicago, Illinois. The company made a variety of products, including dog tags, license plates, metal tags and badges–mostly police and fire badges. It did make the occasional transit badges, but these are not often found. C.H. Hanson is still in business with fourth and fifth generation Hansons running the company.
HEEREN BROS. CO. W.C. PATENTED PITTSBURG, PA This company was founded in 1871 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania by brothers William F. and Otto Heeren, German immigrants. William Heeren “was the inventor of what became known as the Heeren badges, celluloid devices used by streetcar employees and others on four continents.” The company name is seen mostly on streetcar/trolley badges. Essentially, the company was closed by 1934.
HOOKFAST PROVIDENCE R.I. Hook-Fast Specialties, Inc. was founded in 1926 on Herbert Hoffman’s invention of a new style of belt buckle called the “Hook-Fast Can’t Slip Buckle”. In 1929 the company was purchased by one of its employees, Manuel Gorriaran. In 1959 the company was moved to Providence, R.I. and is still in business. Their name is either imprinted on the back of the badge, or on the thumbnuts. (“HOOKFAST REG. U.S.A.”)
MAIER-LAVATY COMPANY CHICAGO was founded by Jerome Maier and Otto Lavaty, who specialized in providing uniforms and badges to police, fire fighters and a host of other professions. This company was the main supplier to the Greyhound Corporation, but they turn up here and there on other badges.
MEYER & WENTHE, INC. is one of the oldest badge making firms in the U.S. It was founded in 1854 as the R. A. Meyer Company by R. A. Meyer, a die maker and seal engraver from Hamburg, Germany. Meyer engraved the first seal produced in Chicago. Prior to his establishing his company, all work of the kind was sent to New York for execution. When Meyer’s son, Gustave A. Meyer, Sr. joined his father in 1876, the company named was changed to R. A. Meyer & Son. Gustave Meyer Meyer, Jr. and Herman H. Wenthe bought the business from Gustave Meyer, Sr., and changed the name to MEYER & WENTHE, INC. Meyer & Wenthe’s office and factory were located at 24 t0 30 S. Jefferson St. A Loop office was at 108 N. Dearborn st. and on the west side at 28 S. Jefferson St all in Chicago, Illinois. (Information from The American Stationer, January 6, 1906, Vol. LIX, No. 1, p. 26.) Mostly this company made police badges; however, it did make the occasional transit badge.
PASQUALE S.F. CAL. or the Benoit Pasquale Company of San Francisco, CA. This company started in 1854 at 103 Fifth Avenue in San Francisco but primarily did a large amount of business between 1879 and 1950. It was noted for the manufacture of Army and Navy Badges and other medals, and through the early 1900s, few other companies rivaled their diversity and quality, especially with respect to military uniform items. They also made police, fire and transit badges. The company went by several names: B. P. Co (Benont Pasquale Company) being one and PASQUALE S.F. CAL. another. They also had a hallmark: a P in a diamond, coupled with a small palm tree.
PATRICK & M.K. CO SAN FRANCISCO This company was in business in San Francisco, California in the early 1900s. They made numerous types of badges and one more often sees police badge with their hallmarks.
SUN BADGE CO L.A. COUNTY
WHITEHEAD – HOAG NEWARK NEW JERSEY Benjamin S. Whitehead (b. 1858) and Chester R. Hoag (b. 1860) formed a partnership in 1892 manufacturing advertising novelties. They became the first and largest button manufacturer in the U.S. In time the manufacture of badges was added to their catalog. The company was sold to Bastian Bros., of Rochester N.Y. in 1959. Bastian continued to use W&H’s name, finally phasing it out in 1964-65.
Terms Used in Badge Description
No rocket science involved here. Basically I only use a few descriptive terms when presenting a metal badge. I will note when a badge is made by the die press method, i.e., shaping a blank badge by placing it between dies in a mechanical or hydraulic press. The other terms used are for the fasteners, i.e., the things that hold the badge to a hat or uniform. Most of the older badges have a threaded terminal post or a pair of threaded posts on the back, to which a thumbnut would fit. Some badges used a vertical pin with drop-in locking swivel catch—I call these pin backs. Some used pin posts, something that resembles a thumbtack, onto which a round clip would fit. And alas, there are combinations of a threaded post and a pin post. So now you have it.
Presenting Transit Agencies in Alphabetical Order
Before we begin, you may be wondering how many transit agencies issued badges? I’ve wondered that myself and I have to tell ya, I haven’t the foggiest idea, nor do I think anyone else can say. Maybe a hint can be gleaned from a perusal of the Atwood-Coffee Catalogue of United States and Canadian Transportation Tokens, (ACC) which lists transit agencies by city and state. I mention this work because I’m thinking that if these agencies went to the trouble of ordering transit tokens, they probably also ordered transit badges for their drivers/employees. Another source is the Electric Railway Journal, which lists countless bus agencies way back when—as does Russell’s National Motor Coach Guide. And then there’s the Mass Transportation’s Directory (MTD), which (in its day) yearly published the names and vital stats for all operating bus companies in the USA and Canada. So, are we talking thousands? I’d say “yes,” but then again, that’s just me guessing. What we will do on this page is list known transit agencies that may or may not have issued badges. That’s going to be quite an undertaking and will take time—and we’re gonna need help, if you please!
Anyway, what we will do on this page is list known transit agencies that may or may not have issued badges. That’s going to be quite an undertaking and will take time. With that being said, we’re going to start with what we have, so go to the drop down menu to begin—and remember that we will keep updating this page with new entries.
AND ONE LAST THING: many badges have only the company’s initials inscribed on them. However, we list the badge by the company name, so if you have a badge with only initials, do a “find on this page” search and type exactly what is on the badge (we include periods in the title). Also, when placing companies in alphabetical order, we don’t consider “The” in a company’s name, meaning that “The Gray Line” will be listed as “Gray Line”.
(PLEASE NOTE: THE BADGES AND INFORMATION ON THIS SITE ARE FOR REFERENCE USE ONLY. WE DO NOT BUY, SELL OR TRADE TRANSIT BADGES! The purpose of this page is to share information about collecting transit badges. All photos and artwork displayed on this site are from personal collections and are used by permission of the owners, or are in the public domain. If requested, we credit badge photos to the owner. We gratefully welcome additional information and/or corrections, questions, comments, new badge entries and especially badge photos. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.)
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