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.
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/collectible, is worth what collectors will pay for it at auction and that can vary wildly. 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 sell for three times the amount or not sell at all!
When it comes to buying a transit badge for your collection it boils down is this: it’s what the thing is worth to you that matters!
As with any collectible, condition does affect the price of a badge. I don’t think I need to get into detail here—anyone should understand that a 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 an active 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 if it could talk, what tales it could tell!
That being said, one thing an experienced transit badge collector can attest is that many very early badges are in wonderful condition. In fact, it’s surprising just how many look as though they just left the factory. There are several reasons for this: A) the job of a bus / streetcar drivers / motormen kept them and their badges out of the elements. B) most large companies required that their drivers / motormen keep their badges polished, which entailed using a special wax and thereby gave extra protection to the finish. We can add to this the fact that a retired driver / motorman often kept their badges when they retired, and these were usually preserved for decades in a special protected place as a nostalgic souvenir. Another factor is that many of the larger bus companies, such as Greyhound, issued badges to employees other than drivers as a form of identification. Such badges saw little if any use and the result is a badge that survived in something close to pristine condition.
FAKES & REPRODUCTION BADGES
It’s like mold lurking under your bathroom sink, or that yummy Vibrio vulnificus-infested oyster on the all-you-can-eat buffet table. In the wonderful, eclectic world of collecting lurks the ever-present danger of getting shafted with a fake and, if you are an avid collector, sooner or later you’re gonna get it! The million dollar question is how to tell the real McCoy from the fake?
When it comes to collecting you can put the chance of being stung in two columns: probability and possibility. You will fall into the probability column if you collect something like art or rare coins, whereas transit badge collecting will drop you into the much safer possibility column. Let me explain.
An example of those who are regularly shafted are collectors of U.S. gold coins. At any given time the major online auction sites have no shortage of fake gold coins listings. Even worse is that some of these fakes are so well made that only a professional numismatic grading service can guarantee their authenticity. But even that isn’t a sure-fire bet!
Professional numismatic grading services employ a team of highly educated specialists who, after conducting numerous tests, encapsulate a coin along with a serially numbered descriptive label and hologram in a specially-made plastic holder (slab). However, for years now scammers from China have been selling fake encapsulation holders complete with counterfeit grading company logos and holograms. These holders have the look of the real thing and, when a counterfeit coin is sealed inside, some unlucky collector will invariably be scammed out of big bucks! To make things worse, these scam artists also sell dozens of fake rarities, or gold and silver bullion coins along with the slabs. The trade publication Coin World offers an example of a China-based crook offering “a fake 1908-D Saint-Gaudens, No Motto gold $20 double eagle encapsulated in a fake PCGS [Professional Coin Grading Service] holder with fake labels, offered individually for $96.82 postpaid. The coin is composed of the 24-karat gold plated over .900 fine silver, according to the product description.” A $20 1908-D Saint Gaudens, No Motto regularly sells on eBay for $1700 or more either encapsulated (slabbed) or “raw,” meaning without being certified by a grading service. And so, a crook can buy fake $20 gold piece along with fake certification for under a $100 and sell it online for a $1600 profit!
Even common date fake U.S. silver dollars are being sold by the boatload out of China for scammers to unload on those seeking to invest in silver bullion! I could continue on with examples from other popular collecting interests, like fake Holy Land antiquities, but I think you will have gotten the point.
Now I suppose the above is a bit of overkill when it comes to the question of fake transit badges. The fact is that coin collecting is at the top of the collecting food chain, whereas collecting transit badges is near the bottom next to collecting soda bottle caps. What I mean is that you are much less likely to fall victim to a fake transit badge scam than in any other area of collecting. That puts badge collectors squarely into the possibility of being scammed column. But this is not to say badge collectors have complete immunity from the malady.
Unfortunately manufacturing technology has advanced to the point that just about anything can be duplicated with a fair degree of accuracy. That includes transit badges. The good news is that it would take a lot of time and investment to duplicate a transit badge and, to be blunt, there are very few of the things worth it! Let me give you an example.
In the world of transit badge collecting, specifically bus badges, there are numerous unique badges, i.e., one-of-a-kind badges. From the very first days of bus travel there was no shortage of one-man operations. Anyone who could scrape together the price of bus, could start a bus company as the sole owner, driver, mechanic and, at the end of the day, the guy who swept out the garage. Usually these owners would order a single badge to wear on their caps, and, seventy years later, a unique badge comes onto the market—a true rarity! (See John Pearce Bus Service for an example.) Now, if we were talking about a one-of-a-kind coin or stamp, the thing would command thousands (in some cases millions) of dollars at auction. The difference is that in the case of the unique coin or stamp, a million+ collectors might want it, hence the big $$$, whereas few if any would give a unique transit badge a second glance! (I know, I have about a dozen one-of-a-kind badges in my collection which I bought at auction for $10 or $15 — and was the only bidder!)
Now let me ask a rhetorical question: who do you suppose is going to invest the considerable time and money it would take to fabricate a $10 badge? Indeed, one can ask the same question about a badge worth $25-$50.
Yes, there are valuable transit badges that might be worth the investment to reproduce. Some Greyhound badges are highly sought after, as are the badges of popular transit agencies like Pacific Electric. But with the exception of the New York World’s Fair Greyhound driver’s badge, I know of no other bus or streetcar badge that has been reproduced. However, as I explain on the Greyhound badge page, the duplicated New York World’s Fair Greyhound badge is easily detected when place beside the real McCoy. (I know, I own both badges!)
Let me end by noting that I have seen several badges at auction that have the appearance of a reproduction. I cannot say that they are reproductions, but the reassuring aspect is that I’ve never seen more than one of these badges come up for sale. If a scammer were making and selling a fake transit badge there would be a glut of the things appearing on the market—like there are in other collecting specialties where fakes abound! So far this hasn’t happened.
The bottom line is that a transit badge collector is, for now, reasonably safe from getting scammed. But, when buying a transit badge for big $$$, it’s still wise to keep in mind the Latin warning: caveat emptor—let the buyer beware!
NOTE / FYI: there are fake / reproduction badges in other popular areas of badge collecting, such as in railroad collectibles and especially in police badges. I’ll cite an example from the website Railroadiana Online under the heading Fake & Reproduction Railroad Badges:
“Reproduction D&H Cap Badges. Reproduction Delaware & Hudson cap badges have been reported as showing up in an auction. Clearly advertised as reproductions, the set was described as a ‘Limited Edition Collector’s Set’ and included badges for Conductor, Trainman, Ticket Collector, and Station Master. The auction description listed these as manufactured in the mid-1980s by Paul G. Yorkis Railway Supply.” . . . “Fake Badges are showing up in internet auctions. They are shield-shaped with a hinged pin and appear to be quite well made. At least 4 different railroads are featured. They have a railroad logo in the center and say Security. There is also a PRR version that says EMT — EMT’s did not exist in 1968!” . . . “There is a growing consensus among experienced collectors that counterfeit railroad badges are becoming one of the most serious problems in the hobby of railroadiana collecting.”
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!
There is one more advantage to knowing the provenance of a badge, and that is the reassurance that the thing is the genuine article! (There’s no question of a fake when you know the provenance of the thing!) An example of this is the Northland Greyhound Lines badge collection I bought from the estate of Northland Greyhound driver Gustav Rudolph Fredrickson.
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:
L. G. BALFOUR COMPANY / LGB This company was founded in 1913 by Lloyd Garfield “Bally” Balfour (i.e., LGB). The company is mainly known for making gold pins, especially fraternity pins and company anniversary pins. The majority of gold and gold filled transit service pins/awards appear to have been made by LGB. The company also made some Greyhound Corporation badges. These badges are not marked, but the retaining nuts are marked “L. G. BALFOUR CO.”
BASTIAN BROS CO ROCHESTER NY 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 manufacturers 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 CO. 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 CO. 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. The company was in business in the 1910s through the 1960s. This company was the main supplier to the Greyhound Corporation.
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
W & M COMPANY I have found no information on this company, other than it was headquartered in Newark, New Jersey. To date I’ve found only one transit badge manufactured by the company and that was a Type 3b Pacific Greyhound Lines badge. Interestingly, all the examples I’ve seen have two common flat-head bolts with square retaining nuts affixed to the reverse of the badge. To be honest, it doesn’t look to be a professional job. The company also made copper/brass name plates and pin-back buttons.
A.A. WHITE CO. INC. PROV R.I. This company was one of the oldest surviving company in Rhode Island. There is a photo of their business, taken in Providence, R. I., dated 1860. (The company relocated to Massachusetts around 2012.) The company made badges for a number of agencies, including transit companies, and are usually seen on older badges.
WHITEHEAD & HOAG CO. 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, which weren’t all that expensive way back when. 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 various editions of 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 of companies? I’d say “yes,” but then again, that’s just me guessing. Did all of these transit companies issued badges? My educated guess is that most did, which could translate into a lots & lots of badges. Did all those badges survive? Probably not, since many companies kept their badges when an employee retired, quit or was fired. I’d guess that most of the badges kept by drivers are likely now family heirlooms, meaning they probably won’t come onto the market. (Some do, of course, and I’ve bought a few of these at estate sales.)
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”.
SOURCES / REFERENCES USED ON THIS WEBSITE
In researching the information for this website, the foremost source is the Internet. This page would not be possible without the vast amount of information contained on the world-wide Net! Next are the various editions of the Mass Transportation’s Directory. I own and use these editions as source material: 1934; 1937; 1940; 1941; 1946-47; 1952; 1954; 1956-57 & 1958. I also own and use Russell’s Railway and Motor Bus Guide Sept. 1927 as well as these editions of Russell’s Official National Motor Coach Guide: 1933; 1935; 1939; 1948; 1951; 1953 & 1956. I also own and use the 1924 edition of McGraw Electric Railway Directory. In addition to these sources, over the years I have collected hundreds of bus company route schedules/time tables dating from the 1910s through the 1990s. These provide a fair amount of valuable info. I also have about 100 transit history books sitting about here on my shelves, in addition to a large number of back issues of Motor Coach Age magazine. And last, but by no means least, is The Atwood-Coffee Catalogue of United States and Canadian Transportation Tokens, Fourth Edition, 2 volumes.
All of these resources have been used in the building of this page.
(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.)
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