Reprinted with permission from 
Vintage Fashion & Costume Jewelry
P.O Box 265
Glen Oaks, NY 11004
VCFJ@aol.com
and the author
Article written by Carol Bell

SOUVENIR WAR PINS

While visiting Antique Arms and Civil War Shows with a friend, I started to notice that besides Victorian jewelry and the typical service medals there were some figural pins being sold. Since I couldnít find any reference material about these pins, I began to ask questions and then started to buy them. Here is what I found out so far:

During times of war, soldiers are far from family and friends. They form close bonds with their fellow soldiers and officers. Each unit lives and survives together through fierce battles, harsh surroundings and the rages of Mother Nature. 

It is only natural that after the war ends, these close-knit units of soldiers would want to commemorate their unitís accomplishments and survival by periodically having reunions. More is known about the Civil War Reunions. The veterans of the war formed such groups as "The Grand Army of the Republic" and "The United Confederate Veterans." There were also several groups formed for the sons and daughters of the veterans. The last Civil War Reunion was held in 1951.

We regularly honor our soldiers with medals. These medals come in all shapes and sizes but usually have a pin on top with a ribbon holding the actual medal. These pieces are well-designed and heavy molded pieces. Each reunion issued commemorative medals to the attending soldiers and officers. Wives and children of the survivors and those who were killed in battle often attended these reunion events. For these family members, there were a variety of souvenir items to choose from. There were flags, painted canteens, letter openers, and printed materials. Each item usually had the unit information plus the date and place of the reunion.

There were also souvenir pins. These were novelty items, and cheaply made. They depicted items used in war (guns, sabers, canteens, hats, drums, etc.) or mimicked the better quality medals given to the soldiers. Some of the pins had places for photographs. Most of these souvenir items didnít survive long after the reunion.

The collection I have started includes souvenir pins from the Civil War, Spanish American War and WWI. They all have one thing in common-hats. All but one are stamped metal and all but three have lost their original red, white and blue ribbon. The slouch hat (wide floppy brim, 2) and kepi (squished down front, 3) are the two hat types from the Civil War. The Spanish American War hat (1) is an artillery helmet. The pins I have from the Civil War and Spanish American War are from between 1900 and 1915. All are stamped metal except one of the pins that is a slouch hat in felt (2). It has lost its pin and someone has replaced the pin with a button. The pin from WWI (5) opens and has a place to store a lock of hair or other keepsake. Sweetheart jewelry became very popular during the World Wars. Since the survival rate of these items is low, it is hard to find them. I have paid from $40 to $150 each for the few I have collected. As I travel and visit Civil War and Antique Arms Shows, I will keep up my search form more of these souvenir pins.

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