A Brief Look at ASCE Badges, Pins, and Charms
By Melinda Luna PE, Chair, History & Heritage Committee
In An Engineer’s Alphabet: Gleanings from the Softer Side of the Profession, author Henry Petroski discusses engineering society badges issued to more than a thousand members before 1894. Civil Engineers most often wore these badges as a pin or charm/fob while traveling to identify each other at national meetings. The original badge was prized by ASCE members who joined before 1894. It is not unusual to see a version of those pins or charms/fobs being sold online. Some have the member name engraved on the back. All vary in jeweler’s mark and area.
The first badge I came across was one that, according to the seller, was a fob at the end of a pocket watch. It had a jeweler’s mark “N” inside of a shield and was engraved with the name Arthur F. Holland and associate member ID 7235. After reviewing newspapers and records, I learned Holland was a graduate of Norwich University in Vermont in 1913. He went on to serve in the Corps Reserves while working as a construction engineer for H Koppers Company in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Perhaps Holland received his fob after graduation.
The second badge I found was a 14 carat gold pin with a jeweler’s mark “X” that was owned by George Washington Buck, engraved “George W Buck, 9475”. I contacted the National ASCE office, and they have no records to help positively identify George W Buck. However, member listings show a George Washington Buck who was a member in 1931 and the Engineer for Multnomah County in Portland, Oregon. After reviewing membership numbers, I determined it is likely the George Washington Buck from 1931 owned the pin. Before he was county engineer, Buck surveyed, maintained and built railroads in Oregon. He served in World Wars I and II and traveled some with his wife, including a trip to Bermuda in 1935 and Hawaii in 1948. He stayed in Portland, working until his death in 1955.
Both Holland’s fob and Buck’s pin contain the ASCE shield with the American Society of Civil Engineers spelled out and the founding date of 1852.
The third badge I found was a pin with only the abbreviated ASCE across the shield. This pin, a slightly darker blue than the ASCE blue we see today, was owned by John P. Beeson. Beeson was a West Point graduate who went into the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). While in the USACE, he was the project manager for the initial construction of the Cape Canaveral space port (1956-59). After that, he was the project officer for the Cheyenne Mountain North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) center near Colorado Springs, Colorado. Beeson retired from the military in 1967 and became a license engineer in Texas and Colorado. He worked on the Wirtz Dam rehabilitation in the 1970’s. Beeson was also a Lieutenant Coronel and head of construction and inspection for the University of Texas System. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 91 years with the reputation of a respected arbitrator in construction-related contract disputes and the recipient of many awards. Beeson is buried in the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.
The last badge I found was a pin and a fob/charm with no engraved name, only a jeweler’s mark “L”. It is the more common enamel pin with “American Society of Civil Engineers Founded 1852” displayed across the ASCE shield. After doing some digging, I learned the jeweler’s mark was from Leavens Manufacturing Company in Attleboro, Massachusetts. The company was founded in 1948, so the badge had to have belonged to someone after that date. It was in a plastic box which appears to be the original box it was sent in. In 1999, the Leavens Company closed its doors and no longer crafted jewelry for organizations. Without a name engraved on the badge, there is no way to know who owned it.
Today, these badges are most commonly lapel pins made of brass and distributed by members to commemorate or thank other members and nonmembers alike. There are now a number of pins aside from the general ASCE membership pin, including pins for Associate Members, Past Presidents, Life Members, and Distinguished Members.
If you come across a pin or fob/charm with a name engraved on it and are able to buy it, you will be the owner of a little bit of history. If you need help finding out who wore it, please contact me at [email protected] and I can help you find your window of history.
“Editor’s Note: ASCE Day will be celebrated on November 5th. The celebration will include a merchandise sale. ASCE members can also purchase merchandise including an ASCE Brass Pin anytime by visiting the online ASCE Gift Store