Retro badges honor village anniversary

Series: Hinsdale 150 | Story 17

Last updated 4/19/2023 at 4:03pm | View PDF

Did you know Hinsdale police and firefighter/paramedics are wearing retro badges this year in honor of the village's 150th anniversary?

At the fire department, which is also celebrating its 130th anniversary this year, the project required quite a bit of research.

"There have been badge numbers physically on the badges, but they were just kind of handed out arbitrarily," firefighter/paramedic Nick McDonough said.

So when he and Chief John Giannelli were talking about how to mark the village and department's anniversaries this year, they decided to have a special badge - and considered recycling badge numbers of original firefighters. The idea snowballed, though, and soon McDonough was at village hall, reviewing appointment papers for all sworn firefighters and equipment records for others to assign a unique badge number to each.

The first badge belonged to Charles Ring, who was sworn in in 1886 (Hinsdale Hose Company No. 1 preceded the Hinsdale Fire Department). McDonough was familiar with his name from a plaque he's seen at the fire station.

"There's an award they gave him for 40 years of service and it's hanging on the wall," he said.

McDonough said he enjoyed doing the research, which took about six months.

"I found where guys were sworn in back in the '20s, so I'm holding a piece of paper, pre-World War II era, in my hand. I thought that was pretty neat," he said.

McDonough, who has been with the department for almost 11 years, has a badge number of 275. Newer hires have badge numbers in the mid-280s.

"I'm hoping in 20, 30, 50 years, guys are like, 'I'm the 400th person who came through this department.' It's your own unique spot on the timeline of the department."

At the police department, the planning for retro badges unfolded a little differently Officers used to wear a badge with a style called "Cook County pie plate," Detective Sgt. Lou Hayes said.

"It was what most of the Cook County police agencies used back in the early 1900s. Some of them still use it today. Hinsdale used it," he said.

After doing a little research, Hayes found a company that owned the equipment used to make Hinsdale's first badges.

"We found the badge company that retained the dies that struck the badge way back when," he said. "I thought it was cool we could have a badge that was struck by the same machinery that made them over 100 years ago for us."

The badges do not list rank or position. Instead, silver badges are worn by patrol officers, detectives and civilian workers. Gold badges are worn by sergeants, the deputy chief and the chief.

Badge numbers in the police department are recycled, Hayes said, but that doesn't mean the sense of history is lost.

"It's kind of a thing for us to know the officers who held these badge numbers as a matter of tradition," said Hayes, a 25-year department member.

Residents have noticed the special badges.

"We're always getting comments because it's a different style badge than you typically see nowadays," Hayes said. "It's a great conversation starter with members of the community. All the feedback has been positive."

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean


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