HISTORY OF FIRECRAFTER INSIGNIA
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Chief Francis O. Belzer was the first Scout Executive for the Central Indiana Council and developed the Firecrafter Organization to promote Scouting values and camping. He modeled much of his camp rank system on that used by Daniel Beard at Beard's Woodcraft Camp at Culver Military Academy.
Borrowing from Dan Beard
Belzer visited Beard frequently during the early days of Scouting. Belzer was impressed with Beard's sytem of rewarding camper achievments. Beard rewarded his campers' achievements with a series of three ranks, Notcher (bronze), Midnotcher
(silver), and Topnotcher (gold), symbolized in each by a patch of appropriate
color having a beaver within a stylized C (for Culver).
Chief Belzer borrowed from Beard and developed camp rank emblems using the same Culver "C" for the Camper rank.
In these early days embroidered patches were expensive, so the original patches were cut from felt and hand sewn by Mrs. Stella Doeppers, who worked in the Council office. "Aunt Stella" as she became know, continued to make these patches for years until the task became to great for her. One of the few surviving patches of this era is the 1st Minisino Patch.
Wearing the Emblems in the 1930s and 1940s
In the early days, when a Scout became a Camper, he received a khaki vest with the Camper "C" emblem sewn on it. When he became a Woodsman, a yellow teepee was added to his original patch. When he became a Firecrafter, he received a whole new patch including the red fire. The khaki vests were worn over the scout uniform at campfires and other important camp occasions. These were discontinued in the 1930's or 40's.
How the Emblems Were Made
The original Firecrafter patches, both pocket and chest, were made of felt.
The patches were cut with a set of band iron dies that were sharpened and kept
at council head quarters. The original idea was to start a camper out with his "jersey
-C" as a Camper. Yes, everyone had a fireshirt in the early days. When you
made Woodsman you were handed a yellow felt teepee and you were expected to sew
it on you patch your self. A set of fire patches were made and there are a few rare sets of these around. The band iron dies have disappeared over the years.
The patch hanger for the pocket that we all use came
from the fact that the early scout shirt patches were felt and could not be
washed. Scouts did laundry in summer camp in those days. From the earliest days of using these hangers it was customary to put them a leather backing. These backings were decorated with a lace braid around the edge. The color of lacing around the patch
hanger also made a difference. Unofficially, Firecrafters tended to use the following color scheme:
An example of a felt patch on leather backing with braiding can be seen at Old Firecrafter Braided.
Officer Emblems Circa 1930 - 60 (??)
Early on, Chief Belzer decided that Firecrafter Officers should have special patches to denote their office. Each of these patches was made of leather by Chief Belzer. These leather patches were given to each office holder listed below and then passed on to the next office holder in turn at least until the late 1950s.
Illustrations for these leather patches can be found at Old Officers 1, Old Officers 2,
and Old Officers 3.
Summer Camp Officer Patches
- Assistant Scribe
- Assistant Treasurer
- Committee Advisor
- Professional Advisor
When Camps Belzer, Bradford, Rotary, and Cullom were the main council camps under
the CIC, there was a system of officer patches for the summer camp Fire staff.
In the open part of the "C" of the pocket patch were chevrons to
signify position. One chevron was Scribe/Treasurer - Two chevrons was Vice-Chief
- Three chevrons was Chief. The color of chevron was term of office. Red chevron
meant current in office, and gold chevrons meant past officer. The only patch I
know of to still exist is a past chief patch that Steve Holt, a past chief and
current Council President, has. The practice was to be expanded to the Embers
with a system of diamond shapes. As far as is known it never happened. Cost was
probably the holding factor.
New Insignia Rules in the 1970s
When the national council decided in the 1970's that you could not wear a
patch on the uniform shirt that did not say "Scouting", "BSA",
or have a Fleur-d-lis on it Firecrafter saw a problem. Camper and Woodsman
patches were ordered that had BSA on them, but what was to be do about the
Firecrafter patch? It was suggested that a fleur-d-lis should be put on the
teepee, or in the points of the "C", or under the fire. Finally the
issue was taken to the Scout Executive, and he said to leave the patch as it is.
So the Firecrafter patch has remained unchanged since 1920.
Other Firecrafter Insignia
There have been a variety of Firecrafter rank patches made. The Firecrafter
organization in the Lincoln Trails Council in Illinois had a white "M"
on the Minisino patch. There was a McCormicks Creek Firecrafter patch that was
created for only those Firecrafters that went to the State Park to work on
service for a time during one summer. The patch was blue with everything else
in gold weave. There was never an official emblem for Hi Bark in the Central
Indiana Council. I guess there were so few that everyone knew who was and who
was not. There also was a Minisino patch from the Okaw Valley Council in
Belleville, Illinois that not only had the white "M", but a log
horizontal in brown under the "M" that stood for Hi-Bark. Perhaps the most unusual Firecrafter emblem is the mysterious Trapper rank patch. Take a look and see if you can tell us more about it.
It is interesting that the pre 1980's Firecrafter shirts were more of a
green color. They were often army surplus tank tops, while the current top are
ribbed. Unfortunately, Rit no longer makes the color dye that was used for
those shirts. Still, many people dislike the ribbed shirts and choose to dye
their own tank tops. If you wish to dye your own tank top use the Rit ecru dye.
Felt Patches Discontinued
Felt patches were discontinued for Firecrafter in the early fifties then
brought back in the 1970's. Felt Minisino patches lasted longer (until the
70's) and then embroidered patches came in. For a time, felt patches did come
back for Minisinos on a limited basis. Three inch felt patches were used on the
class "A" shirt until the 1950's or 60's. Felt chest patches were
issued into the 1970's. Both types of patches are embroidered today. See Chest Patches for examples.
Starting in the 1950's each of the six embers in the Central Indiana Council
had ember flaps that were worn on the right shirt pocket flap. They were
limited one to a person. In 1972 the Council Committee voted to welcome the
Order of the Arrow into the council by retiring the wear of ember flaps from the
class "A" uniform. This was done as a definative move to combine the
purpose of the two organizations. There was no Order of the Arrow lodge in the
Central Indiana Council until the merger. The uniforming was decided to be the
lodge flap and the 3" pocket Fire patch. No silver arrow hangers (pocket
rockets) were to be worn over the Fire patch, and sashes were never to be worn
Embers today may still issue their own items. Monjenikyah Ember (Golden
Eagle District) is one of the embers that currently has items (mug, patch, etc.)
Credits: Much of the insignia history found on this page was derived from information found at Matt Baldwin's Firecrafter website, information from John Pratt, and material donated to the author by Jack Wyatt nearly 30 years ago.