Thursday, September 23, 2021


By Mary Davis

How do you tell a good guy from a bad guy in the old Wild West? Their badge, of course. Unless the lawman is also an outlaw and the outlaw a lawman. The difference between the two wasn’t clear-cut. Lawmen and outlaws dabbled on both sides of the badge.

circa 1873
Law enforcement badges have been around for thousands of years, clear back to 3000 BC. Knights' shields and coat of arms were forms of badges. However, badges didn’t start out as a sign of someone in crime prevention. The insignias announced a person’s official status and allegiance. There was even a beggar’s badge in England for the poor to show they had the right to beg for food and money.

Beggar Badge
Their transition to law enforcement was a natural one, to show who was authorized to administer justice and whom a person might be able to trust. These symbols of authority were traditionally worn on the left side. I found two reasons for this. One, knights carried their shields in their left hand both to protect that most vital organ, the heart, and to leave their dominant arm free to wield their sword.

Two, the placement signifies the pledge they took to hold the office and their willingness to serve and protect others, even to the point of risking their own lives.

Not all old west lawmen wore their badge on the left but a lot did. Also, not all old west lawmen wore badges at all, because there wasn’t always one available to wear. They cost money, and often, being a sheriff or deputy wasn’t a paid position.

When badges weren’t accessible or there wasn’t a large governing body to issue badges (as was the case in many old West frontier towns), some were formed out of easy to find materials. Some badges were forged out of coins. Rumor has it that the “tin” stars were made out of can lids, though the sources I came across hadn’t seen one yet, they were still looking. Since some badges were made out of readily available items, it makes sense that someone somewhere would have fashioned one out of a can lid.

Badges came in many shapes: stars, shields, ovals, circles, and various other forms. Each organization wanted their badge to be unique, hence the reason for the variety. Here are a few.

Used during WWI

Though badges have changed in their purpose over the centuries, they still convey status and allegiance.
In the latest installment of my Quilting Circle series, The Débutante's Secret, a young man with a badge finds love instead of bandits.


THE DÉBUTANTE'S SECRET (Quilting Circle 4)

Will Geneviève open her heart to a love she never imagined?

Washington State 1894

Geneviève Marseille has one purpose in coming to Kamola—stopping her brother from digging up the past. Deputy Montana has lived a simple life. But when a fancy French lady steps off the train and into his arms, his modest existence might not be enough anymore. A nemesis from Aunt Henny's past arrives in town threatening her with jail. Will she flee as she’d done all those years ago, or stand her ground in the town she’s made her home? When secrets come out, will the lives of Geneviève, Montana, and Aunt Henny ever be the same?


MARY DAVIS, bestselling, award-winning novelist, has over thirty titles in both historical and contemporary themes. Her latest release is THE DÉBUTANTE'S SECRET (Quilting Circle Book 4) THE DAMSEL’S INTENT (The Quilting Circle Book 3) is a Selah Award Winner. Some of her other recent titles include; The Widow’s Plight, The Daughter's Predicament,Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure” in The MISSAdventure Brides Collection , Prodigal Daughters Amish series, "Holly and Ivy" in A Bouquet of Brides Collection, and "Bygones" in Thimbles and Threads. She is a member of ACFW and active in critique groups.
Mary lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of thirty-seven years and one cat. She has three adult children and three incredibly adorable grandchildren. Find her online at: