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When a Lincoln item isn’t a Lincoln item

December 28, 2019

Under the category of Civil War, an Ebay seller recently listed a brass hat badge that he couldn’t quite place. Was it from the Civil War, Indian War, or some other part of the military? Measuring 2 1/2” x 1/2”, it depicted an ax, maul and wedge. Four long pins were soldered on the back side. There was no inscription, but we thought possible that it was issued in 1860 to promote the Railsplitter Candidate. We’ll probably never know for sure, but two bidders took a flyer on it, running it up from the $25 open to a final price of $170… a bargain if it’s actually a Lincoln campaign item. The winning bidder has a history on bidding on Civil War, Indian War, Boy Scout and fraternal items, so he was likely betting against the Lincoln connection.  Maybe he knows something we don’t! By an amazing coincidence, an associated item showed up on eBay a week later. It is an 1 1/4” celluloid pinback button advertising a St. Paul clothing store. Issued circa 1900, it depicts a man and a woman holding aloft an ax. The man looks like a monk and has a halo that reads St. Paul. The figure on the left has a uniform that depicts, GET THIS!!, an ax, maul and wedge with the initials M. W. A. (Modern Woodmen of America, founded 1883 in Iowa). So, there’s an additional possibility… the badge is an emblem of this turn-of-the-century organization. It would seem that the button was issued as a tie-in to a Modern Woodmen of America convention held in St. Paul.  We were able to ask the winning bidder what he thought it was. He claimed he saw it being worn by soldiers on a History Channel program about late 19th-century African-American cavalry troops, under white command, assigned to protect Sequoia National Forest against illegal loggers. Whoodathunkit!