By BRIAN KRAPF
This badge features Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty during the Great War. It is number 79 of a serially numbered set of 150 badges made in 1914–1915 by American Art Works of Coshocton, Ohio, prior to America’s entry into the conflict in April 1917. The set features images of British, French, Russian, and German statesmen, military commanders, and scenes of daily life on both land and sea.
Americans followed news of the far away war in Europe with a combination of curiosity and concern. Capitalizing upon that interest, these badges were made as commercial giveaway premiums. Many are found with paper movie theatre advertisements in the back, the idea being that one would come away with a badge on each trip to the movies.
We do not know how many sets of these badges were made, but we do know that American Art Works was a regionally based company with a limited scale of production. Today, the company’s badges are recognized by collectors for their scarcity, quality, and design. In more than forty years of collecting, we have only seen one completed set of these Great War badges. The Churchill badge only occasionally appears at market and is highly sought by collectors. Pieces of the set itself appear with some frequency and are fun to collect as well.
Brian Krapf’s forthcoming book We Want Winston!—A Treasury of Memorabilia will be published later this year.
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