Gilded Age Collections

Collection ID: GA-42
Location: GA-42

(Description ID: 594305)

Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums

J. P. Reynolds & Co.
Escutcheons for Military and Naval Service


Agency History
Scope and Content

The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center acquired the records in 1955. The museum holds President Hayes’ escutcheon produced by this company.

Agency History
In 1868 John P. Reynolds of Salem, Massachusetts, patented a system of displaying a veteran’s service record as a work of art called an escutcheon. The general design of these escutcheons was a shield with portions designated to the veterans’ ranks, positions, units, and the battles in which they participated. These lithographs and paintings ranged in price from $5 to as much as $125 or more. By 1875 Reynolds had taken on Walter C. Strickler as a partner, a relationship that would end after 1878. Strickler’s role was traveling around the country selling escutcheons. In addition to contacting individual veterans, he also made presentations at local G.A.R. posts and set up a display at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. In an effort to attract new business, the company displayed the escutcheons of several well-known leaders including Generals U.S. Grant, William T. Sherman, and Philip Sheridan at the Philadelphia exposition. They also solicited written testimonials from other prominent veterans such as Ambrose Burnside, Rutherford B. Hayes, Joshua Chamberlain, and John F. Hartranft.

It is unclear from the incomplete business records how long Reynolds & Co. continued to produce escutcheons, but by 1888, Strickler had formed a competing company (Army and Navy Escutcheon Company) and had been discharged by the board of directors for poor management. The new company was sold to F. H. Dyer of Detroit, Michigan.

Scope and Content
The records of the Reynolds Escutcheon Company are an incomplete collection of business records, the bulk of which is correspondence between the owner and company sales representative Walter C. Strickler. These letters tell of Strickler’s experiences introducing and selling the escutcheons to veterans, especially U.S. Grant and William T. Sherman, and veterans’ organizations, the display at the Centennial Exposition, and his, sometimes blunt, advice on business matters. Small illustrations of various escutcheons and emblems used on them are occasionally included. Other correspondence includes that of J. P. Reynolds, letters from other sales representatives, and letters from veterans ordering escutcheons or inquiring about them. The design for patent used in 1868 is in this collection as well as a large quantity of order blanks completed by veterans who purchased escutcheons.

Despite the lack of financial and administrative records or board of directors’ minutes, the collection provides some insights into the company’s operations and its struggle to survive as it attempted to sell a unique and highly personalized memento of military service. The correspondence and sales material extend from 1868 to 1888.

A much smaller part of the collection is comprised of miscellaneous notes and records of the Massachusetts Adjutant General’s office, dating from 1885 to 1888. Reynolds may have been actively involved in the operations of this state office while managing his own business.

Ac. 973
1.5 linear ft.

Box 1

1. J.P. Reynolds Correspondence n.d., 1868-1875
2. J.P. Reynolds Correspondence 1876-1881
3. W.C. Strickler Correspondence n.d. & 1875
4. W.C. Strickler Correspondence Jan.-Aug. 1876
5. W.C. Strickler Correspondence Sept.-Dec. 1876
6. W.C. Strickler Correspondence Jan.-April 1877
7. W.C. Strickler Correspondence May-Dec. 1877
8. W.C. Strickler Correspondence Jan.-May 1878
9. W.C. Strickler Correspondence June-Dec. 1878
10. Albert Welles Correspondence
11. C.H. Wildman Correspondence
12. Correspondence of Sales Representatives
13. Correspondence pf Veterans - Orders/Inquiries 1868-1873
14. Correspondence of Veterans - Orders/Inquiries 1874-1880
15. Service Records for Escutcheons
16. Lists of Orders
17. Order Blanks
18. Order Blanks
19. Order Blanks
20. Matters Relating to Design Patent
21. Miscellaneous
22. Other Escutcheon Makers
23. Newspaper Clippings
24. Massachusetts Adjutant General - Correspondence
25. Massachusetts Adjutant General - Military Accounts
26. Massachusetts Adjutant General - Officers’ Duty & Pay
27. Massachusetts Adjutant General - Materiel Accounts
28. Lydia Lowe Estate
29. Photocopies of Material Relating to R.B. Hayes Escutcheon
      (Separate file) J.P. Reynolds design. Patent, July 14, 1868