Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Beautiful Photo I.D. Badge

Last year I wrote several times about old employee photo I.D. badges. That led to a very generous offer from PermaRec reader Karen Becker, who recently got in touch and offered to send me the I.D. badge shown above. It dates back to the late 1940s and belonged to a man named John Bobofchak, who was the husband of Karen's mother's aunt. I was extremely humbled by Karen's offer to share this family artifact with me — an offer that I happily accepted.

Karen provided some background on John Babofchak, as follows:

He lived at 3613 Cecelia Ave. in Cleveland, Ohio. He was married to Anna Tarnovsky. They had four children:

• George Bobofchak is about 92 and is living in Westlake, Ohio. His wife was Vicki (deceased March 20, 2008), and they had one son, John, who lives in Fairview Park, Ohio.

• Anne Agnes Gilak (nee Bobofchak) died on May 11, 2008, at the age of 81. She and her husband, Albert (deceased), had two children, Ron and Vickie.

• Edward Joseph Bobofchak died on Dec. 13, 2008, at the age of 76.

• Mildred M. Bobofchak, 77, is a retired schoolteacher living in Westlake, Ohio.

I was also curious about the White Sewing Machine Company, where John worked. It turns out to have been a fairly notable company (further info here) whose identity eventually became subsumed into the White-Westinghouse brand name.

I acquired a few old photo badges last year and received a few more as a birthday gift, but this one is by far the nicest and in the best shape, and it's also the first one in my small collection with the raised metallic lettering. Badges of this style tend to fetch over $100 on eBay, which is too pricey for me, so I probably would never have held one in my hand if Karen hadn't sent me this one. It's an inch and three-quarters in diameter and weighs half an ounce -- a very satisfying little object.

The badge's manufacturer is stamped onto the back (click to enlarge):

As it happens, I'm familiar with the Robbins Co. of Attleboro, Mass., because they used to manufacture another item that I collect: a particular style of beer tap heads (click to enlarge):

These tap heads, which are called "ball knobs," became popular in taverns across America in the 1940s. Much like the photo badges, they're very collectible and fairly pricey. The Robbins name typically appears on the rear-neck area (click to enlarge):

Robbins still exists today as a component of TharpeRobbins, a company specializing in employee-recognition awards. The original Robbins Company, which merged with Tharpe in 2007, apparently had a very colorful history that went way beyond producing employee photo badges and beer tap knobs. According to the company's corporate history page, Robbins also manufactured the medals for the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Olympics, the official Lindbergh Medal commemorating Charles Lindbergh's trans-oceanic flight, medallions used on NASA space missions, and more.

All of which leads to a question: Did Robbins employees wear photo I.D. badges back in the 1940s? If so, Robbins presumably manufactured those, right? That's now my holy grail: a vintage employee badge with "Robbins" handsomely spelled out on the front and stamped into the back.

(Extra-special thanks to Karen Becker for entrusting me with John Bobofchak's badge.)


  1. Paul, Thank you very much for your interest in this little artifact from my mother's family.. John's living children are also happy that someone -you- is interested is preserving this bit of their family history. God bless you and God bless America!

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Didn't know about these name badges until recently! Found a Westinhouse
    Electric one that was my grandfather's in a box of photos! My father and brother worked there, but they must have stopped issuing them by then!