Aug 31, 2009

Spring 1976 leather ordeal emblem is not an official issue

Since it was first published by the American Scouting Historical Society in 1996, the Blue Book Standard Order of the Arrow Insignia Catalog has become the defacto reference for collectors of Scout OA emblems.

In 2000 the third edition of the Blue Book was published, and for the first time included event issues for each Lodge. The event listings for Kecoughtan Lodge were provided by the late Dr. Ron Godby, who was the Blue Book regional editor for Virginia.

Based upon the collection of items shared with his son, Jeff, Dr. Godby's list of 100 event emblems spanning Kecoughtan's existence from 1952-1995 has remained unchanged in the Blue Book for every edition since.

There are three items in the Blue Book list of Kecoughtan event issues that I believe should not be included. One is the 1970 Fall Fellowship patch that was inadvertently released without the numerals corrected from "453" to "463." This will be a topic of a future article.

Two other items are leather items that I contend were private issues that were never intended to be official Lodge issues. These are the 1976 Summer Ordeal leather round and the 1992 NOAC leather round with leather thong and beads. For both of these events official Lodge emblems exist (the 463 R2 was distributed at the 1976 Summer Ordeal and the 463 S32 flap was specifically designed for Kecoughtan's NOAC delegates).

This article specifically discusses the leather emblem listed in the Blue Book since 2000 as:
463 eR1976-2, Spring Ordeal, Leather round

In over thirty years of collecting Kecoughtan emblems I've never seen one of these, nor had any other collector I queried about it. I should have gone to the source of the original listings many years ago instead of relentlessly hounding every Virginia OA collector I knew. Interestingly, this item does not appear on the list of Kecoughtan issues that was published in the December 1990 Scouting Collector's Quarterly authored by Ronald and Jeff Godby, so I suspect it was added to their collection at a later date.

It was only recently that I decided to inquire about this emblem directly to Jeff Godby, and it was because Dr. Barry Green was certain that if it was listed on Dr. Godby's list there must be one in the collection the list was based upon. Jeff confirmed the existence of it and sent me the photograph you see above. Unfortunately, he was unable to provide any background details about it, so I continued my search for information about it's provenance.

Duane McSmith created a number of leather issues for the Lodge, including the official emblems for the 1975 and 1980 SE-1 Indian Seminars that were hosted by Kecoughtan. Duane and his son Gary were both active in the Lodge in 1976, and when I asked Duane if the Spring 1976 Ordeal leather round was one of his works he replied:
I am reasonably sure I made this because the acorn stamp looks like mine and the lettering looks like mine. If I did make it it was just a few to "swap."
My friend Harry Hager (we knew him as "Chip" back then) also responded to my pleas for opinions about this piece:
From what I remember of the leather emblem shown, I don't think that it was ever an official lodge issue. I was Treasurer at the time and I know that we never sold this item nor contracted to have it made. I want to say that I remember this being a project of one of the older men in the lodge (like Milt who used to make the Kecoughtan lodge name tags) and that he had been fooling around with a brand hence the leather emblem. I don't think they were given to everyone (maybe just those in his chapter Pamunkey - maybe) but It was a long time ago. I'm 90% sure I have one at home just as an oddity. I could be wrong but I was pretty heavily into patches then and I don't recall this being a lodge issue. I do remember seeing it though but it's origin was more of a craft work piece.
Kevin Hopkins (who was elected Lodge Vice Chief at the 1976 Spring Ordeal) wrote:
I don't specifically remember this one but do remember that Duane McSmith was cranking these leather medallions out on an ad hoc basis (there are other designs floating around that you haven't run across yet, I'm sure). This looks like one of his - I'd bet on it.
Sam Fairchild assured me back in 2005 that no official leather Kecoughtan activity patch existed, telling me:
We did not have a '76 Spring Ordeal leather, for sure. Gary McSmith ran for Lodge chief with a leather McSmith patch, and we had the SE 1 Indian Seminar. Both of those issued leathers. The McSmith patch, which says McSmith on it, certainly is not a lodge issue. The Indian Seminar patch is just that. Otherwise, there was nothing else. Of that I am certain, since that was our 25th year, and I oversaw everything associated with that year.
When I finally found a picture of the item and shared it with Sam on the last day of August he reiterated his stance, saying
[It] certainly was a private issue that was not even known within the lodge. McSmith's dad made them, I think.
As a result of these findings I will be relocating this item from the event emblem listings on my site to an Unofficial Emblems category alongside the beaded version of the A5 (also created by Duane McSmith).

Unlike the Unauthorized Emblems like the ZS1 reproduction of the S10 Brotherhood flap and the ZC1 fake acorn-shaped chenille, the unofficial emblems category is designed to catalog items made by Lodge members that represented Kecoughtan Lodge but were never created as an official issue of the Lodge. Another example of such an issue is the painted plaques sold as fund-raisers with the Kecoughtan flap design.

I will also petition the current Regional Editor of the Blue Book to remove the Spring 1976 Ordeal leather emblem from the Blue Book event listings beginning with the next edition.

Many thanks to the Kecoughtan Arrowmen and collectors who helped me retrace history to discover the roots of this unique emblem. I'll bet Duane McSmith never anticipated it would earn so much interest 33 years after he created it in his workshop!

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