Badges with pin tops that still have their ribbons are seven to 11 inches and usually made of silk; some are decorated with medals, some embroidery, some fringe trim. The members and leadership of thousands of regional and national groups — brotherhood and sisterhood associations, ethnic organizations, labor unions — pinned them to their shirts, dresses, jackets.
Among Skocpol’s most prized possessions are two-sided badges with the front designed for celebrations and a black and silver backside to be worn at funerals.
“Still today, if you go to any Irish fireman’s funeral parade, you’ll still see many of the firemen wearing these badges like these,” she said, pointing to an Ancient Order of Hibernians badge from 1886 encased in a shadow box on her dining room table. “It has a neck rope and very elaborate designs and tassels. And it’s what they wore for parades and when somebody died.”