About the Column

Disney nametags: You see them everywhere but do you have any idea how many of them there are? Or how they're designed? Or their fascinating histories? Benson Myers, curator of the Nametag Museum, knows. And in his new column, It's All in a Nametag, he'll spotlight some of Disney's more interesting (and often obscure) nametags so that the next time you see a nametag pinned to a Disney Cast Member you'll know there's a lot more to that nametag than just ... a name!

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FROM: It's All in a Nametag Published Thursdays

The Metal Badges of Disneyland

You may not need no stinkin' "batches", but you really do need to read Benson's latest tale of Disney history: this time, he takes an in-depth look at Disneyland's metal badges, and how over time the metal degraded and eventually turned into plastic.

How about a bit of Disneyland archaeology?

Today I have for you an in-depth lecture about the evolution of the original Disneyland name badge. In the Walt Disney Company, the nametag is an ever-present part of day-to-day operations. Every division of the company has its own nametag. Many hundreds of different varieties have been created.

But today we'll go back to the very first badge where it all started.

I'm sure that on your visits to a Disney resort, you've noticed the nametags that every Cast Member wears. Today they are plastic. But they weren't always plastic. The early ones were metal.

Genesis of Disneyland Badges

Back in 1955, the name badges worn at Disneyland were not plastic but metal. They were manufactured by the Los Angeles Stamp and Stationery Company (LASCO), which made many products using stamping presses and dies, such as coins and tokens for local businesses. They also made badges for law enforcement agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department and the California Highway Patrol.

An example of one of the badges LASCO made for the Long Beach Police

First production run of the Disneyland badge: front view

First production run of the Disneyland badge: back view

Second production run

Third production run

Fourth production run

Metal supervisor badge

Disney Legend Bill "Sully" Sullivan with his supervisor badge

Disneyland metal badge in "cover-up" mode

Disneyland plastic badge

When Disneyland opened in 1955, there were only about 600 employees in total working there. (You might like to know that the official name of their employer was Disneyland Incorporated.) Disney hired LASCO to produce the first production run of badges worn by Cast Members.

If you look closely at the left side of the back of this first variety, you can see LASCO's hallmark stamped into the metal.

The employee numbers of the first batch of badges range from 1 to about 800 or so, as far as I have seen. It's often been speculated that Walt Disney wore badge number 1. I've never been able to confirm that he did, or did not. He was so well-known to Disneyland employees and guests that I suppose he really didn't need a badge!

By the year 1958, Disneyland had become stable, and Walt knew that the park would be financially successful. A large expansion of the park began, and with the expansion would come more employees, each needing a badge. So LASCO produced two more production runs for Disneyland. However, the later runs were quite different from the first run.

Notice the Disneyland logo has changed in size and font. The second production run used another slightly different die from the first version. This explains the differences in the flowers around the border of the badge. he metal for the second run of badges was made from a different, lighter alloy composed mostly of aluminum, whereas the first run was a mix of brass and steel.

Notice also that in the second and third production runs of badges, the bolts securing the Disneyland logo and employee number are visible on the front of the badge, whereas on the first run they are not.

A fourth and final production run was ordered in late 1959 (or so), after the large expansion that included the Matterhorn, Submarine Voyage, and the monorail.

You will notice that on this variety the flowers on the outside edge are not stamped as deeply when compared to the first three runs. Also, the Disneyland logo and the employee number are not bolted to the badge, but rather attached with a very strong metal epoxy.

Supervisor Badges

At this same time, special metal badges were created for area and departmental supervisors at Disneyland.

These metal supervisor badges are different from the others in that the Cast Member's full name is presented rather than their anonymous employee number, as in the badge worn by Disneyland Legend Bill Sullivan. Sullivan was the Operations Division supervisor at Disneyland.

Another supervisor badge was worn by James Warrick, who came to the park in 1955. The Coast Guard required an on-site captain to be in charge of all the water craft at Disneyland. Mr. Warrick filled this role until 1959, when the requirement was dropped. At that time, he transferred to Disneyland's Department 41, Maintenance Management, and became the supervisor. (This was the department that painted and repaired everything at Disneyland, and changed all the burnt-out light bulbs.)

By far, these supervisor badges are the rarest of all the metal badges. Only around a dozen or so were made, and I only know of four that still exist today. (Warrick's badge is in my personal collection.)

One thing to note about the metal badges with numbers is that there was no official order as to which employee received a particular number. The badges were issued and recollected as employees came and went from the park. The issued badge number was simply recorded on their employee forms when they went to work.

"One Word: Plastics"

It's been reported that the metal badges were used at Disneyland from 1955 through 1962, when the switch to plastic nametags was made. Actually, 1962 was not the absolute end of the metal badges at Disneyland. That same year, LASCO went out of business and sold off its dies and presses. Since no more of the metal badges could be made, Disneyland just decided not to issue any more of them. But Disneylanders who had already been issued a metal badge continued to use them in the park for the next few years. Some simply covered up their employee number with their name on a piece of tape or plastic.

Disney decided it would be more cost effective to switch to plastic nametags that could be engraved onsite whenever a new employee was hired. So Disneyland, Inc. contracted with Western Plastics in Long Beach, CA, to make the plastic nametags for Disney Cast Members, which that company did for nearly the next 30 years.

It's hard to say exactly when the final switch was made to the plastic nametags for all Cast Members at Disneyland. In the 1966 film of the grand opening of It's A Small World at Disneyland, Cast Members standing behind Walt can clearly be seen wearing the first plastic Disneyland nametags.

Finally, by the arrival of the New Tomorrowland in 1967, all the Cast Members in the park had switched to the plastic nametags.

There hasn't been much published about the history of Disneyland's metal badges - at least until now! Many people don't even know they existed. But, now you know all about them. Spread the word!


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