Where Did Plastic Ribbons Come From?

Started by ProdigalJim, May 05, 2011, 01:23:02 AM

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flyboy53

#20
Quote from: SarDragon on May 08, 2011, 08:48:55 AM
The only place I ever saw the plastic ribbons was in CAP, and only in that series of ribbons. The older ribbons that were replaced were all cloth.  And as far as AD stuff went, I was only familiar with USN, and am 100% certain that they never wore plastic ribbons.

They did require a thicker bar, and you needed a separate bar for each row. There were no multiple row bars for the plastic ribbons.

OK, B-17. I just had to find the right side view to confirm it. My ribbons were all from earlier batches. I got the first five in '65, and bought the Mitchell ribbon and the two before it at the same time in the same year.

The order of wearing was different back then, too.

Curry (don't have one of those)
Arnold
Doolittle
Goddard
Lindbergh
Rickenbacker
Wright Brothers
Mitchell

That's because the military didn't have plastic ribbons; they had laminated ones. You could order ribbons laminated and then mounted. I'm not sure when the practice stopped. I've seen some World War II Navy ribbons of that style, but it was always only one bar and the ribbons were a different width and height. My uncle's World War II Army ribbons were laminated. He wore one bar with a single laminated ribbon on top...and the ribbon bars were thicker just like the original CAP ribbons that I, too, wore. At some point the laminated plastic turns yellow.

There have been some interesting military ribbon styles over the years. At one point ribbons were sewn directly on a service coat. I've seen Distinguished/Presidential Unit Citations made of brass with the ribbon  being some sort of enameled CloisonnĂ© blue. I once had a set of ribbons from the Philippines, woven of embroidery thread with devices that wouldn't quite be regulation. While they were neat at first because they could actually be sewn on a jacket, they became outdated quickly. I've also seen decoration lapel pins that were woven of embroidery thread.

I never thought much about either my cadet or senior member ribbons from that era, it's what we had, didn't get dirty as quickly and I still wore it with pride.

SarDragon

OK, help me out here. What is your distinction between 'plastic' and 'laminated'? How are they different?

My cadet ribbons have a woven cloth center, just like a normal ribbon, and the cloth part is sandwiched (laminated) between two layers of plastic.
Dave Bowles
Maj, CAP
AT1, USN Retired
50 Year Member
Mitchell Award (unnumbered)
C/WO, CAP, Ret

flyboy53

#22
Quote from: SarDragon on May 08, 2011, 09:29:15 PM
OK, help me out here. What is your distinction between 'plastic' and 'laminated'? How are they different?

My cadet ribbons have a woven cloth center, just like a normal ribbon, and the cloth part is sandwiched (laminated) between two layers of plastic.

Well, whether it's accurate or not, I always referred to my cadet and first senior member ribbons as "plastic," because they were thin pieces of fabric, coated on both sides and then form fitted to slide on what I remember to be an aluminum ribbon bar. I remember that some of my ribbons even had a silver or light gray manufacturer's trade mark on the back.

When I transitioned to senior member in 1971 was when I remember the conversion to cloth CAP ribbons. Many people continued to wear the plastic ones until the order came through channels to remove them. I remember that I had the old style Encampment Ribbon -- the one with the green stripe -- and it was a trip finding a replacement, so I pealed the plastic off and wore that ribbon for a while. I don't remember those ribbons discoloring.

Without tearing apart my uncle's ribbons, what I term as laminated are a standard ribbon that has a thin wrap of plastic that surrounds the outside of the ribbon and would sit underneath the brass slide on the back. I tore apart one of those ribbons once. Behind the plastic was some sort of adhesive that was really sticky and couldn't be removed. If left uncoated, the ribbon would get dirty really quick because it obviously would attract lots of dust and dirt. The older the ribbon, the more likely the plastic would yellow.

Mitchell 1969

Quote from: Ned on May 05, 2011, 04:38:50 PM
And countless hours were spent at every level of the CAC trying to change the ribbons in the early 1970's.

Cadets can and did "convert" their plastic ribbons to cloth by carefully peeling away the clear laminate from the underlying fabric with a steady hand and an Xacto knife.  Often it took two or three attempts to get a successful "peel."

We covertly referred to plastic covered, cartoon ribbons as "Anaheim Ribbons" back in the day.  (Anaheim is where Disneyland is located, home to Mickey Mouse.  So, nobody said they looked "Mickey Mouse," but everybody knew...)

I was a ribbon peeler.  I discovered a number of tricks along the way.  Some ribbons could not be easily peeled  - ECI comes to mind.  The top layer would come off, but a thin layer permeated the ribbon.

I had a cottage industry at CAC meetings and Wing Conferences.  The best tool was actually a cheap money clip with knife that they gave us as a graduation gift at Flying Encampment in 1970.  Just the right sharpness, angle of point, thickness.  Also had an Xacto knife and a small pliers - many times, once you got the "lift" started, all you had to do was grab and pull, quickly. 

I had a couple of trainees in my employ.  We had somebody come into a room once, look at the "workshop" and say "This looks like the uniform shop in Stalag III."  We had some of te more common ones pre done.  All "work" was at the owners risk - we couldn't tell in advance if it would peel OK or not.  Still, I think I had a 95% success rate.

At the time (late 60's, early 70's), one could still buy plastic COVERS for ribbons.  The market for those was military people.  So, plastic ribbons, in some measure, made sense at the time.
_________________
Bernard J. Wilson, Major, CAP

Mitchell 1969; Earhart 1971; Eaker 1973. Cadet Flying Encampment, License, 1970. IACE New Zealand 1971; IACE Korea 1973.

CAP has been bery, bery good to me.

Major Carrales

I had an uncle who's uniform was in my Great Grandmother's house for years.  There were two sets of USAF ribbons.

They were...
Outstanding Unit Award
Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Medal
Small Arms Expert

One set was of very thin ribbons, Slightly larger than the usual ones.  The others, which someone threw away when we were lads, were with in a yellow plastic/nitrate flim (for lack of a description) which had also discolored the ribbons underneath.

My uncle (great uncle) was an early 60s Veteran from the days of those more wollen uniforms.  I am assuming these ribbons were from that era.

By the way, I wrote much of the article on the Cadet Stuff Wiki intending to revise and make more complete.  I had not returned there since I once got dogpiled for a thread I posted there on designing the ultimate "cadet programs" uniform.  I may return to it\ someday.
"We have been given the power to change CAP, let's keep the momentum going!"

Major Joe Ely "Sparky" Carrales, CAP
Commander
Coastal Bend Cadet Squadron
SWR-TX-454

Lance

The differences in the plastic ribbons were more a difference in manufacturer than in policy.  I have seen plastic ribbons from the same time period that were cloth with a plastic film and ribbons that were a cloth covered in a hard plastic.  The hard plastic ribbons go all the way back to at least WW II and were mostly made by Wolf-Brown.  My set of 1960's CAP cadet ribbons, Curry through Earhart, were hard plastic and made by Wolf-Brown.  I still have them in a shadow box and I liked them then and still do now.  The little images on each ribbon had a historical reason for the image, i.e. the hat-in-the-ring for the Rickenbacker ribbon.  To me the ribbons meant something much more than today's little bits of colored cloth that have no heraldry behind them.   Senior ribbons from the fifties and sixties also came in the hard plastic versions.  My father's ribbons from WW II (Bronze Star, Good Conduct, Pacific Campaign, American Campagin, WW II Victory, Philippnes Liberation and more) are all hard plastic Wolf-Brown ribbons period to the war.  I also still have those along with his CIB and the medals.

It was not hard to attach devices to a plastic ribbon.  Simply take the pin on the ribbon holder bar, line it up where you needed a hole and push it through the plastic ribbon.  It was the exact size needed to attach the device.  Make the hole, put the ribbon on the holder and then attach the device and it was on for good.

This is my first posting.  I enjoy reading your discussions and wanted to jump in on this one.  Thanks.

Lance, former Cadet Lt Colonel and retired Colonel, CAP
Dr. Lance J. Edwards, Colonel, CAP, Retired
Professor of Business, Retired
C/Lt Colonel, joined 1966
Mitchell, 1969, Earhart, 1970, Eaker, 1973
IACE, 1972 & 1979, Wilson #394, DSM, 1989

ol'fido

Quote from: Lance on June 15, 2011, 03:59:32 AM
The differences in the plastic ribbons were more a difference in manufacturer than in policy.  I have seen plastic ribbons from the same time period that were cloth with a plastic film and ribbons that were a cloth covered in a hard plastic.  The hard plastic ribbons go all the way back to at least WW II and were mostly made by Wolf-Brown.  My set of 1960's CAP cadet ribbons, Curry through Earhart, were hard plastic and made by Wolf-Brown.  I still have them in a shadow box and I liked them then and still do now.  The little images on each ribbon had a historical reason for the image, i.e. the hat-in-the-ring for the Rickenbacker ribbon.  To me the ribbons meant something much more than today's little bits of colored cloth that have no heraldry behind them.   Senior ribbons from the fifties and sixties also came in the hard plastic versions.  My father's ribbons from WW II (Bronze Star, Good Conduct, Pacific Campaign, American Campagin, WW II Victory, Philippnes Liberation and more) are all hard plastic Wolf-Brown ribbons period to the war.  I also still have those along with his CIB and the medals.

It was not hard to attach devices to a plastic ribbon.  Simply take the pin on the ribbon holder bar, line it up where you needed a hole and push it through the plastic ribbon.  It was the exact size needed to attach the device.  Make the hole, put the ribbon on the holder and then attach the device and it was on for good.

This is my first posting.  I enjoy reading your discussions and wanted to jump in on this one.  Thanks.

Lance, former Cadet Lt Colonel and retired Colonel, CAP
:clap: ... and welcome to CT, Sir.
Lt. Col. Randy L. Mitchell
Historian, Group 1, IL-006

flyboy53

Quote from: Lance on June 15, 2011, 03:59:32 AM
The differences in the plastic ribbons were more a difference in manufacturer than in policy.  I have seen plastic ribbons from the same time period that were cloth with a plastic film and ribbons that were a cloth covered in a hard plastic.  The hard plastic ribbons go all the way back to at least WW II and were mostly made by Wolf-Brown.  My set of 1960's CAP cadet ribbons, Curry through Earhart, were hard plastic and made by Wolf-Brown.  I still have them in a shadow box and I liked them then and still do now.  The little images on each ribbon had a historical reason for the image, i.e. the hat-in-the-ring for the Rickenbacker ribbon.  To me the ribbons meant something much more than today's little bits of colored cloth that have no heraldry behind them.   Senior ribbons from the fifties and sixties also came in the hard plastic versions.  My father's ribbons from WW II (Bronze Star, Good Conduct, Pacific Campaign, American Campagin, WW II Victory, Philippnes Liberation and more) are all hard plastic Wolf-Brown ribbons period to the war.  I also still have those along with his CIB and the medals.

It was not hard to attach devices to a plastic ribbon.  Simply take the pin on the ribbon holder bar, line it up where you needed a hole and push it through the plastic ribbon.  It was the exact size needed to attach the device.  Make the hole, put the ribbon on the holder and then attach the device and it was on for good.

This is my first posting.  I enjoy reading your discussions and wanted to jump in on this one.  Thanks.

Lance, former Cadet Lt Colonel and retired Colonel, CAP

Welcome, too.

It's not that I miss the ribbons, but they certainly represented a formative period in my life. I do, however, miss Wolf-Brown, that was excellent quality insignia. I treasure the sterling sliver winged CAP lapel pin that I got from them years ago.

Is it Wolf-Brown, that I was thinking of, in terms of the manufacturer's mark on the back of the ribbons?

menelder

Plastic Ribbons date from WW1, Wolf-Brown Company (WB), the make of many, patented them again around 1940.
For all those with plastic they still dislike, they are a prized collectable for many on Ebay and go for alot more than cloth, so this shows that they were loved and are still very much in demand.
The WB ribbons had a cloth center with plastic all around, not to be confused with the type that had a cellophane type piece over the top.
The WB were very sturdy and with little care will last forever. They did use an aluminum slide holder though which was thicker.
Eric

majdomke

I love my old cadet ribbons with the characters on them. From a historic perspective it makes more sense looking at them and understanding who they were named after. I've shown them to my cadets and they like them as well. Maybe not something to bring back but to embrace our past. I recall the plastic ones as well. They did keep clean but were a bugger getting off/on the ribbon holder. We had them in the early 80's when I first joined and then went to all cloth soon after. Was the reason we took off the symbols to look more in line with military ribbons that have nothing but colored stripes etc?

ol'fido

I think I might have about a dozen or more of the ribbon holders for the plastic ribbons if anybody is interested. I would have to check what I have.
Lt. Col. Randy L. Mitchell
Historian, Group 1, IL-006