An Embroidered Patch from the American School Band Directors’ Association Records

An embroidered patch with the words American School Band Directors' Assoc. and the organization's logo.

Many people assume that archives only hold paper documents and records like photographs, but even collections from organizations like the American School Band Directors’ Association Records (ASBDA), which, until the digital age, produced a considerable amount of paper records as well as more unique types of records. We’ve processed textiles, awards and medals, and even an ASBDA watch owned by past president Edgar Rooker. These materials, while they cannot be as directly “read,” still contain valuable evidential and historical information.

One of the most interesting “ephemera” from the ASBDA Records is this embroidered patch, photographed above. The patch was clearly hand embroidered, as evidenced by the variety of stitches used and the occasional irregularity. For the main design, the embroiderer used a combination of straight stitches, back stitching, and couched goldwork bullion wire to depict the stylized scene of a band director conducting a band, based on the ASBDA’s logo. Around this logo, two lines of couched pearl purl, a type of wire used in goldwork embroidery, helps define the scene. The back of the patch is stiffened, and three pins would have allowed it to be attached to a jacket or other item of clothing.

While this unique patch does not tell us anything explicit about the organization, many interesting connections and questions can be “read” through studying it carefully. The use of bullion wire in the embroidery, for instance, suggests this patch may have been inspired by military decorations. The pins at the back perhaps indicate this patch was unique, and intended to be easily transferable between clothing or even individuals, unlike one that would be sewn on a jacket. These details may be small, but they may help a future researcher learn about the ASBDA, or even American school band history in general. To learn more about the American School Band Directors Association Records, check out the finding aid here.

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