A purple, heart shaped patch named the Badge of Merit was the first US military award both designed and issued by George Washington himself to the Continental Army on August 7, 1782 at his headquarters in Newburgh. This was the first time in history that military awards were presented to common soldiers. In Europe it was a long standing honor to be presented an award but of course to only high ranking officers. However as General Washington said, “the road to glory in a patriot army and a free county is …open to all”
When I was asked to create a design for the NBC shoot at Washington’s Headquarters, I immediately knew it had to be both striking for the camera and suited for the setting. I also knew there was only one idea-replicate the Badge of Merit , the predecessor of the Purple Heart.
To be more historically correct…I made it by hand. I cut a recycled (as always) styro base to heart shape covering it with hand dyed, purple burlap. I used rope for the words and vines; adding exact, real leaves. The flowers could only…be my beautiful red, American grown, roses from Eufloria in CA. Nothing compares to them in size, color, beauty, and eco growing standards. In a rustic, old urn it all came together with the added and I thought, appropriate quirk of “English” Ivy tangled among it. Striking at over 4 ft tall & wide; the camera loved it.
Only 3 people it seems received the Badge of Merit before it was replaced (never decommissioned) with the Purple Heart Medal. Our own Purple Heart Museum in New Windsor is lucky enough to have one of them on display.
Happy 1776 on this our 240th birthday! Think America-Buy American.