History of the Institute of Heraldry
The Institute of Heraldry’s (TIOH) proud and distinguished history of service begins in the wake of World War I. Concerned with a general lack of cohesion and distinction for military awards and insignia that he observed during wartime, President Woodrow Wilson sent a letter to his Secretary of War, the Honorable Newton Baker. Composed in June of 1918, nearly half a year before victory was secured, the President resolved that the design of military medals ought to be “artistically reconsidered by [an] official art commission.” Following this initial correspondence, President Wilson directed the establishment of a Heraldic Program Office the following year under the purview of the War Department General Staff.
At first, the Heraldic Program Office was entrusted with the responsibility of coordinating and approving coats of arms and other insignia solely for Army organizations. However, America’s entry into World War II saw a tremendous increase in the demand for military insignia across all branches of service. As a result, the Munitions Board, which acted for all of the existing branches of service at the time, decided that the Heraldic Program Office would assist with providing heraldic services to all military departments.
Meanwhile, the need for coats of arms, decorations, official seals, and organizational emblems began to expand in other Government sectors. To aid those who required such heraldic services, Public Law 85-263 was enacted in 1957 to allow for the Secretary of the Army to provide these services to all branches of the Federal Government. Yet another expansion of its responsibilities and customer base would lead to a major restructuring of the Heraldic Program Office to help meet demands.
Ultimately, this restructuring resulted in Army General Order Number 29, issued on 10 August 1960 with an effective date of 1 September 1960, declaring the founding of “The Institute of Heraldry”, a new organization derived from the Heraldic Program Office and placed under the auspices of the Army’s Quartermaster General. Since 1960, TIOH’s heraldic program has seen only two additional reassignments within the Army due to reorganization. The first occurred soon after its establishment, when it was transferred to the care of the Adjutant General’s Office in 1962; then, in 2004, TIOH became part of the Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army.
In September of 2010, TIOH celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a symposium made up of past and present staff members, military personnel, federal employees, historians, and heraldic enthusiasts. The event highlighted pride in our past, dedication in our present, and confidence in our future.