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A Speculative History / Timeline

Intro >

1967 through to 1969 - the "pre-hallmark" years

Apollo 1 patch

I can't say for sure when Lion Brothers first began to manufacture space patches. I'm not aware that they ever produced patches for the Mercury or Gemini projects so the first mission they produced a patch for seems to be the Apollo 1 mission of 1967, but it's not clear if their patch was actually manufactured at the time of the mission or produced afterwards. Certainly by 1968 they were producing patches for each Apollo mission as they happened.

Apollo 12 patch hallmark

1969 through to 1975 - the "hallmark" years

Apollo 12 patch closeup

At some stage in late 1969 or early 1970, prior to the launch of Apollo 13, Lion Brothers made the decision to incorporate the famous "hallmark" concept in their patch designs. The significant number of pre-hallmark Apollo 12 patches which exist implies that the decision may have been made after the Apollo 12 mission actually flew.

Hallmarks continued to be incorporated into all mission patches through to Apollo-Soyuz in 1975.

ASTP patch hallmark

The 1975 through to 1983 - the early shuttle years

STS-1 patch

It is a common misconception that Lion Brothers Apollo mission patches were "only produced at the time of the missions". In fact their Apollo mission patches continued to be produced through until at least 1982, when examples of all the mission patches were still being offered at the National Air & Space Museum gift shop.

Lion Brothers continued to produce bare-backed patches for the shuttle missions through to STS-9 which launched in November 1983 but the number of bare-backed examples produced for certain missions appears to be very small. The bare-backed version of STS-5 and 6 are very scarce and those of STS-7 and 8 may only exist as prototypes.

STS-9 patch

1983/4 the introduction of plastic coatings

STS-41C patch

It seems that in late 1983 or early 1984 the company brought in new machinery and plastic backings and produced runs of redesigned Shuttle Program, STS-1, STS-2, and STS-5-8 patches, as well as the new STS-41C patch. At the same time it seems that they produced an experimental run of plastic-backed redesigned Apollo patches too but these were not taken into production. From this we can assume that the last Apollo mission patches were produced around 1981-1983.

Presumably they did not produce plastic-backed versions of the STS-3, 4 and 9 patches at this time because they had sufficient stock for this not to be deemed necessary.

STS-5 patch

1984 the switch to vacuum-sealed backings

STS-41B patch

In any case by February 1984 they had switched to a new vacuum-sealed backing that was used on the STS-41B patch and for the STS-41D patches onwards. I can't explain why the STS-41C patches were apparently produced before those of STS-41B but it may have had something to do with the expected launch dates at the time production decisions were made. It's worth noting that vacuum- sealed versions of the STS Program and ALT patches were also produced around this time.

STS-41D patch

1985 the last space patches

STS-51C patch

The last known Lion Brothers shuttle patch was that produced for STS-51C which launched in January 1985. No Lion Brothers version of the STS-51E (cancelled a week before launch in March 1985) or STS-51D (launched in April 1985) have been identified to date, implying that the company had made the decision to abandon the production of space patches at this time.

The decision may indeed have been influenced by the fact that shuttle missions could be cancelled so close to launch. They would already have encountered this with the cancellation of STS-41F in 1984, which may have left them with a complete production run of seemingly useless patches. When the crew of STS-51E was changed shortly before its scheduled launch the company would have been faced again with a run of patches which would need radical intervention to make saleable (in this case the hand trimming of the Baudry name tab, and the production and attachment of a new Baudry-Garn name tab). When this mission was then cancelled completely shortly before launch this could have been the nail in the coffin for the company as far as shuttle patches were concerned.

STS-51E patch
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