Footlocker: Helping Hands | HistoryNet MENU

Footlocker: Helping Hands

By Larry Decuers
7/10/2017 • World War II Magazine

My wife inherited this pin from her late mother, Jean Turner Bernstein, who told her it had to do with raising funds to help Great Britain during the war. She married Morton Bernstein in 1943 and they moved from Chicago to New York, where Morton was stationed. The pin is 2.5 inches wide and has no markings on the reverse side. Any identification of this item would be very appreciated.  —Mort Steinberg, Highland Park, Illinois

In my research, I could not find another example of this particular brooch. There’s little on the piece to indicate a specific time period—although the brooch’s grasped hands, motto, and St. Edward’s crown strongly resemble the logo of a long-lived London-based firm, the Hand in Hand Fire & Life Insurance Society. But neither a curator at the Museum of London nor an archivist for the insurance company has seen a pin like this, and both think it likely the pin has no connection to Hand in Hand, which ceased operating under that name in 1905. 

There were a number of private organizations in the United States that provided humanitarian aid to Great Britain beginning in the early days of the war. The British War Relief Society (BWRS), headquartered in New York, was the most well known, and parceled out large quantities of donated clothing, medical supplies, and food to the people of England. Another was Bundles for Britain. Founded in New York in 1940 by a knitting group, Bundles for Britain initially produced and collected homespun knitted goods such as socks and sweaters for England’s war effort. Bundles and BWRS quickly expanded by selling pins and brooches to raise funds. Those items are marked on the reverse: “Official Bundles for Britain” or “Official BWRS and BB.” Other smaller charities relied on BWRS to coordinate delivery of their donations. It is possible one of these organizations adapted the insurance company’s logo for its brooch because it fit the purpose; this brooch’s specific origin, alas, remains a mystery.  —Larry Decuers, Curator

 

This column was originally published in the August 2017 issue of World War II magazine. Subscribe here.

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