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Rating Symbols

According to the records the early Navy took its time about identifying ratings by the symbols so familiar today. Not until 1841, in the Regulations of the Secretary of the Navy, were distinguishing marks prescribed. At that time, Boatswain's Mates, Gunner's Mates, Carpenter's Mates, Ship's Stewards, and Ship's Cooks, were to wear an eagle and anchor on the right sleeve. Quartermasters, Quartergunners, Captains of Fore-Castle, Corporals and Captains of the Hold were to wear the same device on the left sleeve. Specialty marks were added to the enlisted men's uniform for the first time in 1866. They consisted of the tools or instruments used in performing specific duties. The Master-at-Arms, the police officer of the ship, wore the star of authority, a white five-pointed star; the Quartermaster a double marine glass; and the Gunner's Mate two crossed cannons. Now, within the Bureau of Naval Personnel, the Permanent Naval Uniform Board approves new specialty marks for new ratings.


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Information Courtesy of Naval Historical Center

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