Chief Petty Officer Quartermaster Pre 1940 Sailor Made
Dark Blue wool back Brown Eagle and Quartermaster Emblem, Eagle facing left, Silver Chevrons.
Credit: From a post from Steve Hesson, 5 May 2012 from http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/142843-question-on-eagle-heads-buckles-us-navy/:
“The direction of the eagle was never actually regulated prior to 1940. When the USN first adopted the eagle motif in 1797, it just happened to be facing to the left. A look at many early American art eagles, such as embroidery or stylized in painting and print, show the eagle facing left. In 1846 when the USN adopted the eagle for enlisted Petty Officers badges, again they did not specify which direction the eagle should face. Please keep in mind also that at this time, each PO badge was individually made by the Sailor himself, therefore no two are alike. Anyway, The PO badge was just that, a badge identifying a PO. Seniority was based on “Rate” or job, the Master-At-Arms being the most senior followed by the Boatswains Mate and so on. They wore their badge on the right sleeve, so they made their eagles to face forward, which happened to be the left. Most POs who wore their badge on the left followed suit although there are surviving examples of “Left” arm PO badges with the eagle facing to the right. In 1866, the Navy started changing insignia. They created templates for enlisted insignia to be embroidered in by the Sailor but of a standard pattern. They went with existing tradition and had the eagle facing left. Officers had had the left facing eagle on sword belt buckles from the start, so it was simply transferred to buttons and eventually to the cap badge. In 1939, the Navy dedecided to replace the fully embroidered cap badges on officer’s caps with metal “Pin On” types like the Army. This was so that officers did not have to toss an expensive cap eagle just because it got tarnished or began to unravel (remember, at the time these were the only caps available to officers). They commissioned Tiffney’s of NY to design and cast the cap crests. After spending about $5000 1939 dollars to make the original metal cap badge, following the, then, Navy pattern of facing left, someone in the office of heraldry pointed out the meanings of left and right facing eagles. So, the Navy dropped another 5 grand to have a new mold made facing the eagle to the right. At the same time, it was decided to face all officers’ eagles to the right for the same reason, and all left arm rating badges for enlisted Sailors to the right (Or forward). BTW, the original left facing Tiffany’s officers cap badge mold is locked up in a safe in the Naval archives (so it’s said).
Anyway, before 1940, everything faced left. After 1940, it was to face right. Items that were no longer reg were replaced slowly over time as the old stuff became “Unserviceable”. So, left facing eagles probably served right along with right facing eagles through WW 2.”