What’s in our Collections? A WWI Dogtag

In our collections, we have a dog tag that was worn by a soldier in World War I.
According to the Amry Historical Foundation, the term dog tag was first coined by William Randolph Hearst. The term appeared in his papers in 1936 – referring to the new Social Security name plates designed after military ID.
The concept was around for longer than that. In the Civil War, many soldiers were worried no one would be able to identify them if they died. The practice of wearing their name in wood around their neck.
The first official ID tags came at the end of the Spanish American War. Army Chaplain Charles C. Pierce recommended all Army outfit soldiers with circular disks to identify those killed in actions.
It wasn’t until 1906 until these tags were ordered to be worn by all soldiers. The half-dollar sized tags were stamped with the soldier’s name, rank, company and regiment. They were attached to a cord and worn around the neck.
In 1916, a second disk was required. The first was to remain with the body and the second was for record keeping.
This dog tag was donated by the family of Alfred Thorson. He served in the US Army for 18 months and was stationed near Battle Creek Michigan.