History of the RCS pins
The story of the pins as told by Ronald Hahn.
These are a few remarks on the design and production of the Sierra Club Rock Climbing Section’s second climbing pin, introduced sometime around 1954.
In one of the showcases at the recent exhibition, “100 Years of Climbing in Yosemite”, at the
Torcom Bedayan (Raffi’s brother) was the designer of both of the pins, but we took some liberties with the design of the second pin. I knew Torcom when I climbed with the SCRCS in the early 1950’s. (I would like to interject a note about Torcom’s artwork during World War II. Some of Pvt Torcom K. Bedayan’s paintings became part of the US Army Art Collection. I believe that I saw one of his paintings hanging in a corridor of the Pentagon in later years, but my memory may be faulty. In preparing these notes, I ran across references to his artwork in a 1942 issue of Life Magazine and in a collection of WWII Christmas Cards. At one time I owned a small paperback book of WWII military art, which included one of Torcom’s paintings.)
I do not know the history of the first climbing pin used by the SCRCS. It was manufactured by Metal Arts Co, Roch. NY. The company is apparently still in business.
I do know that there came a time, around 1953, when the SF Chapter of the SCRCS was running short of these pins and the Rock Climbing Committee decided to order new pins.
But it was not that simple. The first pin was a beautiful work of art, but the colored enamel had a tendency to chip when it came between a rock and a hard place. There were also complaints that some of the lettering was hard to read. There was even a complaint that the climber’s foot-work was suspect. (You'll note that the ledge is not filled in.)
As a young climber, at the bottom of the pecking order so to speak, I was given the task of reordering the pin. I was also given many of the comments and complaints regarding the pin. I discussed the comments with Torcom and he was extremely patient and gracious in resolving the issues with me. He came up with this design for the new pin:
When we had agreement on this design from the leading members of the Rock Climbing Committee, Torcom produced more durable artwork that could be shopped to the various vendors:
When we started getting bids from potential vendors, we also started to nail down the particular details of the artwork.
For example, people preferred a slack belay, rather than tension. Handholds and footholds were produced. Rope texture and a carabiner are portrayed. You get the point.
I cannot explain my inability to produce a more accurate background. I did take hits on that, also.
I do remember bringing these issues up with the final vendor and his patience in responding to our nit-picking. I do not recall how we came to agree on the red enamel border, other than the fact that it must have looked good with the metal artwork. As it turned out, I don’t think the red enamel aged well, and it, too, was susceptible to chipping.
I should say that I have always thought that the 2nd pin was produced by Art Metal. But I see that the first pin is labeled Metal Arts Co. Now I wonder if we did business with the original vendor, after all. I cannot remember. I also do not recall the price of the pin.
I am depositing the original artwork in the YCA archives.