National Order of Trench Rats

The National Order of Trench Rats started as an organization for disabled World War I veterans who were patients in the United States Public Health Service Hospital No. 54. The name “Trench Rats” was adopted as it is symbolic of the rats which the World War I veterans encountered in the trenches in France.

Currently, the N.O.T.R. is a secret, fraternal and honor organization limiting its membership by selection only to those who show their devotion and meritorious service to the DAV and the welfare of the disabled veterans, his widow and orphans. The group has several different styles of fezzes, with different colors denoting rank. All the fezzes have a prominently displayed rat though. The local group is called a “Dugout,” and has purples fezzes which this one is an example of. The group is led on a national level by the “Imperial Golden Rodent.”

The fez is an example of one that would be worn by a “Past Golden Rodent,” or president of a local chapter. You can see the color of the emblem has changed to yellow, along with the tassel, and the word “Past” appears on the brim of the fez. This piece actually came with a small sheet listing all of the officers of the dugout from which it originated, which was in California.

This fez came to the museum by way of a keen-eyed friend in Florida, who found it at an antique shop. He knew it was unusual, so he snagged it for the museum. The white body of the fez, along with the white tassel, indicates that the hat belonged to a national officer. The word “Past” is embroidered onto a similarly colored piece of felt and attached to the fez with thread. We are unsure of what Past rank the owner was (if you know, drop us a note on the contact page!) The fez is relatively new, likely being made in the last 30 years or so.

Thank you to Joshua Schutts for this addition!

National Order of Alley Cats

The National Order of Alley Cats is a unique organization. It is a ladies auxiliary to the National Order of Trench Rats. Both organizations provide charity and support to veterans, specifically with the Disabled American Veterans organization. Local bodies are referred to as “Rat Traps,” making reference to the idea that the women have “trapped” the men in the local “Dugout” of the Trench Rats. The group was founded in 1943 and still exists today, although it’s very small. The presiding officer is titled the “Golden Cat” with members being referred to as “Sister Cats.”

The fez itself is dark blue in color with a very dark blue (nearly black) tassel. It’s very short, fitting more like a pill box or traditional smoking hat than a fez. It is made out of cloth, being constructed of two parts – the conical body and then a cap piece. They two parts are sewn together and the tassel is inserted in the usual way. The emblem on the front is a patch that has been sewn on. It’s a yellow cat, with its tail raised in a hissing position. The fez could potentially be home made, as it’s pretty crude. Regardless of construction, the piece is in good shape otherwise.

Back in 2019, the National Order of Trench Rats began admitting women, making Alley Cats items even that much harder to find. This piece is quite rare, as it represents the owner as a Past Golden Cat of a local unit. It’s one of the few examples we’ve seen and it was purchased at auction.

The fez is dark blue in color with a gold tassel. The emblem and the word “Past” are both sewn on patches. The construction is of the usual style seen for smaller, women’s fezzes; the inside is rolled so as to make the cap shorter. There’s a bit of pitting and a small moth hole on the back of the piece. It likely dates from the 50’s to the 70’s, but could be from an earlier period – there’s just not much evidence to go on for dating.