Kentucky Colonels are “Aides-de-Camp” to the Governor of Kentucky. That was the title given to Charles Todd in 1813 when he became an aide to Governor Isaac Shelby and thus became the first Kentucky Colonel. The word or term is used in many countries around the world including Russia, Australia and Great Britain. Several internet sites quote Charles James Esquire’s Military Dictionary of 1810 as saying an Aide-de-Camp was an officer appointed to attend a general officer. Esquire further wrote “The King may appoint for himself as many as he pleases, which appointment gives the rank of colonel in the army.” That is apparently the reason Colonel Todd became, well, Colonel Todd. Governor Shelby was following the tradition of Colonial Governors who appointed Aides-de-Camp. The word itself is of French origin and came into use in the 1600’s.
The Aide-de-Camp insignia used in the United States came into being in 1902. According to the Encyclopedia of United States Army Insignia and Uniforms by William K. Emerson, the pin was designed by Howard Chandler Christy. Christy was a prominent artist throughout the first half of the last century. He did several works for the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels and was a major supporter of the Honorable Order until his death in 1952. The insignia of today is virtually unchanged from Christy’s original creation. It remains a gilt eagle holding a shield bearing the colors of the American Flag.