United States Marshal History


The word "Marshal" often brings images of the Wild West when America's frontier was stretching to the Pacific and Law and Order was the fastest gun in town. Colorful tales of Wyatt Earp set the image of Western Marshals in our mind.

It comes as a surprise to many to find the United States Marshals and their deputies are alive and flourishing in the 20th century as modern professional law enforcement officers functioning as officers of the Federal Courts and agents of the Department of Justice.

When Congress passed the first Judiciary Act of 1789, the U.S. Senate confirmed President George Washington's appointment of the original thirteen U.S. Marshals.

Today, those first thirteen have grown to 95 marshals who are assisted by some 2,500 deputies and 1,500 administrative personnel throughout the United States and its possessions. While the Marshals remain political appointments of the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, the Deputy U.S. Marshals are hired under Civil Service Competitive examination.

Today, Marshals and Deputies lead a life every bit as challenging, exciting and dangerous as their early counterparts. They perform a wide range of Federal Law Enforcement duties designed to carry out their statutory requirements. Among the diverse responsibilities they perform are the serving of criminal and civil process and warrants of arrest; movement of federal prisoners; protection of witnesses to activities of organized crime; serving and disposing of property under court orders; security of federal court facilities, judges and jurors; and the prevention of civil disturbances or restoration of order in riot or mob violence situations. These and other special law enforcement duties are performed as directed by order of the court or the Department of justice.

Deputy Marshals are required to carry firearms and to become proficient in the latest electronic communications equipment and security devices. Their work often involves irregular hours, the constant threat of violence involving personal risk, exposure to severe conditions, considerable travel and arduous physical exertion. The performance of these difficult, but challenging duties always requires the highest standards of Ethical conduct and dedication to the United States Marshals Service and the profession of law enforcement.


The United States Marshal is appointed by the President of the United States and approved by the U.S. Senate for a period of 4 years. He is required to live in his District, with the exception of the U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia and U.S. Marshal for the District of  Columbia Superior Court;  the two Marshals can live in the surrounding districts.

The Marshals for Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands are appointed by the United States Attorney General for a period of 6 years.  There are currently 95 U.S. Marshals.

If something happens to the U.S. Marshal, then the United States Attorney General appoints his replacement until a new Marshal can be appointed by the President and approved by the U. S. Senate.


Each District has a Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal; some Districts have more than one. They are in charge of different details or have positions at the Training Academy, EPIC and Interpol. They function as Operations Officers for the District. They are the second one in the chain of command.


Supervising Deputy U.S. Marshals are promoted thru the ranks. They are assigned to different Districts. The Districts are required to have 4 or more Deputies in an office before they have one Supervisor. Their duties are to make sure the  Operational side and the Administrative side of the office get the work coordinated. They also assign the Deputies there work.


The current title Deputy U.S. Marshal has been used throughout the years from 1789 to present.  In about 1956 the titles of Office Deputy, Fee Deputy and Field Deputy became obsolete. The title Deputy U.S. Marshals became standard. The office Deputies that did steno work, civil process, criminal process and accounting were made Administrative personnel.

The other Deputies became regular Deputies, who transported prisoners, attended courts, served civil and criminal process, also served arrest warrants. In the early days Deputies did their own investigation on all types of crimes. In the modern days, Deputies do investigations on the following laws that are assigned to the U.S. Marshal Service,  Escape, Parole, Probation, Failure to Appear and Bail Jumping. In Alaska Deputy U.S. Marshals were the only Law Enforcement and they did all investigations on all crimes and were also the Deputy Corners in the Districts. In the lower 48 Deputies were not the Deputy Corners.

At present there are two categories of Deputy U.S. Marshals. 

1.  Criminal Investigators (GS -1811)  

2. Deputy U.S. Marshals (GS- 082) 


D.E.O.  (GS- 1802)  is responsible for transporting prisoners / detainees by bus, car, van, etc.  The D.E.O. conducts searches of the prisoners / detainees to insure that they are not caring prohibited property. The D.E.O. applies and / or removes restraints to include handcuffs and leg irons.  Maintains order and discipline in the cellblock. Conducts surveillance via closed circuit television monitors. Controls access to cellblock area.  Distributes food to prisoners / detainees.  Request appropriate medical assistance in case of medical emergencies.


Office Deputy U.S. Marshals was a title that was used up to 1956 when it was discontinued by the Classification Act of 1949.

It was a title of the Deputy U.S. Marshal that was assigned to the District Office to perform Office Duties.  He or she did the paper work and took the prisoners from jail to U.S. Court for hearings and trials.

This title is no longer used after 1956 .   


They were appointed by the U.S. Marshal for the District that they were going to work in. They were assigned to the field.  They lived away from the District Headquarters Office. Most of them worked out of their homes and the local Sheriffs offices in the Western states. They worked in the District serving Warrants; Criminal, Civil process and transporting prisoners.

At one time when this title was used in the 1800's, Judge Parker had over 200 Field Deputy U.S. Marshals at one Time.    They were paid very little money.

This title is no longer used.



When, in the opinion of the U.S. Marshal,  public business requires it,  he may appoint one or more Fee Deputies,  subject to approval of the Attorney General,  They  hold office (unless sooner removed by the U.S. District Court for the District, or by the U.S. Attorney General) during the pleasure of the District U.S. Marshal. (See Act of March 4, 1911, 36 Stat. 1355)       

Appointment of Fee Deputies should be immediately reported to the U.S. Attorney General. Such reports should specify:

        (a)  The facts as distinguished from conclusions constituting the reason for the  Appointment.

        (b)  Name and age of employee.   

        (c)  His residence and occupation at the time of Appointment.

        (d)  His official Headquarters.

Their headquarters should be located near the center of the Territory.

Term of Office of a fee deputy ends with that of his principal. (U.S. Marshal)

A Fee Deputy U.S. Marshal are entitled to compensation as following:

        A.   All gross fees actually earned, including mileage, not to exceed $1,500.00 per annum

        B.   Actual and necessary expenses, not to exceeding $2.00 per day, while endeavoring to arrest, serving process, a person charged with or convicted of crime.

This title is no longer in use.


This title has been around for two hundred and twelve  years.  It  was first used for those people  deputized for posse work, or for agents of other federal agencies who needed authority to carry weapons or make arrests without such authority under their own agency rules.

It has been used for guards working on dams during WWI, process servers, Customs Sky Marshals, FAA special Agent, EPA Agents, FBI Agents (before 1934), IRS Special Agents, such as those who investigated Al Capone and other mobsters, Agriculture Agents, U.S. Park  Service Rangers, and many others.

Today, many state and local Police Officers assigned to the O.C.D.E.T.F.  (Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force) are Special Deputy United States Marshals. The Court Security Officers who man metal detectors at U.S. Courthouses and perform other court related duties are also Special Deputy U.S. Marshals.

This title is still being used.



This title was created for promotions in the U.S. Marshal Service.  came into effect around 1970 or 1971. It was first given to Deputies who worked the Witness Details. Then later it was made into a specialty for witness Security, Court Security and Warrant Deputies. There is also Chief Inspector, and Senior inspectors

At present it still is being used.


A title was used when Deputies were assigned to the Internal Revenue duties.  At present I can show this title was used in the 1886  in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Not in use anymore.


VRA Deputy stands for Veterans Readjustment Program. It came in existence during President Nixon 's term.  A  VRA Deputy  came on GS - 5 instead of GS - 6,  and had a two year training program instead of the normal one year period. This program was designed to assist Vietnam veterans in obtaining jobs. To be a VRA Deputy,  you had to have been in the military, to be discharged, and to apply within 280 days of your discharge date. VRA deputies did not effect the assigned number of deputies in the District, they were extras.

Title still being used today.


T.O.E. stands for "Temporarily Official Employment".  They were Life time appointments by the President of the United States and could only be removed by the President. Most of them were appointed in 1950's and 1960's. They were sworn in different Districts. They did regular Deputy's work. Paid by the hour, grades varied by the number of hours that was required to be worked in each grade. They did not have to meet any of the regular deputies requirement or take the test. I do not know if there is any at present working. I believe the last two Deputies have been converted to Regular Deputies

Title is no longer in use.


W.A.E. stands for "When Actually Employed". Just about every District had a few W.A.E.'s. They entered as grade 5's and moved up in grades.

They assist regular Deputies in transporting prisoners, Court and serving process in the Districts. They were hired by District Marshals with the approval of headquarters. They are suppose to have 240 hours of Law Enforcement training before they came to work. Such as a Law Enforcement academy of some kind.

Has not been in use since 1995.



Term Deputies were appointed for one (1) year at a time. They were appointed for the Anti Air Piracy Program in 1970 thru 1972.

These Deputies were known as "Sky Marshals" . The United States Marshal Service had approximately 250 Term Deputies assigned to 33 airports across the United States. However these Deputies did not fly.

At the end of the Anti Air Piracy program most of the Term Deputies were changed over to regulars Deputies. Term Deputies did not have to take a Civil Service Test.

Term Deputies position was not charged against the District assigned Deputies jobs. They were extra deputies in the District.

Not used any more.


Was appointed by the Marshal for a Territory or District from 1779 - 1870. They took the Census, But had no other law enforcement responsibility. Also, this title was recently used by the Marshal assigned to the Superior Court in Washington, DC. until 1989, when he became a full United States Marshal.

Not used any more.


Known to have been used in China. There is a badge in the United States Marshal badge collection with that title on it.   

Not used any more.


They were volunteer man hunters paid by the day or mile according to James D. Horan, "Authentic Wild West" (1980). Under law Deputy U.S. Marshals can summons person or persons to be his posse to hunt criminals. In the old days, this law was used all the time.

Not used any more.