On 26 April 1869, Secretary of the Navy A.E. Borie established the Navy Good Conduct Medal. It was issued to any recommended honorably discharged sailor based on their record of obedience, sobriety, and cleanliness. Proficiency in seamanship and gunnery also became a requirement.
The medal itself was a Maltese cross, made of nickel metal. The front displayed the words "FIDELITY - ZEAL - OBEDIENCE" in a circle, with "U.S.N." in the center of the disc. The reverse was blank except for the script-engraved name of the recipient. Over the years, this particular medal has picked up the nickname "Nickel Cross" among collectors and researchers.
The original medal was in effect from 1870 to 1884, at which time the current medal’s design emerged. This medal holds the place of America’s third oldest continuously presented award.