Monday, March 30, 2009

American “Royal” Arms

Or at least the arms of the man once called "The King of Hollywood", Clark Gable.
Born William Clark Gable on February 1, 1901, in Cadiz, Ohio, to William H. and Adeline (Hershelman) Gable. Died November 16, 1960 at age 59 in Los Angeles, California, shortly after finishing filming of The Misfits with Marilyn Monroe. Some have blamed his physically demanding role in that film, along with the numerous retakes required by Monroe’s flubs, for his death. On the other hand, he had been on a crash diet before filming began, and was down to 195 pounds (88kg) from 230 pounds (104.3kg). That, coupled with thirty years of a three-pack-a-day cigarette habit (not counting cigars and at least two pipes a day) and, until the late 1950s, heavy whiskey drinking, probably contributed as much or more to his death. He married five times (was divorced three), and it is generally acknowledged that his happiest marriage (until her death in a plane crash in 1942) was to Carole Lombard (shown above in the photo with Gable).
The "King of Hollywood" apparently used a coat of arms, if his bookplates are any evidence. The two shown here, one with his last wife Kathleen ("Kay") Williams Spreckles and the other with just his name, appear to be the arms assigned in Burke’s General Armory to: "Gabell (Winchester). Or, ten billets sa. [sable] four, three, two, and one. Crest–A boar’s head couped or."* (For those of you not that familiar with blazon, the specialized language of heraldry, it's a shield with a gold/yellow background, on which are ten black upright rectangles. The boar's head is also gold/yellow.)

Did he inherit these arms? I have found no evidence that he did, and suspect that he might very well have gotten them from one of the many (even then) "bucket-shop" heralds who pulled the arms of Gabell out of Burke and drew them up for Mr. Gable. (The lack of any motto on the motto ribbon beneath the shield also leads me to suspect bucket-shop heraldry.)

Still and all, bucket-shop or no, it’s nice to see people attempting to actually use heraldry in some way, and especially something as classic as on a bookplate.

* As noted in the post below about Ernst Stavro Blofeld, boar’s heads are couped differently in England than they are in Scotland. The crest on the Gable bookplates is couped in "Scottish fashion."


  1. Thought you might also be interested in my bookplate blog Http://
    The original article about Clark Gable was posted there on 11/30/2008
    Lew Jaffe

  2. Indeed! I found the bookplates for General George McClellan, Lord Mountbatten of Burma, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of much interest.


  3. This reminds me of a lecture I heard last February at HisGen in Boston by their heraldry specialist Christopher Carter Lee. I once thought it was harder for people with backgrounds in Eastern Europe to prove their family coat of arms, but it turned out that so many of the American people with English and Irish backgrounds just grabbed onto families with the same names in published books and rolls of arms. In reality, many of these, especially the ones wealthy Bostonians and New Englanders took in the 1800s, were falsified! This one seems to fit the same bill.