Thursday, October 29, 2009

More (Mis)Use of Heraldry in the USA

The headline read "Mysterious Private Security Firm Gets Control Of Empty Jail In Small Montana Town".

The story in the on-line newspaper TPMMuckraker and several other websites was about a private security company calling itself the American Police Force taking over an empty jail in the small Montana town of Hardin, with plans to run the jail and build a proposed military and law enforcement training center on the property. Under a ten-year contract with the city, the APF will give sniper training and teach "DNA analysis" skills. (Mind you, the United States does not have an "American Police Force"; the closest to any official organization that might be considered to be such would be the Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with perhaps the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and more recently, the Department of Homeland Security. All of which have their own coats of arms.)

What does all this have to do with the use, or misuse, of heraldry in the USofA? Well, just take a look at the APF’s coat of arms, from one of its vehicles.

Anyone here recognize the coat of arms of Serbia? Right down to the gold fleurs-de-lis by the eagle's talons? Yes, I thought you might. (For those that don’t, see them on the Heraldry of the World website at: Why use the arms of a sovereign nation for its logo? I have no idea. It seems like a remarkably poor idea to me, but then, how many people can recognize the arms and identify the nation to which they belong? In this country, alas, not that many.

This is not to say that the company is at all consistent in its symbology. This image can be found on their website (where they call themselves the American Private Police Force) at: (A word of warning: if you go to the site, you will get to listen to Ravel’s Bolero the entire time you’re there.) As you can see, this logo is similar to the one on their vehicles in Hardin, but lacks the charges on the shield. (And what is the eagle is carrying in its sinister claw? A cattle prod? To be used, I would have to assume, in "enhanced interrogation techniques"? Or is it "just" a sceptre?)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Yet Another Logo Supplants a Coat of Arms

There’s been a bit of a discussion going on at the rec.heraldry on-line newsgroup sparked by an October 7, 2009 article in The Telegraph about the UK Supreme Court’s new "emblem" which they propose to use instead of the Royal Coat of Arms. The article can be found at:

A copy of the new emblem and its meaning can be found on the website of the Supreme Court at:

Now, that said, it’s not something that has just now been sprung on an unsuspecting public, though it not slated to be used until this month. Indeed, notice that the emblem had been approved for the Supreme Court by the Queen and placed on record at the College of Arms in London had appeared in the newsletter of the College of Arms in December 2008. A copy of that newsletter may be found on the College’s website at:

But many heraldry enthusiasts decry the substitution of modern logos in the place of coats of arms. There is an article in Ireland’s Genealogical Gazette from February 2009 at discussing the new Supreme Court emblem and comparing it to the logo of the Irish Courts Service, and then lamenting, as I have done before in this blog (click the keyword "logos" near the bottom of the left-hand column for prior posts here on this topic), the adoption of commercial logos over the use of already-existing coats of arms and/or heraldic badges.

In this particular instance, while I applaud the incorporation of symbols to represent the often-overlooked (at least symbolically) stepchildren of the UK, Wales and Northern Ireland, it seems a shame to me that they felt that the Royal Arms, which have served so well as a symbol in so many other courts in the UK, could not be used here, and that they instead chose this somewhat abstract logo which by itself says nothing of the organization by which it will be used.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More Heraldry ... in Las Vegas, Part 4 of 4

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve found heraldry in some odd places, places I never really expected to find a coat of arms, and yet, there they were. But these coats of arms pretty much take the cake for the "odd or unexpected place" category. We were finishing up dinner at the buffet in the Bellagio hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, and I needed to use the restroom. So off I went, a man on a mission.

And immediately after went back to our table, asked my wife to borrow her camera (because I wasn’t going to be taking any pictures, and had left mine back at our hotel), and headed right back to the restoom. Because, by golly, right there in the men’s room was heraldry! Just inside the entrance were four framed prints of sailing ships, each with a coat of arms (well, one of them might not really be considered to be armory, but still, it’s on an escutcheon). So I tried not to block the traffic in and out too much as I took photographs of the prints and then closeups of the shields on each of them. And here’s the combined results.

Heraldry. It’s insidious. It can be found anywhere. And everywhere. Including, as I found out, in the men’s room at the buffet in the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Monday, October 19, 2009

More Heraldry ... in Las Vegas, Part 3 of 4

We continued to find serendipitous heraldry later that weekend, as the seven of us went out to eat at the buffet at the Bellagio (just across Flamingo Road from Caesar’s Palace). I’d seen some pretty good reviews of the buffet at the Bellagio - all of which it more than lived up to - and so we all met there and sat down to a really great feast.

The room was decorated with various framed prints. And I’m sitting there at the table and looking around occasionally (when I wasn’t either shoveling food in or talking with one relative or another), and by golly! There on the wall was, I thought sure, some more heraldry. So I borrowed my wife’s camera (silly me! I’d left mine at the hotel. I wasn’t going to be taking any pictures at dinner. Right?), and walked over, and sure enough, there was a framed print of the Calabria area of Italy, with not one, but three, coats of arms in the upper left-hand corner.

I guess I’m just going to have to start carrying my camera around with me all the time, because apparently you just never know when you might run across another coat of arms!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Heraldry in the News!

"The Office of the Chief Herald is currently not accepting new applications for grants or confirmations or arms owing to the retirement of the Chief Herald. The application process will resume when a new appointment has been made."  So says an announcement on the website of the National Library of Ireland (of which the Office of the Chief Herald is a part).

The full announcement can be found on the website of the National Library at:

Heraldry in the News!

The town of Thorsby, Alabama, had the opportunity yesterday (Saturday) to participate in an international heraldic endeavor -- to vote on a design for a coat of arms for the city.  Several designs were submitted by the Swedish Heraldry Association, which had held a contest to design arms for Thorsby after seeing an image from the mayor's business card in a Swedish newspaper.

The full story - with images of four of the submitted designs - can be found in the on-line pages of the Clanton Advertiser, a local newspaper, at:

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's Official!

The XXIX International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences will be held in Stuttgart, Germany, September 12-17, 2010. The theme for next year's Congress is "Identity in Genealogy and Heraldry".

The official website for the XXIX Congress is now up and running. You can find it on the web at: Information on the Congress is available there in German, English, and French; just click on the appropriate flag on the right (Germany, United Kingdom, France).

I guess that now that the website is up, I'll have to start getting serious about making my plans to attend.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More Heraldry ... in Las Vegas, Part 2 of 4

Continuing on our odyssey around Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, we found ... more heraldry! This in addition to all of the statues, etc. placed around the pool and various fountains inside and outside of what have become heraldic charges: dolphins and seahorses, winged lions and winged sea-lions and Grecian sphinxes.

This time, the heraldry was outside, in the valet parking area. (I’ve come to love the valet parking at the hotels in Las Vegas. It’s free. Just tip the guy who brings your car to you a couple of dollars, and you’re good to go!) Anyway, we’d gone out front of Caesar’s (to see more statues, don’t you know), and there, under the watchful eye of Caesar himself (looking like he’s saying, "You left your car parked over there.") ...

was another nice-looking bit of heraldry, this time on a sleek, black, convertible Ferrari. The arms, of course, are the logo of the Ferrari company, placed prominently on the sides of the car just in front of the doors. (And, of course, you can see the horse forceny in the center of the back of the car, too.)

Now, that would be a fun piece of heraldry to own!

Monday, October 12, 2009

More Heraldry ... in Las Vegas, Part 1 of 4

I had the opportunity early last week to get back out to America’s "Sin City", Las Vegas, Nevada, for a couple of days. (Now, before you get all excited for me, let me tell you, as my wife often repeats, "This isn’t the fun Vegas; this is the dusty city in the middle of the desert Vegas" where my parents - and my next-to-youngest son and his wife and new daughter - live. So we were visiting family, not partying and gambling our brains out.)
Still, we did manage to get out to the Strip to visit a couple of the major hotels out there. Which visit proved to me once again that you can find heraldry anywhere and everywhere.

For example, we were wandering around in Caesar’s Palace, just looking to see what we could see. We’d gone there because Jo Ann wanted to see some of the statuary that they’ve put up, and there was plenty of that. But as we wandered down this hall and up that way, we ran across the Cartier jewelry store. That by itself wasn’t particularly noteworthy (especially since they weren’t open yet), but on either side of their entrance was a coat of arms: to the left, Portugal; and to the right, Spain. Both done in gold on black veined marble, and even hatched (partially, anyway).

Then, down another hall around the corner, a very nice window display with a tapestry containing ... you guessed it! More heraldry. This time, the arms of France (well, sort of, with only two fleurs-de-lys instead of the expected three) and Navarre.

Not at all the sort of thing I expected to find early on a weekend morning in a hotel/casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Heraldry, it’s everywhere!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Trump Arms Apparently Trumped

Alas, the arms of the on-line business school Trump University no longer appear on Trump University website ( This is what they used to look like:

It may be that, between Doonesbury making fun of the arms (below) and the troubles The Donald has had getting his big golf resort going in Scotland (with it’s own "coat of arms" – which the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms informed him he could not just use in Scotland!), it was decided that the TU coat of arms was just a little bit too pretentious. Or too big of a target.

In any case, all that appears as a logo now is a gold rampant lion. Adieu, fake coat of arms, adieu. Mayhaps you have gone on to a better place.
Not that I’m certain that an heraldic lion, even without the shield, is all that much of an improvement over the faux coat of arms. But what do I know?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Real Heraldry ...

... in Las Vegas? Out in the desert of southern Nevada? Really? Well, yes, but they actually copied it from Italy, so it’s not like it’s native heraldry.

Outside of Caesar’s Palace on the Las Vegas Strip (which consists of Las Vegas Boulevard South going south from where Sahara Avenue crosses it out past the city limits) they have, among other things, a working scaled-down (but still large) replica of the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy. Near that replica is another fountain, pictured here, also copied from the real one in Rome, with those really great dolphins (urinant, if we’re going to use the heraldic term for their posture) holding up that big escallop shell with their tails, atop which (the shell) is a triton pouring water out of a whelk shell. It’s a very exuberant composition all in all.

Nestled into the space between two of the dolphins’ bodies is an achievement of arms. Specifically, it’s the arms of Pope Urban VIII (born Maffeo Barberini), whose arms were Azure three bees or. Here, the arms are carved with the crossed keys of St. Peter issuing from behind the shield, each key encircled by a dolphin’s tail, and the shield itself surmounted by the papal tiara. You can see them better in the detail of the fountain here.

Who’d have thought that you would, or could, find a papal achievement of arms in the middle of the American southwest? I swear, I think it becomes truer every time I say it: "Heraldry is everywhere!"

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Finally! A Place for the Cabinet

I wrote some time back (on May 28, 2009) about having finished up a restoration project on a small half-circle display cabinet that we’d bought as a nice place to display some of the "crested china", small fairings with coats of arms on them, that we’d managed to purchase over the years. The trouble was, having finished the restoration/fix-up, I didn’t have a good place to put it. It didn’t fit decently anywhere in the heraldic library, and so it was going to take some thought - and probably some rearranging - to find a place for it.

Well, the other day we did it! It did take a little rearranging, but only a minimal amount. In the downstairs library (the heraldic library is upstairs) we have some cabinets that act as a long side table, with various prints and pictures and whatnot hanging on the wall above them. I took down one of the pictures we’d been talking about getting rid of for some time, moved the watercolor that was below it up, and Presto! Instant space for fairing cabinet.

So, as you can see in the picture above, I’ve got the cabinet set up, plugged in (for the LED lights mounted underneath its top), and filled it with fairings. (There aren’t as many fairings and they aren’t as crowded as it looks like in the photo; the back wall of the cabinet is a mirror. It’s the reflections of the fairings off the mirror that make it look so full.) The flash unit of the camera tends to wash out the display lights of the cabinet, but you can still get a good idea of what it looks like from the photograph. Standing alone in the ambient light with the LED lights on, it’s pretty spectacular - in a not overpowering way - in the library.

(I swear, the way my "hobby" is filling up the house, I feel like I’m Captain Kirk of Star Trek hollering down to engineering, "More heraldry, Scotty! I need more heraldry!")