Monday, May 31, 2010

U.S. Air Force Heraldry

Have you ever wanted to know a little bit about the squadron and group emblems, the “heraldry,” of the U.S. Air Force? How they are designed, or what meanings they attribute to the various tinctures? A Guide to Air Force Heraldry by William M. Russell, revised in 1996 by Col. Alan H. Clair and Julian C. Godwin of AFHRA, the Air Force Historical Research Agency, can be read, and downloaded, on-line at This little booklet (29 pages) is a decent introduction to USAF heraldry, though some of it gets a little technical at times. (Well, to be honest, it’s not really designed for the general reader, with chapters like “Processing Air Force Emblems.”)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Herald in the News (Again)!

I'd posted on May 13, 2010, about an article I'd run across that was partly about our friend, Frederick Brownell, the former State Herald of South Africa who had designed the South African flag.  Well, yesterday I ran across another article that also talked about Fred, and about Enoch Sontonga, who wrote the South African national anthem, but which also had a most eye-catching picture with it.

The article was entitled "How to Fly the South African Football Flag" (, May 27, 2010) as part of South Africa hosting the World Cup and showed, as you can see, Helena Douglas, who had held a World Cup Awareness Day at the Cedarburg Primary School in Booysen Park on May 25.  As part of that day, she had her hair styled into a Mohawk with the South African flag stencilled onto it.

Now _that's_ what I call "flying the flag"!  (Hmm.  I wonder if I could get someone here in Dallas to do the Texas state flag like this on my coiffure.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

American Numismatics and Heraldry

The new design for the U.S. one cent coin, with a shield on the reverse (which I noted on this blog in a post on March 8, 2010), has sparked a bit of a discussion in the world of numismatics (coins and coin collecting).

There’s a nice article entitled “Shield Theme Can Guide Collectors” (on-line at which discusses in a bit of detail the history of the use of shields on American coinage over the years, going back at least as far as 1787.* The author, Ginger Rapsus of the Numismatic News, also discusses the different shield shapes that have been used, and mentions heraldry a couple of times.

All in all, I found it an interesting article that not only includes the usage of shields in United States coins but also the shields roots in the world of heraldry. It’s definitely worth a read.

* For my non-U.S. readers, yes, I know that 1787 isn’t really all that long ago to you. But as has been noted humorously before, “The difference between Europeans and Americans is that Europeans think a hundred miles is a long way, and Americans think a hundred years is a long time.”

Monday, May 24, 2010

How Do I ... ?

I'm really not very good at self-promotion.  I mean, what I do -- especially in heraldry, which is mostly research, write, and teach -- I think I do pretty well.  I've even come to terms with being able to tell people that I am an "internationally-known author and lecturer", which is in fact literally true, although it sounds perhaps a little conceited to my own ears.  (I mean, I grew up with myself.  I can probably remember every embarrassing moment in my life.  It's hard to set yourself up too high in those circumstances.)

And yet, for all this research and writing, creating and publishing, I'm not actually selling very much of my work.  I mean, I've got a website( where I advertise what I've written and note the presentations I've made and that I've been booked to make in the near future.  I've got separate pages (in the "Heraldic Arts" section of that website) for: the books, large and small, new and reprints that I sell, along with an heraldic bingo game; used books that I've found and can sell at a reasonable price (that is to say, a price I'd be willing to pay for them, if I didn't already have a copy in my own heraldic library); needlework charts of various heraldic charges; 15th and 16th Century heraldic clipart; and even, on the "Free Stuff" page, a monthly 3"x3" needlework chart of some heraldic charge or other.

But traffic at the website is flat.  I mean, there are people dropping in, looking at one or more pages,  and all that, but the overall figures of number of people coming by the website are not increasing, and those folks who do drop by seldom make a purchase.  I'm pretty sure that the traffic is not increasing because, as I said above, I'm not really very good at self-promotion.  And because I _really_ don't want to become one of those people who regularly pops into a relevant newsgroup or on-line forum and just advertises a website.  When I've published a new book or something similar that may be considered mildly newsworthy and appropriate to the group, I've gone ahead and posted a short blurb with some basic information about it and a link to the website for those who want to know more.  But I certainly try not to do it often enough to become a pest; that would be, I believe, entirely counter-productive.

So I find myself in a quandary.  I need to sell what I've got in order to show me that's it's worth my time and effort to research and write more.  (For example, if I only sell, say, half a dozen copies of one of the sets of period clipart, that's really not much incentive to spend the 80-120 hours of work that goes into creating a new set.)  But how do I promote what I think are useful and, I believe, educational items in ways that are not intrusive, not seen as "spam"?  How do I let people know that, for example, that I have for sale a book about the earliest (to my knowledge) American roll of arms, certainly the most complete review of it that's been made to this time, and the one to include line drawings of the arms as they appear in the roll (The Gore Roll,, without turning off the very people I'm trying to inform about it?

I don't know.  As I say, it's a quandary.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

More New Heraldic Coins

In a May 10, 2010 article in The Local: Sweden's News in English, entitled "Royal wedding stamps and coins to go on sale" (, the Riksbank announces two new coins commemorating the upcoming wedding of Crown Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling on June 19.

So why am I posting about this here?  Because the reverse sides of the 300 kronor silver coin and 4,000 kronor gold coin (both designed by Ernst Nordin) have the princess' coat of arms as their primary feature. (The small figures to either side of the crown surmounting the coat of arms are butterflies, "representing joy and happiness as well as the couple's future home, Haga Palace.")  And you know I've just got to write about it when I see yet another appropriate use of heraldry today.

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's NOT a Crest!

Martin Goldstraw over at the Cheshire Heraldry Blog had a recent post (May 9, 2010) wherein he notes his frustration at folks (in this particular instance, on Wikipedia) who persist in calling a coat of arms, or even worse, a complete achievement of arms, a "crest".  His post is well worth reading.  I recommend you drop on over there and give it a perusal.  It can be found at:–-it’s-not-a-crest/

Though I will note that I myself have to try (the emphasis here is on the word "try"; I don't always succeed), try not to get too worked up over the usage; it came to me that it might be a losing battle when I discovered that the venerable old newspaper, The Times of London, which certainly ought to know better, was using "crest" instead of "arms" or "coat of arms".  On the plus side, I don't recall that they called it a "family crest", but then again, my memory may not be all that it used to be.  ("You know, they say the mind is the second thing to go."  "What's the first?"  "Umm, I forget.")

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Herald in the News!

I ran across an article about my friend Fred the other day. Jo Ann and I had first met Fred at the International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences in Ottawa in 1996, and have had the pleasure of seeing him again at the Congresses in Dublin (2002) and Quebec (2008, whence the picture below was taken).

For those of you who haven’t had the chance to meet him yet, Frederick G. Brownell is the former State Herald of South Africa (he still held that office in 1996), and designed the flags of South Africa and of Namibia. And a really likeable, unpretentious and unassuming man, to boot.

Anyway, as I say, I ran across an article in the Daily Dispatch Online, dated April 28, 2010, that talked about the Eastern Cape region of South Africa and two of its most famous residents: Enoch Sontonga, who wrote South Africa’s national anthem; and Frederick Brownell, who designed South Africa’s flag. (Which the article says is the third best-known flag in the world.) The full article can be found on-line at:

Anyway, it was a real treat to find an article praising an accomplished herald, an honored vexillologist, and a man I feel privileged to be on a first-name basis with. Way to go, Fred!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Canadian Heraldry by a Former American

In an Inside Toronto article on April 24, 2010, Canadian resident (formerly of New York) Donald Black was featured for his carved wooden coats of arms, including a photograph of one that he did last year for Canadian Governor General Michaëlle Jean.  The full article can be found on-line at:

His three-dimensional heraldic works are done in clear pine and poplar with an X-Acto knife, take about 80-100 hours to complete, and the finished works are about four feet by three feet.

As you can see from the photograph of his depiction of the Governor General's arms above, he does some really nice work!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

People Creating Heraldry

A recent (April 21, 2010) post on Leeds Tapestry* (, discusses one panel (of sixteen) of a larger community project to which several artists are contributing.  The panel that is the subject of the April 21 post is the achievement of arms of the city of Leeds, Yorkshire, England.

The three owls were embroidered by Audrey Gabbitas in a variety of techniques: the wings are canvaswork; the bodies hand embroidered and padded; the feet made of wire and wrapped with perle thread; and the crowns are gold leather. The lamb and mullets (stars) were done by Colleen Nicoll; the helmet and mantling by Anne Darch were all appliqued. Kate Russell and Sue Hodgson hand embroidered the motto scroll.

Isn't it great to see people involved in creating heraldry?  Be sure to drop by Leeds Tapestry for a greater discussion of the arms and the origins of the various elements which make it up.

*Leeds Tapestry documents a community embroidery conceived by Kate Russell to celebrate the life and times of this West Yorkshire city at the millennium. The sixteen completed panels are on display at the Central Library in Leeds.

Monday, May 3, 2010

You Can Find Heraldry Anywhere!

It’s always interesting to me to see how different artists will incorporate heraldry into a design, for whatever purpose. In a recent foray to an antique mall, I ran across a book whose cover incorporated some heraldry (Russian), with some twists to it (the two faces instead of the escutcheon of St. George slaying the dragon, and the eagle’s legs turned into human arms, one holding a pistol and the other a hand grenade, instead of the more usual scepter and orb).

The novel, Prelude to Terror by Helen MacInnes, is a late (1978; she began publishing back in 1941, during WWII) work of hers which focuses on the money trail leading from the old enemies of the west (Nazi Germany, and later the Soviet Union and its satellite nations) to the new enemies of the west, international terrorists. I don’t care so much about that part of it - it seems to be yet another entry in the genre which can be broadly defined as the “spy thriller” - but the use of the heraldry on the cover was what really caught my eye, and which I thought was worth sharing with you.

And that use, found in an antique mall, incidentally served to further support a long-standing belief of mine, which is that "You can find heraldry anywhere."