Sunday, July 31, 2011

When I Said ..., I Really Didn't Mean ....

Oh, dear.  I've often said that "you can find heraldry everywhere," but "everywhere" really doesn't, to my mind, involve extraterrestrials or .  Not everyone, apparently, would limit the search in that way.

In an article in The Sun on June 22, 2011 (, a quasi-heraldic crop circle that some say resembles an ancient coat of arms appeared overnight in a field. The crop circle was photographed at West Woods, near Marlborough, Wiltshire, by crop circle expert Lucy Pringle.  I am not at all certain where Ms. Pringle's expertise comes from, or even which side of the "crop circles are made by extraterrestrials" or "crop circles are made by human hoaxers" she falls.  (There are some nice articles about crop circles over at the Skeptical Inquirer, including this one:

Ms. Pringle, of Petersfield, Hants, said: "This interesting design measures approximately 90 feet in diameter. It has a resemblance to a Cross Clechee with arms spreading out gradually from the centre. This cross denotes knowledge, guardianship, and dominion."  (Okay, now I know she's getting off into the realm of fiction.  As one source has noted, "Scholars vary in the their opinions concerning the reliability of any ‘commonly held’ historic meanings for coats of arms and crests." In my own researches, I have found varied, sometimes mutually exclusive, "meanings" for a charge.  I mean, how can one charge mean both "perseverance" and "sloth" at the same time?  The owner of the coat of arms works very hard at being lazy? No.  In fact, there are no generally accepted meanings of the tinctures and charges in heraldry.)

Ms. Pringle goes on to state that "Similar to the Cross Toulouse, it is assumed that the bearer of this cross was a crusader from the area of Toulouse."  (It is "assumed," but on what basis?  I could assume - I don't, but I could - that it was made by extraterrestrial Knights Templar from a planet orbiting the star Betelgeuse, but I have absolutely no evidence with which to support that assumption. So what then makes her assumption any more likely than the one I posit as an example?)

And just how similar is the cross in this field to a cross of Toulouse, anyway?  The image below is a cross of Toulouse.  Compare it to the crop circle above, and decide for yourself how "similar," or not, it the two are.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Another U.S. Arms-Like Logo

In a brief story posted July 29, 2011 on the Life magazine pictures of the day site, there was notice that Bob Bradley had been fired as the head coach of American men's national soccer team. (Bradley had taken the team to the round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup, not bad for a nation that really doesn't play "futbol" very much.) Prominent on his jacket in the photo there,, was the coat of arms-like logo of the soccer team; something that I, not being very much of a sports fan, hadn’t seen before.
Even though the tinctures have been rearranged (blue and white stripes where the national arms of the United States are white and red, and with red in chief instead of a blue chief), the logo certainly does say “USA” pretty definitively, even without the prominent “US” and the soccer ball on the fess.

My attempt at a blazon (a verbal description of a coat of arms, which would allow someone else to reproduce the image) would be: Per fess Gules and paly of eleven Azure and Argent, on a fess Argent a soccer ball soaring toward sinister chief Proper issuing towards dexter base eight piles Azure between the letters U and S Gules, in chief three mullets gyronny of ten Azure and Argent.

“The fewer Words you make use of in Blazoning a Coat, the better it is Blazon’d.” (Samuel Kent, The Banner Display’d: or, An Abridgment of Guillim, 1726, Vol. 1, p. 7)

Well, okay then. I’m guessing, given the number of words that I had to use, that either I am not very good at blazoning (a condition I don’t think is a likely possibility, even though I do say so myself), or the logo here is not very good heraldry (more likely). But most of you probably already knew that.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Story Behind an English University's Coat of Arms

I run across some of the most interesting items of heraldry sometimes. Most recently, it was a coat of arms in a series entitled “100 Objects from Special Collections at the University of Bradford,” specifically number 23: “Give Invention Light: the University of Bradford Coat of Arms” which was posted on July 27, 2011.

The University of Bradford is a university in Bradford (I know!  Who'd have thought it?), West Yorkshire, England. Formed from a technical college in 1966, the University received its grant of arms at that time.

As is often the case in heraldry, the University’s coat of arms is just teeming with meaning. Fortunately, here we can find out what each element means. (This is not often the case. And those books and websites which purport to tell you the “meanings” of the colors and lines of division and charges on coats of arms are basically making it all up. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s true.) Every feature of the University’s heraldry makes a point about its Yorkshire location or its technological emphasis at the time the design was created. The University’s continued emphasis on the practical application of knowledge makes the original meanings appropriate today.

The elements on the shield, crest, supporters, and motto all have special meaning for the University, as you can learn from the web page at

There’s even a short video on that page that goes through the various elements and their meanings to the University, as well as a link to a Word document that describes not only the meanings of the elements in the University’s arms, but also a bit of background about the Bradford city coat of arms, as well.

Elements from the University’s coat of arms (the book and the hunting horns) have also been incorporated into the University’s more recent non-heraldic logo.

Heraldry in High Point, North Carolina, Part 4

Across the street from the old U.S. Post Office building is another Art Deco building, the Guilford County Courthouse. It, too, is now commercial space, but as an historic building, the city has placed a plaque on it.

Just above that plaque is another marker which includes the Guilford County, North Carolina coat of arms. The arms themselves practically shout “designed by the English College of Arms.”

The arms might be blazoned as: Azure a lion passant or, in chief a hand proper maintaining a Cross Calvary bendwise sinister gules between two well heads and in base a buck’s head cabossed or. Crest: Issuant from a crest coronet or a hand proper maintaining a Cross Calvary gules. Supporters: D: A mastiff proper. S: A buck or.

A similar marker (in bronze, it looks like) appears on another historic building further north on Main Street.

The Guilford County website in its discussion of the coat of arms on its seal ( calls the cross a “Passion Cross,” but Parker in his Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry gives the term “Cross Calvary” or sometimes Holy cross for a Latin cross raised upon three steps, and notes that “The Passion Cross ... resembles the true Latin cross in form, but seldom occurs except when it is raised on three steps, and it is then called a Cross Calvary.” The website goes on to note:

“In July, 1981, the Board of County Commissioners adopted the official seal for Guilford County. The seal was a bicentennial gift to the County from Colonel James G. W. MacLamroc, County Historian.

The elements of the coat-of-arms come from the arms of Dr. David Caldwell, prominent educator, minister, physician, statesman and patriot; General Nathanael Greene, commander of colonial troops at the Revolutionary Battle of Guilford Courthouse and namesake of the county seat of Greensboro; and the first and second Earls of Guilford, for whom the County was named.

From the Caldwell arms come the gripped Passion Cross in the crest and on the shield [Burke’s General Armory blazons it a “cross calvary”], and the well heads [which Burke blazons the “tops of wells masoned”] of the shield. From the Greene arms come the buck of the supporters and the buck's head on the shield. From the Guilford arms come the lion of the shield, the ancient crown of the crest, and the mastiff of the supporters.

The motto Courage and Faith was felt to be characteristic of the County's first settlers: the English and Welsh Quakers on the west and south, the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians in the center, and the German Calvinists and Lutherans on the east.

The coat-of-arms/seal was devised by the York Herald[*] of the Royal College of Arms, London, England, under the direction of Colonel MacLamroc.”

* At that time, Sir Conrad Swan, later Garter Principal King of Arms.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

An Example, of a Kind

Every once in a while in my researches I’ll run across an example of particularly poor heraldic design. Many times when I do, I end up asking myself that old question, “Why is there such a difference between something you will always remember, and something you will never forget?” (That, and "What were they thinking?!")

In this unforgettable instance, the heraldry in question was the coat of arms for West Virginia University’s first residential college Lincoln Hall, which opened back in 2006. The full article regarding the Hall, its mission and its coat of arms can be found on-line at:

My attempt at blazoning this coat of arms resulted in this: Quarterly Argent and Argent; 1st, The tower of West Virginia University’s Woodburn Hall; 2nd, An open book almost bendwise sinister surmounted by a closed scroll bendwise sinister; 3rd, A lion rampant Gray gorged of a coronet Or; 4th, A landscape consisting of some mountains, a river, and some wooded hills; all surmounted by a fillet cross and within a bordurelet Or, on a chief Gray in chief the words West Virginia University Or, in base the words Lincoln Hall Argent and the University’s WV logo Or, within a bordurelet Or.

“Members of the residential college will develop a sense of belonging by participating in a wide range of social and cultural enrichment activities " and identifying with a rich array of traditions, ranging from college clubs and student hall council to college teas and a coat of arms, which was unveiled during Wednesday's event. The coat of arms was developed by resident faculty leaders with input from other WVU administrators.”

Not, you will notice, by or with input from anyone who knows the first thing about heraldry. Not by or with input from anyone with any knowledge at all of heraldic design. Nope. “Resident faculty leaders with input from other WVU administrators.”

The professor introducing the coat of arms “noted that the crest features the well-known image of the clock tower that graces the top of one of WVU's most recognized and historic campus buildings, Woodburn Hall; a book and diploma to reflect a student's academic commitment and goal of graduating; hills and valleys to represent West Virginia's landscape; and a lion from the [U.S. President Abraham] Lincoln family crest.”

I haven’t found anywhere that the family of President Lincoln had or used a coat of arms. Burke’s General Armory has nine different coats of arms for Lincoln/Lincolne, one of which is close to the third quarter here: Argent a lion rampant sable ducally gorged or (for Lincolne, but no county or other identifying information is given).

Oh, well, I suppose I should be grateful that they didn’t call a coat of arms a “crest.” Oh, wait. They did. Twice!  (Sound of head banging against keyboard.)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Heraldry in High Point, North Carolina, Part 3

Strolling a few blocks south down Main Street from the Veterans Memorial, there’s a great Art Deco building that used to be the United States Post Office. Built in 1932, it’s now commercial space, but in addition to many of its Art Deco features (for those of you who really like that style), there are several eagles over the doorways and some of the windows with an odd variation of the arms of the United States.

(Purists among you may also note that the eagle is grasping three arrows in each of its talons, unlike the “official” eagle supporter of the arms of the U.S., where it is grasping an olive branch in its dexter talon and thirteen arrows in its sinister talon.)

The arms of the U.S. are Paly of thirteen argent and gules, a chief azure. Here, the chief has been rounded (enarched) to base, and a circle of thirteen stars has been placed on it, mimicking the canton of the earliest official U.S. flag, with its circle of thirteen stars.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Heraldry Found in High Point, North Carolina, Part 2

The next bit of heraldry I ran into was actually several bits of heraldry. On Main Street, directly across from the train station, is the High Point Veterans Memorial, in memory of those who served in the U.S. armed forces from World War I through the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 On the face of the memorial are the insignia of the five branches of the military service: Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. As you can see from the close ups below, only the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard insignia use a “real” coat of arms on them.

The Army and Coast Guard use the arms of the United States, Paly of thirteen argent and gules, a chief azure, while U.S. Air Force has its own coat of arms consisting of a bleu celeste field charged with a gold thunderbolt and a white base nebuly (the thunderbolt flying above the clouds, as it were; a color version of the USAF arms is below).
What a great display of heraldry!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Uproar in Ghana Over Abuse Of Coat Of Arms

In some recent news stories (including this one from June 1, 2011 at members of Ghana’s Parliament have expressed concern over the misuse of the country's coat of arms and called on the government to take action to safeguard the sanctity of the national emblem.

The MPs were contributing to the ''wanton abuse of Ghana’s Coat of Arms'' said the MP for Amenfi East. In his statement, he described the coat of arms as a ''symbol of precious official and executive value and that nothing should be done to cheapen its importance as a special national heraldic device.'' He noted that although the Flag and Arms Protection Act makes it an offense to use the national arms without license, one often sees the national coat of arms on vehicles and motorbikes as well as T-shirts in addition to other items sold on the internet. He called on the security agencies to stop this illegal use of the country’s coat of arms.

The MP for Sekondi described the coat of arms as an embodiment of the nation which should not be used carelessly and called on the Minister for Justice and Attorney General and the Minister for Interior to take action and restrict its use.
The coat of arms of Ghana, designed by Amon Kotei, was introduced on March 4, 1957 by Queen Elizabeth II.

And in a related article from June 2 (on-line at:

A number of residents in the Brong-Ahafo region have added their voices to the call by MPs to regulate the use of state emblems and the Ghana coat of arms. Only the President and a few state institutions as well as some personalities have the authority to use these emblems but many people are using the national emblems without any right to do so. The residents said that the appropriate authorities should immediately begin an educational campaign to educate the public to appreciate the appropriate use of national emblems and the coat of arms. They argue that just as no one can legitimately wear a police uniform or cassock unless they have satisfied certain requirements, no one should use the national coat of arms without approval.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Heraldry Found in High Point, North Carolina, Part 1 (of 8)

This seems to be a summer with a lot of traveling for me. In early June, we went to Las Vegas, Nevada to visit with family, and I’ve shared with you a little heraldry, both real and not so much, that we saw there.

Then later in June I traveled to High Point, North Carolina to attend a weekend conference. And by the time you read this, I should have already returned from another conference in Lufkin, Texas, where I hope to prove once again that “you can find heraldry everywhere!”

But to get back to High Point. I had no idea that this little town in North Carolina would be such a hotbed of heraldic display. Taking a little time to wander about downtown with my camera, I found some real heraldry, some “funky” heraldry (that was based on real coats of arms, but which had been modified in one way or another), some totally made up heraldry, and a little non-heraldry, all of which I will share with you over the next several posts.

As a point of historical interest, High Point is named for the geographic “high point,” the greatest elevation between Goldsboro and Charlotte, NC (939 ft./286 m above sea level), identified by the survey crew for the NC railroad in about 1849. The elevation became the city namesake on the granting of a city charter on May 26, 1859.

The first coat of arms I noticed was on a building directly across the street from the hotel where I was staying. Up near the top of the building (which from the decorative elements I suspect used to be a bank) was the heraldic display below.

It’s a depiction of the reverse of a U.S. $20 gold piece, with the arms of the United States (Paly of thirteen argent and gules, a chief azure) on the breast of the eagle, with the other accouterments of the achievement of the U.S. arms about it. (Other panels had depictions of the obverse of the $20 gold piece on them, hence my thinking it maybe used to be a bank.)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Marshall (Texas) Arms

In my job as a legal secretary (I mean, you don't think I can pay my mortgage with what I make as an academic herald, now, do you?) I sometimes have letters come across my desk that have a letterhead with a coat of arms or heraldic-type logo on them.  One that stopped for a moment on my desk a little while ago was a letter from a small college out in the east Texas town of Marshall.  (It's about 150 miles to the east of where I work in Dallas, just a little this side of the Louisiana border.)

Wiley College, as its website notes, was founded in 1873 by the Freedman's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church to provide education to the "newly freed men" and preparing them for a new life. The College is now affiliated with the United Methodist Church.  Though open to everyone, it has served African-Americans and other minorities.  Initially, Wiley College's focus was mainly on training teachers for black elementary and secondary schools. It has since grown from a vocational college to an institution that awards an associate's degree and bachelor's degrees in 17 disciplines.

Wiley College's 1935 Debate Team was the subject of the 2007 movie, The Great Debaters, starring Denzel Washington and Forrest Whittaker.

Wiley College uses the above seal, with a coat of arms as its centerpiece.  The arms are not atypical for academic heraldry, featuring an open book on the shield, with a sun rising from behind the shield substituting for a crest.  I can't quite make out the motto on the scroll beneath the shield - all of the images I have been able to find of the seal are pretty small - but it looks like "Artes Sciencia" (Arts, Science), but I cannot quite make out the third word.  The date in the surrounding circle is, of course, the date of the foundation of the College, 1873.  It's not a bad use of a coat of arms, and is far better than some academic healdry that I've seen in its simplicity and clear symbolism.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Another Coat of Arms in Las Vegas

The other coat of arms, and this one really is a coat of arms, that we ran across in our recent trip to Las Vegas was actually found in the "fun" Las Vegas.  It was a coat carved into the facade of The Venetian hotel and casino in the heart of "The Strip" (that portion of Las Vegas Boulevard south of Sahara Avenue, where most of the really big hotel-casinos are located).

Since there is no hatching on the carving, it's difficult to know who's arms these are.  For a shield that is bendy, there are, for example, some 35 possibilities in Popoff's Répertoire d'héraldique italienne I, Florence 1302-1700 alone.  Identification would depend entirely upon what the tinctures are.  And, of course, the arms here are presumably Venetian, not Florentine.

It would be nice to think, though, that they are the canting arms of Bandini. But that's just because I have a soft spot for canting arms.  (Ah, I'm such a romantic when it comes to heraldry!)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Heraldry Seen on a Recent Trip

I suppose a more accurate title would be "Heraldry seen while I was on a recent trip," since it was Jo Ann and I who were on the trip, and not the heraldry.  But be that as it may ...

We had gone to spend a few days in Las Vegas, Nevada,* for attend my father's 85th birthday dinner and party.  (My parents have lived in southern Nevada since 1963 and in Las Vegas proper since 1966, so they've been there for a while.)  Since we flew in on a Tuesday and out again on that Friday, with finalizing the preparations for the dinner and party and visiting with all the family that came in for the occasion and all that goes with that, there wasn't a lot of time for sightseeing or cruising around looking for heraldry.

We did, however, run across this little sign containing what might loosely be termed a coat of arms for SouthWest Air Conditioning, Inc. as we were driving down one of the major roads in Vegas (double-checking, it was South Valley View Boulevard).  (I will apologize for the quality of the photo, but considering it was taken at a distance through the windscreen of a moving car, the fact that Jo Ann was able to capture it at all I find remarkable.  I love having a wife who is willing to go out of her way to try to get pictures of heraldry and coats of arms-like logos for me!)

I suppose it would be blazoned something along the lines of: Gules the letters S and W conjoined in bend sable fimbriated between two bendlets (or ribbands) argent.  I did enjoy their tie-in to heraldry and what it might stand for in the phrase "Shield of Quality" on the sign.

Once again, though, it just goes to show you, that you can find heraldry (and pseudo-heraldry) everywhere!

* As Jo Ann often likes to note to her co-workers when they get excited when she tells them that she's going on a trip to Las Vegas, "No, we're not going to the fun Vegas; we're going to the dusty little desert town Vegas where the ordinary people live who provide all of the support services for the fun Vegas."

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Date-Appropriate Item?

This being, now, the 4th of July, the day on which the United States celebrates its declaration of independence from Great Britain, I ran across an item a little while ago that I thought had a (tenuous) relationship to the Second Amended of the Constitution of the United States.

That amendments says, in part: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."  The two words that we keep hearing in any discussion of this amendment are "bear arms."

Which, English being the kind of language that it is, sounds just like "bare arms."  And that leads us to this photograph of a man who bears arms on his bare arm.

There was an article about the ups and downs in the life of Chris Herren, a phenomenal basketball player but one who, at least for a while, let drug use take over his life.  (You can read the whole article at  But the part that caught my attention was the paragraph that talked a little about his general background in Fall River, Massachusetts where he grew up, and "the tattoo of his family's coat of arms" that he had done on his right arm.

Now, I'm not going to get into whether or not it's really his family's coat of arms, or something that belongs to someone who simply shares a surname with him.  But you have to admire someone who "bears arms" on his "bare arm," don't you?  And isn't that an appropriate topic for a nation's "independence day"?