Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tracking Down a Coat of Arms ...

... and finding a bucket shop.

A recent correspondent enlisted my aid in trying to track down the origin of a coat of arms in an old family history book, The Crum Family in America, following a line of the family descended from a pair of brothers who emigrated from what is now Germany to Virginia in 1741.

The book illustrated the following coat of arms as belonging to the family.

My correspondent noted some unusual features in the arms, and asked my assistance in understanding the arms and trying to determine their origin.  The features which struck him as unusual were the arms of the cross ending in eagle's heads, which he had not seen anywhere else; the fact that the helm was facing forward rather than to dexter or sinister; and the armored boot as the crest.

After doing some research in some of the general and German armorials here, I responded as follows:

The cross terminating in eagle's heads is something that I've not found, either, though it is reminiscent of a "cross gringoly," a cross with each arm ending in two serpent's heads.  But even the cross gringoly is found but rarely; this variant is thus even more rare.

The barred helm being face on is actually not all that rare in German heraldry, though even there facing slightly to dexter or to sinister is more common.  Still, in my copy of Siebmacher's Wappenbuch von 1605, on the pages where each row of arms contains five shields, the helm atop the center shield in each row faces forward, while the two on the left and two on the right face in toward the center.  So it's not entirely unexpected in German heraldry to have a single shield with the helm facing forward.

The crest is unusual, in that for a boot (even an armored boot) you would normally expect it to be right side up, or "sole down".  I have seen crests of entire legs (armored and unarmored) which are upside-down (or "foot up"), but for a boot or a lower leg only, this position is very unusual.

With all that as introduction, what I suspect happened is that the author of the book found some what we call "bucket shop heraldist," someone who looks up someone's "family coat of arms" (or worse, "family crest") in their database and just spits one out, whether or not their customer is related to the original bearer of the arms or not and, if not finding an exact match in the database, grabs one from a similar surname - sometimes with modifications, sometimes without - and offers that up as the "family coat of arms" of X family.

This is not a new phenomenon; I have seen where one such heraldist in early 18th Century Boston gave his customer, surnamed Scolly, the arms of a family named Scholar.

What I think happened here is that, not finding a coat of arms for Crum, someone modified the arms and crest of a family named Crümmel de Roiff of Westphalia (listed in Rietstap's Armorial Général), whose arms are blazoned Argent a cross gringoly gules, and whose crest is A boot gules, spurred argent.  [Below is a .jpg of Crümmel de Roiff's arms taken from Rolland and Rolland's Illustrations to the Armorial Général.]  They then changed the serpent's heads to eagle's heads on the cross (or they didn't know that they were supposed to be serpent's heads, and drew them as eagle's heads), and (probably lacking an illustration) placed the boot upside down for the crest.  Presto!  The arms of Crum from Germany.  Happy customer; paid heraldist.  Win-win for everyone.  Except, of course, for those who come later and are trying to figure out where the arms came from.

So, what do you think?  Did I miss a Crum coat of arms with a cross terminating in eagle's heads, or are we dealing with another example of the bucket shop herald's work?

I know what I think.

Monday, May 25, 2015

An Artist's Dilemma

It's a long-standing dilemma for heraldic artists: Do they put pictures of their work on the internet because doing so can help to drive sales of their works, or do they not post pictures of their work on the internet because others may download those images and use them without authorization or crediting the author of the work?

Many artists do indeed go ahead and post pictures of their work on-line, because it does assist them in making sales and earning a living from their art.  But it is not uncommon that sometimes those images are found to appear on other websites or other places, without the authorization of the creator and very often with even crediting them.

A recent case in point is that of sculptor Patrick Damiaens, whose website showcasing his wonderful work is linked from this blog in the "Heraldic Artists' Websites" section down the left-hand column.  (If you haven't visited his site yet, please do so.  He's a very talented sculptor.)  A picture of a unique carving that he had made for one of his clients and posted on his website appears to have been used as the model for the design on a candle being sold in a chain of stores in Europe.  So you can decide for yourself whether or not his work was plagiarized, here's a photo comparing the design found on the candle to Mr. Damiaens' original carving:

There's a lot more to this story, of course, but rather than repeat it all here, I recommend that you go to the May 14, 2015 post entitled "Did ZARA HOME commit plagiarism?" on his blog and read the whole thing for yourself.  That post, and additional photographs, can be found at

As I said, it's a dilemma for artists of all sorts, not just heraldic artists.  Do you post pictures of your work on the internet, knowing that it's probably the very best way to boost sales of your work, but also knowing that those pictures may be used by others in unauthorized ways and for which you may not even be given proper credit?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Celebrate International Heraldry Day!

Here's one way that you can help to celebrate International Heraldry Day on June 10.  Do it with an IHD tee shirt or coffee cup or any of the other cool stuff you can get with graphics especially made for International Heraldry Day 2015 on it.

You can find the items shown here, and lots more, at

Monday, May 18, 2015

Why? Why??!!

I respect heraldry; really, I do.  Unfortunately, that respect is not always shown by others.

In a somewhat cringe-worthy example of this (found in the Facebook group "Heraldry Hall of Shame"; not a group for the weak of heart.  You have been warned!), I ran across the following the other day:

It's the logo (I really cannot call this a coat of arms) of DN Van Lines of New England and Florida, based in Marlborough, Massachusetts, west of Boston (and just a short drive up I-495 from where my parents grew up in Milford, Hopkinton, and Upton).

So what all do I find that is just so "wrong" about this logo?  Besides the quartering, I mean.  Here, let me count the ways.

They are not a "Royal" anything, so the imperial crown sitting atop the shield is entirely out of place.

They clearly don't understand what mantling is, or what it was used for, since there a just a few bits of mantling issuing from the crown and from the sides of the shield.

The "supporters" (each a lion sejant erect) are clearly crests, given that each one is sitting atop a torse or wreath.

The "motto scroll" does not contain a motto, only the "Van Lines" portion of the company name.

Should I try to go on?  ("No, no, can't go on.  Stiff upper lip's gone limp."  [from an old Danny Kaye movie])

I will just say that it's too bad that they couldn't find someone (anyone!) in the area who knew something of heraldry and could help them design a decent heraldic logo for their company.  Really.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Bit of Historical Armorial Silver

I receive the occasional email from the kind folks over at when they have a piece that they think I might be interested in (unaware, apparently, that as a general rule their prices are a bit too rich for my budget, however, much I might like to stretch my monies to be able to buy one or another of these great finds).

In this case, they sent me a note about a George IV silver soup plate from the service of Robert Peel.  You know, the Robert Peel, second baronet, who was English Prime Minister 1834-1835 and again from 1841-1846.

The service precedes his time a Prime Minister, being dated to 1829, but it does have a very nice rendition of his coat of arms on it.

Burke's General Armory blazons the arms of Peel, "descended from William Peel, Esq., of Oswaldwistle, co. Lancaster, grandfather of the first Sir Robert Peel, Bart." as Argent three sheaves of as many arrows proper banded gules on a chief azure a bee volant or. The crest is given in Burke as A demi-lion rampant argent gorged with a collar azure charged with three bezants, holding between the paws a shuttle or, and the motto is Industria.

You can learn more about this fine silver soup plate, including such things as its weight and dimensions, along with a rendition of the Peel crest, as well as its asking sale price (again, a little much for my budget, but it might fit well into yours!) over on the website of at

Monday, May 11, 2015

Celebrate International Heraldry Day!

Here's some more graphics by Tomasz Steifer to support International Heraldry Day on June 10.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Well, It's Almost Like Heraldry

I like to see when people use heraldry in some way, no matter what the context is.  Really, I do.

It's just that, far too often, what they use is sometimes, at best, only something that's almost like heraldry, but really isn't quite heraldry.

In this case, a newly-carved figurehead has been added to the replica caravel Matthew of Bristol, built in 1997 to mark the 500th anniversary of John Cabot's voyage of discovery to Newfoundlan.  The addition of the new figurehead is to commemorate the anniversary of that first voyage.

However, despite being designed by, as the article notes, "an expert on heraldry," and said to be inspired by the arms of King Henry VII, the result is not quite heraldry.

As you can see (well, sort of, but this is the best photograph I've found of it) here, the shield is being supported by the white greyhound of Richmond, and the shield itself consists of a field divided per pale of white and green (the colors found in the Welsh flag) with a red dragon and a Tudor rose.  So I guess to be more accurate, the design is not so much inspired by the arms of Henry VII (Quarterly France and England) as it is by some of the external ornaments of his coat of arms: the supporters and a badge.  Here is the achievement of arms of Henry VII (from Wikimedia), with its supporters and (strewn on the compartment on which the supporters stand) the badge of a Tudor rose:

All in all, I think the figurehead says less "Henry VII" that it does "Wales," but still, it's an attempt at heraldry, and as I said, I like to see when people use heraldry in some way even if, in my opinion, it comes up a little short of the goal.

You can find the May 1, 2015 story of this new figurehead on the website of The Bristol Post at and from BBC News at

Monday, May 4, 2015

International Heraldry Day 2015 Is Coming!

It's almost June 10, and you know what that means, right?  You don't?  Well, a lot of folks out there also don't know, so don't feel like you're alone in that.

International Heraldry Day was begun as a grass roots movement back in 2013 by Tomasz Steifer, a member of the International Association of Amateur Heralds.  The basic idea is to celebrate one day a year where heraldry in all its forms is acknowledged by everyone with an interest in it.  And it's been growing (a lot!) each year since.

This year, International Heraldry Day will be commemorated on Wednesday, June 10.

Why June 10?  Well, you just know there's got to be a good reason for selecting that date, right?

We propose that this international day of heraldry at 10 June.  On that day, in the year 1128, in Rouen was knighted, by his future father in law Henry I Beauclerc, Godfrey Plantagenet.  Suspended during the ceremony on the neck of a young knight was a shield of blue decorated with six golden lions, which is recognized by most heralds as, for the first time in history, a fully-formed coat of arms.

Hence the choice of June 10.

Between now and that date, I'll be posting occasionally about International Heraldry Day, and including here some of the other artwork which has been created (the one above was created by Tomasz Steifer of Poland) to help promote the day, along with an occasional link (like the one to Zazzle where you can buy products - coffee mugs, tshirts, and all kinds of other stuff you probably don't really need but would like to own anyway - with some of these IHD logos on them.

In the meantime, feel free to drop by the International Heraldry Day page on Facebook and see what's going on to help celebrate this annual event, at