Monday, May 30, 2022

And Now It's Time For Another ...

... Fun With Heraldry!

I recently ran across something I'd seen before, and I was reminded of the genius of some of the artists whose work I have had the pleasure to see. And share.

In this particular instance, the artist is Ilya Stallone (real name, Ilya Denisov) who, as he puts it, "is a person who simply loves both history and art together." And he imagined what the logos of some famous modern brands could have looked like in the Middle Ages.

So below is a brief selection of some of his imagined medieval logos. He did ten in all, and you can see all of them at


Thursday, May 26, 2022

Heraldry in the News!

Kennett Township, Pennsylvania (west of Philadelphia and just over the state line from Wilmington, Delaware) has officially adopted a new coat of arms.

Back in January of this year, newly-elected Supervisor Geoffrey Gamble recommended that the Township create a coat of arms for itself, as reported in the Chester County Press on January 25, 2022. (

A number of proposals were put forth, and four were selected and published for residents to vote on in early March. (

Of the four, A. (above) proved the most popular, and with some minor changes, the final design - with input from the College of Arms in London and the President of the American Heraldry Society - was adopted by the Supervisors of the Township on May 18 by passing Ordinance No. 296. (

The official blazon of the arms is: Per pale Vert and Argent three American Sycamore leaves the stems conjoined in pall counterchanged. Crest: On a wreath Argent and Vert a representation of the Old Kennett Meeting House in 1777 Proper in front of a demi-sun in splendor Or between on the dexter the Flag of the United States of America in 1777 bendwise and on the sinister the Flag of Great Britain in 1777 bendwise sinister Proper.

A copy of Ordinance No. 296, with attached Exhibits of the arms, crest, seal, and flag of Kennett Township and the meanings each of their elements can be found on-line at

Congratulations to Kennett Township, not only for adopting a coat of arms (and crest, seal, and flag), but for taking the time and effort to consult with people with heraldic expertise, and for adopting such a comparatively simple, and yet meaningful, design!

Monday, May 23, 2022

Examples of What I Was Hoping to See on My Latest Trip

So, back from a week in Massachusetts with a dearth of heraldry. (But lots of family gravestones, plus good days visiting with living relatives, so I'm really not complaining!)

Still, I'd been hoping for a little more than I had found. I mean, the last time we visited Massachusetts (in 2008), we saw a bunch of heraldry! For example, these heraldic markers in the Granary Burying Ground.*

The armorial marker for Rev. Joseph Eckley, Gules three swords proper the middle surmounted by an escutcheon bearing a hand couped. Crest: An arm in armor embowed.

James Bowdoin, Esq., president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress' executive council, the de facto head of the Massachusetts government, 1775-1777. Azure a chevron or between three birds close [proper?]. Crest: A swan proper.

Joseph Lasinby (1694-1774). Gules a fess between three cushions argent tasseled or overall a bend sable goutty or. Crest: A demi-unicorn holding a heart.

This next one should probably need no introduction; the canting arms, and crest, of the most famous signature on the American Declaration of Independence, that of John Hancock. Gules a sinister hand and on a chief argent three cocks gules. Crest: A demi-griffin.

A coat of arms familiar to me from the Gore roll of arms, that of Cushing. Quarterly: 1 and 4, Gules an eagle displayed argent; 2 and 3, Gules three hands argent a canton checky or and azure. Crest: Two lion’s jambes erased sable supporting a ducal coronet or from which hangs a human heart gules.

And finally, a person well-known in Boston, especially for the market and meeting hall named after him, Peter Faneuil (pronounced FAN-ull), 1700-1743, Boston merchant, slave trader, and philanthropist. A descendant of French Huguenots, the arms, which may have been self-assumed, are only roughly heraldic. The Committee on Heraldry of the New England Historic Genealogical Society has blazoned them: A heart in a partial orle (in chief and on dexter side only) of seven mullets of six points, in sinister base a roundel charged with a cross formy(?). Crest: A bird close.

That's a fair bit of heraldry for one comparatively small burying ground in Boston.

* A burying ground ("a plot of land set aside for burying the dead", per Merriam-Webster) is not quite like a cemetery, where all of the graves a plotted out, and we know (or can find out) who is buried exactly where. For the most part, people buried in a burying ground are not so specifically located, and it is very likely that, in most instances, the marker commemorating someone is not, in fact, placed at the exact location where their body is buried. Think about the famous graveyard scene in Hamlet, where the gravedigger, while digging a grave in which to place Ophelia, comes across the skull of Yorick. It's like that.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Well, What Now?

Well, this is awkward! For the first time in since I began this blog in 2009, I had no blog post pre-prepared for today. You can usually figure out posts I have written before posting them, as I usually schedule those posts to appear on-line at 2:00 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays. But today, Thursday, nothing!

Now, I don't think it's just laziness; like so much else in life, it is a combination of factors. We took our first trip just a few weeks ago, and spent eight days in Massachusetts and part of New Hampshire, "visiting relatives, living and dead" as my wife put it. But I didn't see much heraldry on that trip, so the two posts that I did are pretty much all the heraldry I saw. And now summer is coming in at a rush here in north Texas, and given the wet spring we've had, our yard needs a lot of seeing to: trimming back tree branches from the power lines; cutting back a few dead branches; keeping the small patches of grass and the large patches of ivy in their places. Not to mention some of the larger projects: redoing the railroad tie retaining walls along the uphill side of the driveway; planning to reinstall some pathway lights next to the driveway for better nighttime accessibility; power washing and restaining/sealing the deck in the backyard; and so on. You know, all the little (and big) things that are often referred to as the "joys" of home ownership.

I even took a couple hours yesterday to visit one of our local big-box hardware stores to get everything to accomplish some of those projects. And we've been hiring folks to come over and do the jobs that my wife says I am now too old to get up on a ladder to do myself: replacing the burned-out lightbulb in the stairwell (we've now ordered a new fixture to have them replace up there, one that will let us use an extension pole to change the lightbulb; what's there now is hanging from a chain and is completely enclosed in a clear globe, so you actually have to put hands on it to change the bulb, and it's really not terribly safe as it's located directly above the third step from the top, but too high to reach from that step; one slip, and you're down the stairs and all the bodily harm that can come from that); trimming one large branch from a red oak tree that was growing up into the wires leading from the power pole to the house (I'd gotten the lower one without issue, but I could reach it easily with the polesaw without using a ladder); and I've been given a lot more presentations to genealogy societies than usual recently, with more to come this year, along with having to write two brand-new presentations for upcoming ones. But all of that travel and these projects and tasks have taken up a lot of my time, and writing blog posts has, for the first time in over 13 years, taken a back seat to these other things.

This is to say, "I'm sorry I didn't have anything already posted for you this morning!" I hope to be back on track and preparing what I anticipate will be interesting and educational posts about heraldry. There may be a few more "Heraldry In The News!" posts, and I may be going back over some earlier trips we've taken to point out bits and pieces of heraldic art we've seen there. There also might be a few more posts about bits and pieces of my beliefs and philosophy about heraldry. And, of course, there should be a whole bunch of posts when we get back from out trip to England later this year.

So, hang in there with me, and we'll make it through this comparatively dry spell together. Because I refuse to let this heraldic blog go the way of so many others in the past, and have it simply fizzle out or fade away.

Thank you all for being here and, of course, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them as a comment. I check the comments very regularly, and often reply where I think I have something to say about a comment, even if it's just a "Thank you for sharing that information." And I'm always interested in what people might like to see here. Sure, it's my blog and I'm the one who decides what to post, but I'm also interested in hearing what directions you'd like to see me go with it. Or if you don't want to comment here, you could always email me privately ( or message me on Facebook. Just sayin'.

And just to make sure we're still talking about heraldry, here is a copy of my arms done back in 2012 by heraldic artist Xavier d'Andeville.

Monday, May 16, 2022


I spent a number of my growing up years in the State of Michigan, a state which consists of two (very large) peninsulas.

The state motto of Michigan is (in Latin): Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice. This translates into English as "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you".

I was reminded of this motto recently in preparation for a presentation I gave to a local genealogical society entitled "In Their Footsteps: The Genealogical Tourist", which is all about visiting the places where your ancestors once lived and containing some practical advice on how to do that and what you might find once you are there.

As a part of that presentation, I talk about being flexible, being able to deal with both obstacles and opportunities that might arise on such a trip.

But I also wanted to make another point, one that could be summed up in a single Latin word: Circumspice; Look about you.

Because, as I often say, you just never know what you might find.

The example I give of this is from the time in 2014 when we spent a week in London, visiting both some of the usual touristy things (e.g., Westminster Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, Temple Church) and ancestor-related things (St. Margaret's Chapel, where a few ancestors were baptized, married, and/or buried).

But we also spent some time just walking about and looking about us.

It was getting on towards lunchtime, and we were starting to feel hungry by the time we walked across the Thames and came to the former church of St. Mary-at-Lambeth, just outside the gatehouse to Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The church of St. Mary-at-Lambeth (above, on the right) is now The Garden Museum, founded in 1977 to preserve the church in which, a sign there told us, John Tradescant, "the Shakespeare of gardening", was buried in 1638. The Museum includes, as a chalkboard outside the building noted, a small café. Excellent! We went in for lunch.

Following lunch, we went out into the garden/old burying ground attached to the Museum/church. Where we saw the very elaborately-carved tomb of John Tradescant. Which even had a coat of arms on it!

But, of course, it was an old burying ground, and there were other burials and tombs there, one of which caught my eye not only because it was armorial (Azure a griffin segreant or between three crescents argent (Bligh), impaling Or a bend gules a chief indented azure (Betham)), 

but because of the unusual urn and finial atop it.

I mean, that's not a flame issuant from the urn, is it?

But it was when I stopped to read the inscriptions on the ends and sides of the tomb that I found myself face-on with a real piece of history.

Feel free to click on the image above to see a larger, more readable copy.

This is the tomb of William Bligh, Vice Admiral of the Blue (as well as that of his wife, Elizabeth Betham, two of their sons, and an infant grandson).

I thought, "No! It can't be! We couldn't have just stumbled upon the final resting place of "Captain" Bligh of HMS Bounty."* But it says quite clearly, "The celebrated navigator who first transplanted the bread fruit tree [well, that explains the finial! It's not a flame, it's a breadfruit] from Otaheite [Tahiti] to the West Indies."

I had read the trilogy Mutiny on the Bounty, Men Against the Sea, and Pitcairn's Island as a boy growing up in Michigan, and seen the 1962 film starring Marlon Brando as Mr. Christian and Trevor Howard as Captain Bligh. And here I was, face-to-face, as it were, with the central figure of that history, those books, and that movie. Wow!

And all because we had, without foreknowledge and without planning, stopped at a Museum café for lunch, and then afterwards decided to "look about us".

So I say to you, as I have said to others before and will to still more others in the future, wherever you go, be sure to take some time and Circumspice. You might find a lot more than "just" heraldry; you might actually run into one of the heroes or villains whose story you learned in your youth.

* To be entirely accurate, at the time of the mutiny, he was Commanding Lieutenant of HM Armed Vessel Bounty.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Oh, Look! More Non-Heraldry!

Okay, I promised you in my last post that I would include a couple more items of not-heraldry that I saw on my recent trip to Massachusetts.

These were found in Plymouth, up next to Burial Hill, on the façade of the First Parish Church of Plymouth. This building is, as the information plaque on the right (below) tells us, the fifth building to stand on this site, erected in 1897, which is the place where the Pilgrims built their first church in Plymouth Colony, New England.

The meeting house was recently purchased by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (GSMD), who have invested a lot of money in restoring and renovating the building.

But, of course, it was the plaque on the left that caught my eye, because of the shields placed upon it.

Alas, not real heraldry.

The shield on the left contains only the best-known rendition of the Mayflower. That image of the ship, without the shield, is used a lot by the GSMD, and place it on all kinds of their member goods: medals, pins, buttons, cufflinks, backpacks, etc., etc., etc.

The shield on the right consists simply of an open Bible beneath a lamp of knowledge. I know of no organization which uses this as its coat of arms.

Therefore, not real heraldry, but being on shields, certainly heraldry-like.

Anyway, now you have seen all the "heraldry" that I did during my week in Massachusetts. I was hoping for a better "haul" than this. Still, it was an otherwise very productive week, so I really can't complain, don't you think?

Monday, May 9, 2022

Absence of Evidence Is Sometimes Evidence of Absence

Well, we very recently returned from a week-long trip to Massachusetts from our home in Texas. We'd been looking forward to this trip for a long time -- we had to cancel it in the fall of 2019 just as Covid was ramping up. It was very disappointing, because we had already made all of the reservations and flight arrangements, etc. But what can you do? In the interests of our (aging) health, we chose to cancel rather than take the chance.

But this year, we finally got back out there! (Not completely without trepidation, but still, out there.)

And it was well worth it. We drove all over eastern Massachusetts and up into southeastern New Hampshire, visiting, as my wife put it, "relatives, both living and dead."

Visited lots of graveyards: my father's parents (Bellingham and Marblehead); my mother's parents (Milford and Upton), my father's maternal grandparents (Milford), my father's maternal grandmother's parents (also Milford), two sets of great-great-great grandparents (Worcester, Hopkinton), my Civil War ancestor, 3rd great grandfather buried with his wife, my 3rd great grandmother (Nashua, NH), my 2nd great grandfather and his second wife (also Nashua, NH), and even a pair of 8th great grandparents (Orleans, MA). Not to mention Proctor's Ledge in Salem (where my 10th great grandmother and 1st cousin 10 times removed were hanged in 1692, having been tried and convicted of witchcraft), and as an unplanned bonus, the burying ground where another 10th great grandmother is buried, as well as a chance to interact with the person portraying my 11th great uncle, Edward Winslow, at Plimouth/Patuxet (photo below). And to walk once again aboard the Mayflower II, which I last saw in 1963. (Why, yes, it was a pretty full week, which also included nice visits with my aunt and my youngest son.)

We even stopped by the grave of the man who invented the pink plastic lawn flamingo in Berlin, MA.

(Yes, someone has stood a quarter on its edge in the upright of the "D" in his first name.)

But in all that traveling around, what didn't I see much of?

That's right -- coats of arms.

Here's an example of a heraldry-adjacent logo which I ran across in our travels:

So, yeah, not heraldry. Still, it's a mermaid, and you can find mermaids in heraldry. Thus, "heraldry-adjacent".

Next time, a couple of still-not-heraldry shields.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Three Coats of Arms by a Famous Sculptor

There are three coats of arms on the façade of the Boston Public Central Library at Copley Square.

Done in relief, they are especially notable for having been done by American sculptor of French-Irish ancestry Augustus Saint-Gaudens who, as Wikipedia informs us, was "a sculptor of the Beaux-Arts generation who embodied the ideals of the American Renaissance."

We have already seen one of the three coats of arms over the triple main doorway of the Library, the arms of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in one of our recent posts (April 25):

The Massachusetts arms are the shield on the left in the image of the Library's façade, above.

Today, we' re going to look at the other two shields.

The one on the right is the arms of the City of Boston, Massachusetts, where the Library is situated.

The shield contains a depiction of the buildings and shorefront of the City of Boston with several two-masted sailing ships in the harbor in front.

The inscription Bostonia Condita AD 1630 is simply, "Boston founded 1630", and the whole (depiction of the city and the inscription) are taken from the city's seal.

The scroll above the shield bears the legend Sicut Patribus Sit Deus Nobis (“God be with us as he was with our fathers”), and the scroll around the bottom of the shield reads Civitatis Regimine Donata AD 1822 ("Donated by the State Government 1822").

The final shield, in pride of place in the center, is of the seal of the library, depicting two nude boys as supporters, holding torches and supporting between them a shield with an open book between in chief and in base the Roman numerals for 1852 and 1878.

Those numerals are the date of the founding of the library in 1852 and incorporation of the Board of Trustees in 1878. The motto above the shield is Omnium Lux Civium, "The Light of All the People."

Not especially good heraldry, really, but you have to admire the highly-detailed work of this world-famous sculptor, as well as the ideals stated in the various mottoes accompanying them.

Plus, not only is is heraldry, but public art, on display for all to see and enjoy!

Monday, May 2, 2022

The (Heraldic) Johnston Gate

There is a gate (one of several) in the wall surrounding the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This particular gate is called the Johnston Gate, named for Samuel Johnston who provided the funds for its construction. It was completed in 1889, and cost some $10,000, a gift of Samuel Johnston (Harvard College class of 1855).

Here is the ironwork of the arch of the gate:

One one of the two pillars of the gate, we find this carving and inscription:

The Latin may be roughly translated as: Samuel Johnston of Chicago · Graduate in the year 1855 · Who was born in Cincinnati in the year 1833 · Lived 53 years · By his will he ordered this."

The eagle and laurel wreath may almost be seen as heraldic, and could be used as a (bit complex, I will admit) crest.

But the other pillar contains the arms of the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts:

Adopted as a seal in 1846, it contains an image of the Gothic Revival style building, Gore Hall, the former library building at Harvard College. The Latin motto (which is often included around the city seal) underneath the Latin of the city's name, reads: "Literis Antiquis Novis Institutis Decora." It can be translated as: "Distinguished for Classical Learning and New Institutions."

The current city seal has added to Gore Hall an image of the Washington Elm, the Cambridge tree made famous by the popular legend of George Washington taking command of the Continental Army under it during the American Revolution, as found here on a building in Cambridge:

Maybe not the best of heraldry, but it is nonetheless heraldry!