The Arms of the US States

Heraldry in the United States
Jonathan Webster
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The Arms of the US States

Postby Jonathan Webster » 18 Feb 2013, 10:45

Something I've found a little perplexing lately is the method with which the arms of the US states are adopted: I am aware that some states like Alabama and Connecticut have adopted their arms via their state legislature (I think), but does the inclusion of Arms on the State Seal also count? How does one define whether a State has Arms or not?

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Arthur Radburn
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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby Arthur Radburn » 18 Feb 2013, 14:11

Jonathan Webster wrote:I am aware that some states like Alabama and Connecticut have adopted their arms via their state legislature (I think), but does the inclusion of Arms on the State Seal also count?

Why not? Many seals, both personal and impersonal, feature coats of arms, and the arms can be used independently of the rest of the seal.

There's lots of interesting information about the US states' arms, and the legislation authorising them, here :
http://www.americanheraldry.org/pages/i ... n.Official
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Arthur Radburn
IAAH Vice-President : Heraldic Education

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Edward Hillenbrand
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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby Edward Hillenbrand » 18 Feb 2013, 14:38

A good question. While I can't speak for other States, in New York we have had a full Coat of Arms going back to the Revolution. It has been modified several times (and once not -- the Ladies were NOT impressed with bare chested Liberty, who can be found under one of the stair cases in the Capital IF you ask your tour guide real, real nice). In NYs case it is the legislature that does the adopting. Several cities and towns also have Coats of Arms in the traditional sense. Sadly many of the Counties have chosen to adapt a "logo" for lack of a better term instead of a full armorial bearing. Schoharie County where I live has adopted the logo: one Sanguine horse passant , dexter, on a vert field with three vert Coupeaux in the back ground under an azure sky with copious argent clouds, or as our County Chairman would say: "A red horse runnin' across a field under a cloudy sky." This choice may be due to the lateness our our incorporating: 1847. We have always been here, just a bit lae on the paperwork. ; )
Ed Hillenbrand

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Jonathan Webster
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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby Jonathan Webster » 18 Feb 2013, 15:51

The State Seals of Mississippi and Oregon both feature shields but in a rather stylised way. Would you consider them arms?

Jonathan Webster
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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby Jonathan Webster » 18 Feb 2013, 16:01

Also, what about the State Seal of Illinois? Would you say that is a pictorial or Armorial seal?

Which states would you say have arms and which would you say don't?

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JMcMillan
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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby JMcMillan » 18 Feb 2013, 18:07

I define it by one of two ways:

1. The duck rule: if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it is a duck.
2. The sovereign can do whatever he wants rule: if the legislature says it is a coat of arms, then it is.

The latter need not be expressed in the statute adopting the arms. That statute may well say, "The seal of the State of Oblivia shall consist of a shield, Argent charged with a porcupine between three kumquats proper; crest a sun rising Azure; supporters two escaped convicts in chains; all surrounded by a ring bearing the words....", etc. What we have here meets test 1; if other statutes and official acts then refer to this design as "the arms of the state," then it also meets test 2.

The act adopting the Colorado state seal, for example, does not say, "these are the arms of Colorado" in so many words. But to me, at least, the intent is clear: "An heraldic shield, bearing in chief..." and so on. And even clearer in light of other early statutes referring to it as "the arms of the state," including the laws authorizing seals for the state supreme court, adjutant general, and bureau of mines, as well as an act of April 9, 1907, providing "that a state banner be and the same is hereby adopted to be used on all occasions when the state is officially and publicly represented. Said banner shall consist of the state coat of arms upon a dark blue ground."

Unfortunately, rule 2 requires me to accept that when Texas says that its coat of arms is the design on its seal, minus the encircling rings, lettering, and any background, it means this actually is Texas's coat of arms:

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Joseph McMillan
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JMcMillan
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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby JMcMillan » 18 Feb 2013, 18:16

Jonathan Webster wrote:Also, what about the State Seal of Illinois? Would you say that is a pictorial or Armorial seal?


It is armorial, but since the arms on it were already those of the United States, they can't be the arms of Illinois. For some decades, several states including Maryland and Alabama had seals that consisted of a version of the arms of the United States similar to that on the seal of the U.S. Department of Justice and several other federal agencies, showing the eagle on the shield rather than the other way around.

By the way, I'm not sure I accept the distinction between armorial and pictorial. If a coat of arms is depicted in the midst of a landscape, as in the case of the Illinois seal, is that terribly different from the more-or-less realistic compartments that British heralds give supporters to stand on?
Joseph McMillan
Alexandra, Virginia, USA

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JMcMillan
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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby JMcMillan » 18 Feb 2013, 18:20

Jonathan Webster wrote:The State Seals of Mississippi and Oregon both feature shields but in a rather stylised way. Would you consider them arms?


The state seal of Mississippi shows the arms of the United States, although in an incorrect emblazonment.

Mississippi does have a state coat of arms, so enacted by the legislature.
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Not a good one, but a sovereign's coat of arms is what the sovereign says it is, so....
Joseph McMillan
Alexandra, Virginia, USA

Jonathan Webster
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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby Jonathan Webster » 18 Feb 2013, 18:38

And the Oregon one?

Jonathan Webster
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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby Jonathan Webster » 18 Feb 2013, 19:07

Also, would you say Arkansas has arms and are there any states that do not feature Arms one their seal but have adopted arms separately?

Also, how come Texas has 'Arms' on the obverse of its Seal, but has 'Arms' on the other side that if they were not legally defined as such, would not be considered arms at all?


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