The Arms of the US States

Heraldry in the United States
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JMcMillan
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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby JMcMillan » 18 Feb 2013, 20:15

Jonathan Webster wrote:Which states would you say have arms and which would you say don't?


Those that clearly do, by any reasonable definition:
Alabama (Ala Code 1-2-2, "Official Coat of Arms"; different from the state seal)
Colorado (Described in the law on the seal as "an heraldic shield," referred to in other statutes as "the arms of the state")
Connecticut (Conn Gen Stat 3-105, "The Arms of the State")
Delaware (referred to in the law on the seal, 29 Del Code 301, as "the arms of the state")
Hawaii (referred to in the law on the seal, Hawaii Rev Stat 5-5, as "the coat of arms")
Maine (1 Me Rev Stat 201; the legal blazon is more heraldic than the standard emblazonment)
Maryland (referred to in various statutes as the arms of the state)
Massachusetts (Mass Code Pt I, title I, ch 2 sec 1, "coat of arms of the commonwealth")
Michigan (Mich Compiled Laws 2.21 and 2.22, "state coat-of-arms")
Mississippi (Miss Code 3.3.41, "Mississippi coat of arms")
Missouri (the law on the flag, Mo Rev Stat 10.020, refers to the device on the state seal as the coat of arms)
New Jersey (NJ Code 52:2-1 refers to the device prescribed for the seal as the "arms," and 52:3-1 says the "arms of the state" will be on the state flag)
New York (NY Code Art 6, sec 70, "arms of the state")
North Dakota (ND Code 54-41, "North Dakota coat of arms"; not on the state seal)
Pennsylvania (the present official blazon was prepared in 1874 in response to direction from the General Assembly to correct errors in "the present Arms of the State;" numerous legislative mentions of the arms of Pennsylvania exist going back into the late 18th century)
Rhode Island (RI Gen Laws 42-4-1, "the arms of the state are a golden anchor on a blue field")
Vermont (1 Vt Stat 491, "coat of arms ... of the state")
Wisconsin (Wisc Code 1.07, "State coat of arms")

Others I would stretch a point for:
Arkansas (if the legislature would just prescribe tinctures for the shield)
Utah (shield as shown on the state flag (but not the seal), but nowhere that I know of referred to as the arms of the state; if they'd just take the writing off, it would be a good heraldic coat of arms, Argent a beehive beset by bees and flanked by sego lilies proper)
West Virginia (The law adopting the state flag, Senate Jt Res 18 of March 7, 1929, refers to the design as the "coat-of arms of the State of West Virginia," but doesn't define what that is. It seems to have been taken for granted that the arms are a modified version of the device on the non-armorial state seal, placed on a white shield framed in gold.)

Debatable at best, although my "sovereign gets to decide his own affairs" rule comes in to play on some of them:
Arizona (the seal has a shield with a landscape but it is not legally defined or referred to as a coat of arms)
California (Military and Veterans Code Sec 612(a) refers to something called the "state coat of arms," presumably meaning the seal, which is non-armorial)
Georgia (Ga Code 50-3-1 describes the central device of the state seal as the coat of arms, but there is no shield)
Idaho (same comment as for Arizona)
Louisiana (La Rev Stat 49:153, refers to the device on the state flag and seal as the coat of arms; same comment as Georgia)
New Mexico (NM Statutes 12-3-1; refers to the device on the state seal as the coat of arms; same comment as Georgia and Louisiana)
North Carolina (NC Gen Stat 144-2 says the motto will be placed at the foot of the coat of arms, which is not otherwise defined, and the seal is non-armorial)
Ohio (Ohio Revised Code 5.04 says its a coat of arms on a round shield--same as the state seal without the surrounding inscribed rings)
Oregon (landscape on a shield on a seal with no prescribed tinctures, but referred to in the law on the state flag, Ore Rev Stat 186.010, as the "state escutcheon")
South Dakota (South Dakota Code 33-1-6 refers to the coat of arms of the state, with no indication what that is; the seal is non-armorial)
Texas (Tex Rev Stat 6139f; same comments as Georgia and Ohio; Texas also has something that looks like a coat of arms but officially isn't)
Wyoming (Wyo Stat 19-7-103, same comment as for California)
Joseph McMillan
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JMcMillan
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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby JMcMillan » 18 Feb 2013, 20:23

Jonathan Webster wrote:Also, would you say Arkansas has arms ...


Almost but not quite. If it would assign tinctures, the answer would be yes.

and are there any states that do not feature Arms one their seal but have adopted arms separately?


Yes. Most obviously Alabama and North Dakota. Some other states have adopted arms different from their seals only to the extent of taking a device that does not appear on a shield when on the seal, and putting it on a shield and assigning tinctures to serve as a coat of arms. Connecticut and Rhode Island are the two I can think of off hand.

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?


The other way around actually--the thing that looks like a coat of arms is merely the "reverse of the seal," while the obverse contains the device that becomes the coat of arms when it is taken off its background.

How come? Because politicians aren't heralds, and basically don't care what heralds have to say about such things. If they did, the arms of Texas would be "Azure a star Argent," the wreath of live oak and olives would surround the shield, and we'd all be praising Texas as a model of heraldic elegance and simplicity.
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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby JMcMillan » 18 Feb 2013, 20:50

One afterthought:

In 1803, the territorial legislature of Mississippi (of which Alabama was then a part) passed a law requiring every notary to equip himself with a seal engraved with the territorial coat of arms. Unfortunately, neither the Mississippi nor, later, Alabama territorial legislatures, nor the Alabama state legislature after statehood was achieved in 1819, ever enacted a law prescribing such a coat of arms. Instead, there was only a seal, which consisted of an outline map of the state with its principal rivers. Over time, a de facto coat of arms came to be used showing a live oak tree with a map of the state tacked to its trunk, but this never enjoyed legislative sanction.

So in 1839 the case of Kirksey v. Bates came before the Supreme Court of Alabama. Kirksey argued that a bill of exchange on which he owed payment was not binding because the notary's seal did not include the arms of the state as required by law. Bates contended that it would be impossible for the notary to comply since the legislature had never adopted a coat of arms. Not so, said Kirksey: we all know that the "arms of the state" means the central device on the state seal.

The chief justice said that we can't just assume that everyone who adopts a seal merely for the purpose of solemnizing legal undertakings thereby also means to adopt a coat of arms, and ruled that the law of 1803 had been made obsolete by the legislature's failure "to declare what should be the arms of either of the territories or this State." Judgment for Bates.

The reason I bring this up is that there were certainly other states and territories at the time that enacted similar laws requiring the "arms of the state" to appear on notary and other seals--Ohio law still requires this, for example. So declaring the central device on the seal to be the "arms of the state," as Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and New Mexico have all done would avoid a replay of Kirskey v. Bates. I don't know if there was any cause and effect, but it may be an explanation.
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Edward Hillenbrand
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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby Edward Hillenbrand » 19 Feb 2013, 23:41

As to the Mississippi arms, that is a Rebel, err, I mean Confederate eagle. ; ) Most folks do not know that the US eagle's wings are fully or completely displayed while the Confederate's eagle could be classified as displayed, but not as much -- something about half a .....as I won't go into the rest of THAT half errr ....something in a public forum!

BTW, a nice photo of a CS button.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q ... 3202126765
Ed Hillenbrand

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JMcMillan
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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby JMcMillan » 20 Feb 2013, 02:16

Ed,

Interesting theory. The term is "displayed with wings inverted."

Just like on this 1787 "Brasher doubloon," minted by the state of New York:

Image

And this carved emblazonment:

Image

which is a fiberglass copy of the wooden 1828 original on the U.S. Custom House in Salem, Mass.

Confederate? I don't think so.

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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby Ryan Shuflin » 20 Feb 2013, 10:24

Well most of the designs on the seals could be put on shields, there is even precedent for putting a whole seal on a coat of arms. However, this usually doesn't result in good heraldry. Turning most of the seals into arms would result in bad landscape heraldry.

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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby JMcMillan » 20 Feb 2013, 13:12

Ryan Shuflin wrote:Well most of the designs on the seals could be put on shields, there is even precedent for putting a whole seal on a coat of arms. However, this usually doesn't result in good heraldry. Turning most of the seals into arms would result in bad landscape heraldry.


True. Better to have a bad seal and no arms than a bad seal and bad arms.

Although it occurred to me not long ago that the landscape seals are iconographically parallel to many of the medieval seals from which a lot of civic heraldry evolved. Because a king's seal in the middle ages usually consisted of an effigy of the king, and a bishop's seal of an effigy of the bishop, most cities adopted seals that consisted of an effigy of the city: walls, towers, gates, etc. Many of these then transmuted into arms, e.g. Edinburgh. In the same way, the seals of American states that show landscapes are essentially portraits of the state, or at least the state as it was when the seal was adopted.
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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby Ryan Shuflin » 20 Feb 2013, 18:21

It is interesting to note that shift of function of seals. Originally they were a pictorial signature, used to sign documents, now they have become the predominant insignia. Of course landscapes and other paintings were put on flags prior to the US practice of making seals flags, but the reason they so often don't work is the two different needs. Seals needed complexity as a protection against counterfeiting. Flags just need to be recognized and there fore need simple designs.

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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby JMcMillan » 20 Feb 2013, 22:44

Ryan Shuflin wrote:It is interesting to note that shift of function of seals. Originally they were a pictorial signature, used to sign documents, now they have become the predominant insignia. Of course landscapes and other paintings were put on flags prior to the US practice of making seals flags, but the reason they so often don't work is the two different needs. Seals needed complexity as a protection against counterfeiting. Flags just need to be recognized and there fore need simple designs.


True of national flags, but not so true of state flags. Or not in the way we usually think. The American model of a state flag consisting of the state arms or seal on a solid blue background originated in military colors in the early to mid 1800s. Regular infantry regiments would carry a pair of colors, the Stars and Stripes as the national color and a blue flag with the national arms as a regimental color. State militia regiments would do the same, but with the state arms/seal taking the place of the national arms. On the battlefield, the recognition factor was served by the blue field that was common to all (or almost all) regimental colors, whether regular or militia.
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Edward Hillenbrand
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Re: The Arms of the US States

Postby Edward Hillenbrand » 23 Feb 2013, 04:11

JM, thank you for the correct terminology. The degree of the wings distinguished was a distinguished mark of a Federal or Confederate soldier for the most part. Like most rules, you can always find an a exception. There was one major problem with the use of the National & Regimental colors during the Civil War: you couldn't tell which was your unit in all that smoke! Black powder smoke has a disturbing habit of hanging in the air around where it was fired. The Colors were used as a guide, so the regiments soon tried company guidons to keep their lines somewhat straight. I have seen very few examples of these and cannot attest to how effective they were, but with a regiment of around 600 men (effective, not paper) grouped in brigades of 4-5 other regiments trying to keep the lines straight was a major task. It works OK in the reenactments with a few thousand, but the actual battles often had over ten thousand per side spread over several fields, plus the artillery and wounded -- well, we know what happened at Bull Run with the Stars & Bars vs the Stars and Stripes.
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