Heraldry Is All Around Us

I’ve said any number of times in the past that, “You can find heraldry everywhere!” Indeed, sometimes the abundance of heraldry — even here in the United States, which does not have a very strong heraldic tradition — reminds me a little of the lyrics to the old song by Australian pop singer John Paul Young:

“Love is in the air
Everywhere I look around”

In this case, though, it is heraldry, coats of arms, that is “everywhere I look around.” And I have every reason to believe that the same is true for where you live, too.

Imagine You Are Taking A Drive

Say you are driving down the street in your home town, and you see a Cadillac. Now, take a close look at the Cadillac logo on its trunk. Do you know what that symbol within the wreath is? It is a simplified version of the coat of arms of the person for whom the Cadillac corporation was named: the founder of Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit in 1701, on the site of what is now the City of Detroit, Michigan, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac.

Coat of arms in Cadillac logo

So keep driving, and keep looking. The coat of arms logo of England Transportation Company can be seen traveling the highways all around the country, their trucks emblazoned with their blue shield and three gold lions. While waiting at a railroad crossing for a freight train to pass, you may see the coat of arms-like logo of the United Pacific Railroad Company.

Figure 6Union Pacific

Heraldry Symbols In Plain Sight

Many present and former servicemen and women proudly display their unit insignia – often in the form of a coat of arms – on their vehicles.

Marines

Marines Unit Insignia

Are you passing an Episcopal church anywhere along your route? Many of them will have a sign, some larger, some smaller, that has the coat of arms of the Episcopal church on it.

Episcopal Church

The website Scottish History Online explains the symbolism of the various elements of the arms: “The red cross on white is for the Church of England, of which the Episcopal Church is the American representative, the white cross-crosslets represent the nine original dioceses and the blue canton with the crosses in saltire is a reminder of the Episcopal Church of Scotland from whom the first American bishop Samuel Seabury received his consecration as bishop.”

Coats of Arms in Logos

Many schools, from universities all the way down to preschools, use a coat of arms for their logos. Here are only a couple of examples of schools using heraldry to brand themselves from near where I live, and used on flags, bumper stickers, and car decals.

St Mark's School of TexasProvidence Christian SchoolFigure 7

Even just sitting at home watching television you can see heraldry in use. Some of the most well-known examples are the National Football League, whose logo is based on the arms of the United States, and the National Hockey League. Individual sports teams, too, may use arms or logos that look like a coat of arms.

Coats of Arms in the National Football League

Coats of Arms in the National Football League

You can even find heraldry in your wallet or pocketbook. Look at the back of a $1 bill and you will find the arms of the United States there, the shield on the breast of the eagle.

In fact, the dollar bill has two different coats of arms on it. The front of each dollar bill has the coat of arms of the United States Treasury engraved upon it. Indeed, the Treasury arms appear on the face of every piece of paper money printed and distributed by the United States Mint.

Dollar Bill

U.S. Dollar Bill (front and back)

So be aware as you go through your daily routine. You may be surprised to find all of the different places you can see heraldry “everywhere [you] look around.”

Written by David B. Appleton

David B. Appleton is an internationally known author and lecturer on heraldry and its applications for genealogists. He is a member of four lineage and six heraldry societies, and regularly participates in a number of heraldry and genealogy-related on-line groups. He has written several books and numerous articles for a variety of publications on the topic of heraldry.

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