At Sea and on Land: The Resilient Penn Arms Synopsis of a talk by Duane L.C.M. Galles delivered on 14 November 2007 at the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society sponsored by the Society’s Committee on Heraldry and the College of Arms Foundation. The coat of arms used by Admiral Sir William Penn, hero of the Anglo-Dutch naval war of the 1650’s, is blazoned as: Argent on a fess sable three plates. (Fig. 1) It is an elegant simple composition with three silver discs on a black central band on a silver shield. The arms were the arms of his son, William Penn, to whom Charles II granted the vast colony of Pennsylvania in 1681. In 1838 Queen Victoria granted the family an augmentation of a red canton with a crown of Charles II to Granville Penn, grandson of the Proprietor in memory of the vast 45,00o acre estate his family had ruled in North America before the American War for Figure 1 Independence. The Penn arms had been used on the seal of the colony and thus had become identified with that land. The question is, then, what remains today of the Penn arms? But when Pennsylvania became a Commonwealth it adopted arms that alluded to agriculture and maritime trade. (Fig. 2) There is nothing that can be connected with the arms of the proprietor. Figure 2 A number of the arms in this talk were designed by Pierre de Chaignon La Rose (died 1941), a colleague of the architect Ralph Adams Cram. La Rose considered to be the foremost authority on ecclesiastical heraldry in the United States at the turn of the 20th century. In designing their arms other Pennsylvania institutions wanted to include a reference to the state where they were based. The oldest of these (which La Rose redesigned) was the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania (simplified version, Fig. 3), founded in 1785, which feature a red cross on a white shield with a black border with white disks. The diocesan arms are in effect a Cross of St. George differenced with three gold crowns (a reference to the three gold crowns on a blue field in the royal Swedish arms and so to the Swedish parishes that were incorporated into the Penn colony) Figure 3\ surrounded by the distinctive feature of the Penn arms (the black bordure charged with plates or white disks). The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, established in 1865 to cover the western part of the state adopted arms in 1910. The illustration (Fig. 4) shows the redesigned version by La Rose. The shield is divided into quarters by a blue cross. The quarters are black and white (the Penn colors). The first quarter shows the arms of the Pitt family (the city was named in honor of the British statesman, William Pitt, Earl of Chatham). The second quarter is the Penn arms, with the fess wrongly tinctured gold instead of black in the illustration). Figure 3 The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia was founded in 1875. The arms (Fig. 5), also designed by La Rose, are the Penn arms with two additions: a blue pile charged with a white mullet or star over the silver field, and red crosses on the three white disks. La Rose sometimes worked in an expressionistic style and here the pile may symbolize the triangular tongue of land on which the City of Philadelphia is built between the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers. Years later La Rose did a similar sort of design for the Diocese of Seattle, Washington. He began with the three red stars above two Figure 4 red bars on the silver field of the Washington family arms. He then slid one of the stars down to the base and added a red pile issuant from base with all elements counterchanged. Here the pile was again to represent a geographical element, Mount Rainier, the highest peak in the State of Washington. In both cases the pile and star provide the requisite two differences from the original coat. The arms of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg (Fig. 6), also by La Rose, are a variant of the Diocese of Pennsylvania: a cross of St. George with a white trefoil resembling a silver shamrock (for the Cathedral of St. Patrick) but instead of a black bordure there is a black chief with two plates or white disks and, in the center, a white crescent – drawn from the arms of John Harris, Sr., (1678 – 1743), who settled and established the city of Harrisburg. His arms bore a crescent. Figure 5 The coat below is a revision of La Rose’s original design for the Roman Catholic diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania. His original design rather followed the design for the diocese of Pennsylvania. The main charges were two keys crossed in saltire beneath a comet all red within a black bordure charged with eight Penn plates. If this representation shows a revision of that design, the only discernable reference to the Penn arms in those of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton (Fig. 7) are the disks – now black instead of white. There is no black bordure. The keys are a reference to the diocesan Cathedral of St. Peter; and the red comet in the upper part is an allusion to the Pecci arms of Pope Leo XIII, whose 1891 Figure 6 encyclical, Rerum novarum on the social question supported trade unions and called for industrial peace. It was gratefully received in Scranton, the center of Pennsylvania’s anthracite area, where Terence Powderly’s Knights of Labor had been an early and active trade union There are few similarities between the Penn arms in those of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown (Fig. 8), which was created in 1963 by Pope John XXIII, who bore a tower between two fleurs-de-lis debruising a fess all silver on a red field. The diocesan arms largely follow that model, sans tower. The fess is now a barulet enfiled by a gold annulet, which refers to the diocesan Cathedral of St. Catherine and her mystical marriage to Christ. Pope John’s fleurs-de-lis remain, now in chief, but in base is a plate charged with a red cross. This plate comes from the arms of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where it had been a Penn reference. Figure 7 The Allentown diocese was created by detaching territory from Philadelphia and here the plate doubly recalls that bit of history. However, there is one white disk, with a red cross, below the fess. Above the fess there are two white fleur-de-lis. The arms Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem (Fig. 9), are a combination of the arms of the first Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Mark Howe (1871 – 1895), whose shield bore a chevron between three crosses, and those of Penn. In the diocesan arms, designed by La Rose, the bishop’s chevron is adorned with five white disks – as clear allusion to the three disks on the Penn fess, and now on a black chevron. Above it are two red cross crosslets (each arm ends in a cross) and below it is a black Bethlehem star of eight points, which is a reference to the diocesan Cathedral of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Figure 8 The Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, formerly called the Diocese of Harrisburg (Fig. 10 – another La Rose composition) also adopted Penn charges but re-arranged them. The field is gold, instead of white, with a Celtic cross. Instead of a black fess, there is a blue chief; and instead of three white disks, there are three objects: a silver crescent (for John Harris), a red and white rose (for the cities of Lancaster and York which lay in the diocese), and a white (Penn) disk. Figure 9 In the arms of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania (Fig. 11 - formerly Erie), the Penn signature black fess with three disks has been turned sideways into an engrailed pale (a vertical bar). The chief contains wavy white and blue barrulets, signifying Lake Erie. Figure 10 The arms of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnson are seen on the dexter (left) side of the shield with the bishop’s personal arms to the sinister in Fig. 11. The diocesan coat to the dexter has on blue field the Penn black fess and three plates cottised silver between two charges in chief and in base a cross Moline, symbolizing the Benedictine Archabbey of St Vincent in Loretto, Pennsylvania, important in the history of the diocese. The two charges in chief, a chalice on a plate above an abbot’s mitre, represent respectively the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Figure 11 Altoona while the abbot’s mitre beneath it represents the Co- Cathedral of St John Gualbert, a medieval Benedictine abbot. The arms of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg (Fig. 12) arguably reflect those of Penn in that there is a field of one color with a fess bearing three charges. The fess is embattled, and rather than three disks there are a blue star between two patriarchal crosses. Figure 12 The arms of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Stephen in Harrisburg (Fig. 13) feature a wavy white fess with black disks, or canon balls: a reversal and modification of the Penn fess. The upper portion of the shield, with a fretty pattern, derives from the arms of the first bishop, the Rt. Rev. James Darlington (1905 – 1930). The base is azure goutty d’eau, blue with white water drops, symbolizing the Susquehanna River on which Harrisburg is situated. Figure 13 The Roman Catholic Archabbey of St. Vincent (Fig. 14) in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, was founded in 1857 and is the oldest Benedictine monastery in the United States. The field is lozengy argent and azure, for the Wittelsbach rulers of Bavaria, who were early patrons of the monastery. Echoing the Pennsylvania location of the Abbey are the three plates or white disks now charged with black Benedictine crosses and placed on a black chevron reversed. Figure 14 Its sister institution, the Abbey of St. Mary in Morristown, NJ, is very similar (Fig. 15). This is a daughter house of St. Vincent and the Penns were once among the proprietors of New Jersey and so the arms of the daughter house are similar. The field is the same (Bavaria) but the (two) Penn plates appear on a black bend between a silver crescent of Our Lady and so the coat makes reference to his titular, Our Lady, its location on sometime Penn land, and its Figure 15 important Wittelsbach patron while the crosses denote its Benedictine heritage. Dr. Galles closed the presentation with the arms of the University of Pennsylvania, adopted in 1933 (Fig. 17). They combine and adapt three separate ideas: Penn, Franklin, and the university. The derivation from the Penn arms is obvious: the field is white and there are three white disks, here on a black chevron instead of a fess. The red chief shows two white open books, for education or learning, with a dolphin in the center, which is a feature of the arms of Benjamin Franklin, a founder and first chairman of its board of Figure 16 trustees. Princeton University, by contrast, bears a black chevron on a silver field with an open book on an orange chief. In conclusion, although the arms of Proprietor William Penn were not adopted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, are not used by any government authority today, it is clear that many non-profit institutions in Pennsylvania have made generous use of elements of the Penn family arms, modifying the principal feature – a fess with three disks – to proclaim their historical connection with the land to which William Penn gave his father’s surname.
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