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									               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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