Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Maynard Town Seal 1889-1975

A few weeks back [October, the Clock Tower clock article] this column delved into the origins of Maynard’s current town seal, showing the clock tower and motto: "Progressus cum stabilitate." What was missing was a description of the old town seal, which had served the town from 1889 to 1975.

Anyone entering Maynard on Routes 62 or 117 will pass a white sign with the words ENTERING MAYNARD framing a blue circle. Inside the circle is an image of a standing Native American on a shield; above the shield is a crest of an arm holding a sword. The figure holds a bow in one hand and an arrow pointing toward the ground in the other. 

This begs the question – why, oh why, in 1889, did the town of Maynard vote for a Native American for a symbol? The answer – it did not  The same icon is on the other side of the sign, the one reading ENTERING STOW (or SUDBURY, or ACTON). What all these signs bear is actually the Coat of Arms of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Colony's first seal
The charter to establish the Massachusetts Bay Colony, granted by King Charles I in 1629 authorized a seal that featured a semi-naked Indian holding a bow and arrow, with a speech balloon containing the words "Come over and help us" streaming from his mouth. (We all know how that worked out.)

This seal was discontinued circa 1692 when the Massachusetts Bay Colony charter was annulled and the territory reorganized as the Province of Massachusetts Bay, without its own coat of arms or seal. So matters stood until the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783).

Current Massachusetts State Seal

The British abandoned Massachusetts years before the war ended. While war still raged uncertain to the south, the former Massachusetts Colony approved a State Constitution in 1780 and decided it wanted its own seal. Nathan Cushing provided the revised design. His idea - go back to the original, lose the slogan, keep the Indian. After approval by Governor John Hancock, Paul Revere was commissioned to engrave the seal; his original bill for the work is on file at the Massachusetts State Archives.

The downward pointing arrow signifies peaceful intent; the sword, the ongoing war. The Latin motto translates to "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty." Thus, the image as a whole is intended as a reminder that liberty was achieved through the American Revolution.

Maynard Town Seal 1899-1975
Wait, wait – what about Maynard’s old seal?  In a word – uninspired. The original image was one circle inside another. The outer border read TOWN OF MAYNARD MASSACHUSETTS. The inner circle held INCORPORATED 1871. Imprints can be seen on the covers of old Town of Maynard Annual Reports, in the Library's history collection. 

It's just as well that the Maynard Town Seal now features the town's emblematic image. Starting in 2009 the State of Massachusetts decreed that most street signs change from the old standard of four inch tall lettering to versions with six inch letters, with the option of including a pictograph such as a town seal to the left of the lettering.

In Maynard, the transition to larger signs is still a work in progress, but the majority have been updated. The smaller size still meets state regulations if located on two-lane streets with speed limits of no more than 25 mph.

To the east, Concord's Seal features the Minuteman statue and the motto "Quam firma res concordia" loosely translated as "What a strong thing is harmony." To the north, Acton's Seal features an image of the Civil War monument, no motto. To the west, Stow's Seal features the Randall Library, no motto. And to the south, Sudbury's Seal features the Wadsworth Monument (honoring Samuel Wadsworth and others who died in battle in King Philip's War, 1876), and again, no town motto. Only in Concord and Maynard does it help to have a bit of Latin.

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