The first Vermont coat of arms was an engraving for use on military
commissions, made in 1821 when the original state seal was revised by
rearranging some of the features in pictorial form. It placed the
picture in a shield surmounted by the stag's head crest, with the
motto beneath, and the whole was put under the outspread wings of the
American eagle with full panoply of war. The crest was a new feature,
possibly invented by the Secretary of State, Robert Temple, or perhaps
by the Boston engraver who designed the commission. Although no law
provided for a coat of arms, it was in official use in this form, with
slight modifications, until 1862.
When the Civil War broke out, there was need for a coat of arms and
crest for military purposes. The crest had been used for some years on
military buttons, but search for an authentic description of the Coat
of Arms revealed that there was no law making this provision.
Professor George W. Benedict of Burlington wrote a description in
quasi-heraldic terms, and this was incorporated into the statutes by
No. 11 of the Acts of 1862.
Any painting which follows the description faithfully will be a sound
representation. The law does not specify any particular mountains or
view. The shield may be of any shape, with any sort of border or none.
There must be a landscape of natural color in the foreground or base,
with high mountains of blue above and extending into a yellow sky.
There must be a pine tree of natural color extending from near the
base to the top; sheaves of grain three in number and yellow, placed
diagonally on the right side; and a red cow standing on the left side
of the field.* The motto, badge, crest, and scroll must conform to the
The REVISED STATUTES of 1840 has a title-page vignette of a Coat of
Arms much like that of 1821, but with the addition of crossed pine
branches beneath the shield. These are said to represent the pine
sprigs worn by Vermonters at the Battle of Plattsburgh in 1814. A
version which appeared on commissions issued about 1858 replaced the
pine branches with plumes, and appears to have followed the carving
over the desk of the Speaker of the House in its original form.
Probably the carving over the painting of the "Battle of Cedar Creek"
by Julian Scott in the State House reception room most clearly
represents what the 1862 Legislature had in mind, since it conforms
very closely to the official versions in use shortly after the Act of
1862. At that time a painting made by Charles R. Heyde of Burlington,
and intended to be the official version, was placed in the custody of
the Secretary of State. It was replaced by the present painting in
that office dated 1898, and Heyde's painting appears to be lost.
Fortunately, Charles Reed furnished a description by Professor
Benedict soon after the painting was made. This states that the high
mountains are Camel's Hump and Mansfield, traced in outline from a
point opposite Burlington. This viewpoint was selected because it was
thought Samuel de Champlain first saw the Green Mountains from that
vicinity, and also because it was thought that travelers on the Lake
would remember that view. The description also states that all objects
in the Coat of Arms were modeled after the best specimens that could
Probably all the versions since 1862 conform more or less closely to
the terms of the law, as did most of those from 1821 to 1862 even
before the legal guide was furnished. The earlier versions, however,
usually omitted the badge of crossed pine branches. There is no
complete collection of all the versions.
Condensed from an article entitled "The Coat of Arms and Great Seal of
Vermont" prepared by John P. Clement and first published in the
VERMONT LEGISLATIVE DIRECTORY of 1939.
*The rendering of the Coat of Arms reproduced here seems to be in
error on the required "right" and "left" positions of these two
elements. Heraldic descriptions are given, however, from the point of
view of the bearer of the coat of arms, not the viewer. So the
rendering is correct.
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