Coats of Arms of Famous Americans
Most of the information comes from Bolton's Armory. It is based on evidence such as bookplates, tombstones, and the like. It is therefore indicative of what the individuals themselves used.
George Washington (1732-99)
George Washington was rather fond of heraldry, as the following quote suggests:
It is far from my design to intimate an opinion, that Heraldry, Coat-Armor, etc. might not be rendered conducive to public and private use with us; or that they can have any tendency unfriendly to the purest spirit of Republicanism. On the contrary, a different conclusion is deducible from the practice of Congress, and the states; all of which have established some kind of Armorial Devices, to authenticate their official instruments.
George (of a patrician bent, it is true) used his arms (Argent, two bars beneath three mullets gules) on seals and book-plates. These arms appear on the flag of the District of Columbia.
John Adams (1735-1826)
Arms: Gules six crosses crosslet fitchee argent 3, 2 and 1, on a chief or 3 pellets, on the center one a fleur-de-lis and on the other two a lion passant guardant.
These are the arms of Boylston; John Adams' mother was Susanna Boylston. John Adams used them on a bookplate, and to seal the Treaty of Paris in 1783 (which ended the War of American Independence; note that Seward sealed the Alaska Purchase with a personal seal as well); later, after his embassies to Holland, France and Great Britain, he added a lion, a fleur-de-lys and a lion passant to the arms. His grandson Charles Francis Adams (1807-86), son of John Quincy Adams, also used them on a bookplate.
John Quincy Adams (1767-1848)
Arms: Quarterly: 1, A stag trippant by a pine tree above a fish naiant, all within an orle of thirteen mullets (Adams); 2, Sable a fess coticed or between three martlets (Smith); 3, Gules seven mascles 3, 3, 1 or (Quincy); and 4, Gules 6 crosses crosslets fitchee argent 3, 2 and 1; on a chief or three pellets, on the center one a fleur-de-lys and on the other two a lion passant guardant (Boylston).
The Adams quarter was designed by John Quincy Adams; they come from a bookplate (see Bolton's Armory). The four quarters represent his four grandparents: John Adams (1691-1760), Susanna Boylston, William Smith and Elizabeth Quincy.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)
Roosevelt descended from Klaas Martensezen Van Roosevelt, who came from Zeeland to New Amsterdam in 1649.
The arms were: Argent on a mount vert a rose bush with three roses in full bloom proper. The crest is three ostrich feathers per pale gules and argent, the motto: Qui plantavit curabit. The arms are obviously canting.
Source: Matthew's Armory and Blue Book.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945)
Same family as Theodore. The Delano (originally de La Noue) arms were argent fretty sable on a chief gules three wolves' heads erased or.
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)
When Eisenhower received the Order of the Elephant in Denmark in 1945, it was required of him to acquire a coat of arms so as to fill his stall in the Order's hall. His family arms were Or, an anvil azure. He added a crest (five stars of five points, recalling his rank as General of the Army) and a motto: Peace Through Understanding.
Source: NEHGS Roll of Arms 565.
John F. Kennedy (1915-63)
In 1961, the Chief Herald of the Republic of Ireland granted arms to John F. Kennedy, then President of the United States. The arms are: Sable three tilting helms in profile or lined gules and a bordure per saltire gules and ermine. The crest is an arm proper, armed argent, holding four arrows proper.
Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica, NEHGS Roll of Arms 586.
Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-73)
Richard M. Nixon (1913-94)
Both Johnson and Nixon (as well as vice-president Spiro Agnew, 1918-96) were granted arms by the American College of Heraldry and Arms (founded in 1966 in Maryland), according to L. G. Pine's article on Heraldry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. I have not found a description of those arms, nor do I know if this organization still exists.
Ronald Reagan (b. 1911)
Reagan had arms registered in Switzerland around 1984.
The arms are: Or, a bear rampant sable, armed and langued gules holding between its forepaws a mullet argent; on a chief of the second, standing on a ducal coronet of the first a falcon argent, armed and langued of the third, wings displayed and inverted. Crest: On a gentleman's helmet proper a demi-horse sable, unguled or, charged on the shoulder with an actor's mask of the last. Motto: "Facta non verba".
Bill Clinton (b. 1946)
THe arms were granted by the Chief Herald of Ireland on June 15, 1995.
They are: Or a lion rampant gules charged with three bars argent holding in the dexter paw a branch of olive proper between in the dexter chief and sinister base a cross crosslet fitchée sable and in the sinister chief and dexter base a shamrock slipped vert. Crest: an anchor erect azure on the stock the letters SPES argent. Mantle: gules doubled argent. Motto: "An leon do bheir an chraobh". (For further information see an article by Sean Murphy on rec.heraldry on Oct. 15, 1999).
Captain John Smith (c. 1580-1631)
Arms: Vert a chevron gules between three Turk's heads couped proper the turbans or.
Registered in 1625 by the College of Arms (NEHGS Roll of Arms 151).
Peter Stuyvesant (c. 1610-72)
Arms: Per fess or and gules in chief a greyhound chasing a hare and in base a running stag all proper.
(NEHGS Roll of Arms 414).
William Penn (1644-1718)
Arms: Argent on a fess sable three plates. Crest: a demi-lion rampant gorged with a collar sable charged with three plates. Motto: Dum clavum teneam.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-90)
Arms: Argent on a bend between two lions' heads erased gules, a dolphin embowed of the first between two martlets or.
Note that the arms of both Penn and Franklin are recalled in the arms of the University of Pennsylvania: Argent on a chevron sable three plates, on a chief gules a dolphin embowed between two open books argent.
Paul Revere (1735-1818)
Arms: Argent three bars gules overall on a bend sinister of the field three fleurs-de-lys sinisterways.
On a bookplate of the patriot Paul Revere and one of his father Paul Revere Sr (Apollos Rivoire). They are reproduced in David Hackett Fischer's book Paul Revere's Ride (Oxford University Press, 1994).
John Paul Jones (1747-92)
Arms: Quarterly gules a stag statant (Jones) and ermine on a fess azure three crosses crosslet argent (Paul). Crest: a stag's head erased. Motto: Pro Republica.
From his seal. The arms were adopted when he was knighted by Louis XVI (Bolton's Armory).
Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816)
Arms: Quarterly Gules a lion rampant reguardant or and Argent three torteaux in fess.
Arms also used by Lewis Morris (1671-1746), governor of New York, his grandfather; and by other members of the Morris family.
Albert Gallatin (1761-1849)
Secretary of Treasury under Thomas Jefferson, of Genevan descent. Arms: Azure a fess argent between three besants.
Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809)
Descended from General Robert Lewis, immigrant from Wales to Virginia. (1638). Arms: argent a dragon's head and neck erased vert, holding in the mouth a bloody hand proper. Crest: a dragon's head and neck erased vert. Motto: omne solum forti patria est.Source: Crozier's Armory, p. 85; Vermont's America Heraldica, p. 171.
Robert E. Lee (1807-70)
Descended from Colonel Richard Lee, York Co. (1641). Arms: Gules a fess chequy azure and or between ten billets argent, four in chief, three, two and one in base. Crest: on a straff raguly fessways, a squirrel sejant proper cracking a nut, from the dexter end of the staff a hazel branch vert fructed or. Motto: ne incautus futuri.
I have found arms for 23 out of 55 signers. In each case the arms were used by the signer or members of his immediate family.
The National Archives has a list of the signers with links to complete biographies and portraits of each signer.
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Last modified: Feb 08, 2004