Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Seals of Massachusetts Cities and Towns

One of the treasures in the Special Collections Department is a scrapbook titled Seals of Massachusetts Cities and Towns. The Massachusetts Department of Agriculture donated it in 1924 but it is not clear who originally began the collection. Alan Fox, an Assistant Librarian at the State Library, included additional seals in 1967. Seals in the first section are embossed and generally on white paper which makes it difficult to appreciate the amount of detail included. However there are some on metallic and colored papers that show details more clearly. The other section of the volume contains printed seals which generally include a white background and one other color for text and pictures.

These seals are used to authenticate official documents and all of them include the name of the city or town and the year it was incorporated. The majority also have, in the center space, a picture related to the city or town’s beginnings. A useful reference for understanding the significance of the depictions used for these seals is Town and City Seals of Massachusetts (State Street Trust Company, 1950-1951) which is available in the State Library.

This is a selection of seals used in Massachusetts since the 1600’s. Find the remainder of the collection at the State Library's Special Collections Department.

Kate Boutin, Special Collections Intern