The Hampton Town Seal

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From the Town of Hampton 2011 Annual Report

by Arthur M. Moody
Town Seal

The present Town Seal first appeared on the Town Report for the (fiscal) year ending January 31, 1938. According to the "Official Pictorial Magazine" of the Town's Tercentenary (1938), the Selectmen were authorized to adopt the official seal. Chosen was one designed by Hazle Leavitt Smith of Wollaston, Massachusetts (daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Irvin E. Leavitt of Hampton). Mrs. Smith, who also created the Historical Map for Hampton's 300th Anniversary celebration, was graduated from Hampton Academy and High School with the Class of 1913. (The late Alzena Elliot, sister of the late Mrs. Smith, resided on Dearborn Avenue.)

Within the circular seal are numerous heraldic devices similar to those used in the England of feudal times and developed in more elaboration during the Middle Ages. Mrs. Smith drew into her creation a coat-of-arms used to identify families and towns, and eventually institutions. The most important part of the arms, depicted on the shield, is nearly identical to that of the City of Southampton, England. Many of Hampton's first European settlers were originally from the Southampton area. That city is a large commercial seaport on the south coast (English Channel) near the Royal Navy base at Portsmouth. Southampton is the county seat of Hampshire (or "Hants"). Southampton's incorporation as a town dates back to the late 12th Century. Southampton's arms are also divided in halves horizontally with three Tudor roses, two over one. (In England, still, "borrowing" the official, Royal Government-registered arms of a family, school, or municipality is against the law,)

Mrs. Smith opted not to place opposing "supporters" attached to each side of the shield. Instead, she put scenes of Hampton in a background display as if the shield and its helm/crest were superimposed over prominent scenes of the 19th Century. At the viewer's left is Great Boar's Head with a large building, probably the first hotel built (1819) on Boar's Head. "The Winnisimmet" or "Winnicumet," according to Randall's "Hampton, A Century of Town and Beach" (1989). The smaller building beside it could be the first house there, built in 1806 by Daniel Lamprey. According to Randall's, the home was operated as a small inn by 1812. The scene on the right is a meandering Hampton River through the marsh with haystacks mounted on wooden staddles awaiting transport by local farmers. Saltmarsh hay sustained the relatively large number of cattle here for nearly 300 years. For instance, the 1840 Federal Census recorded 807 head of cattle and 1,320 people.

Mrs. Smith did place one scene, the 1852 Hampton Academy building, as both the crest and the helm resting on top of the shield itself. The private Hampton Academy ("Proprietary School in Hampton") was incorporated by the General Court with the concurrence of Gov. John Langdon (of Revolutionary War fame) on June 16, 1810. The first building, on Meeting House Green (later: Academy Green), accepted students in the middle and high school grades. Several famous men of the 19th Century prepared for college there. After an 1851 fire, the 1852 building was raised on Academy Green. In January 1883 eighty pair of oxen and ten pair of team horses pulled, via cables, the two-and-a-half story building on tree skids through the snow across Ring Swamp to a location (later: Academy Avenue) near the Town Hall. It opened as "Hampton Academy and High School" in 1885, graduating its first "high school" class in 1887. Under a Special Act of the Legislature in 1872, the Town of Hampton was permitted to raise tuition for the private school by way of property taxes. In 1939-40, the Hampton School District constructed a red-brick high school next to the old wooden Academy building. The private school was no more and the building was razed in 1940. Its old bell, cast in 1852 by Henry N. Hooper & Co., Boston, is emplaced in front of the new building, now the Hampton Academy Junior High School. The large wooden ball that topped the steeple, along with a banner, photo, and records, can be found at Tuck Museum next to the original Academy lot, which has a bronze tablet (on a stone) which was installed for the Academy's Centennial in 1910.

In placing the Academy building in such a prominent position on the seal, Mrs. Smith was reflecting the importance (and rarity) of having an institution of secondary education located in town. In the seal, the Academy with its belfry and steeple is in the position of the helm, representing an English knight's armorial helmet, surmounted by the crest, representing the knight's traditional insignia of identification. Mrs. Smith considered the long-existing Academy building as the edifice that identified Hampton. By its placement as the crest, or crown, in the highest prominence of the heraldic device (with the steeple even invading "Hampton" in the outer inscription), she was also symbolizing the Importance of education in our Town's history. Indeed, the Town had established the first school funded by taxation in what is now the State of New Hampshire. At a Town Meeting in April 1649, it was voted to hire John Legat to teach "both mayles and femailes (which are capable of learning) to write and read and cast accounts." The school opened in late May.

The trees accompanying the Academy are evergreens, apparently spruces, which are of the conifer species. If the Town had an official tree, it most likely would be a conifer, nearly all of which are evergreens. We are told that the Indian name for our area was "Winnacunnet," Interpreted to mean "Beautiful Place of the Pines" (or "Pleasant Place in the Pines"). Those Native Americans probably included all evergreens with cones as a general classification. Below the shield, in the place for the motto (which, like Southampton, the Town does not have), is the early name of this area: "Winnacunnet." This spelling has been standardized since 1938 and further cemented with the naming of the new high-school district, Winnacunnet Cooperative School District, in 1958. Dow's "History of Hampton, New Hampshire" (1893) also preferred that spelling. (In the earliest Town Records of 1639, the first clerk wrote it as "Winnicummet," probably reflecting what he thought to be the English phonetic equivalent of the Indian spoken language.) "Winnacunnet Plantation" was the original name of the first permanent European settlement here in the fall of 1638. The next spring, the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony in Boston upgraded the settlement to town status: Town of Winnacunnet. June 7, 1639, is therefore considered the incorporation date as a self-governing town. By fall, the leader of the religious settlement, Rev. Stephen Bachiler, requested the name change to "Hampton," a reflection of his roots in England. The First Congregational Church of Hampton is Rev. Bachiler's church, the oldest continuous religious society in the State, and one of the oldest in the country.

The black-on-white Town Seal was colorized the first year for the cover of the 1938 Tercentenary Magazine. A watercolor by George K. Ross shows a blond Puritan shaking hands with a Native American on the tidal marsh with the new seal between them. Orange and purple are the predominant colors of the seal and its rim, with a blue sky and three red roses. The bottom of the shield is purple, as is an outer circular rim. The top of the shield has a white background. The river and Boar's Head are orange. In the Southampton seal, the bottom of the shield is wine red with a white rose; the two roses on top are red on a white or silver background. They are Tudor Roses. Tudor monarchs reigned England for 118 years until the death of Elizabeth I and the establishment of Great Britain under) James I of the House of Stuart in 1603. The House of Tudor was formed out of the House of Lancaster (whose family badge was a red rose) and the House of York (white rose) as the aftermath of the War of the Roses for the throne in the 1400s. This writer speculates the symbolism to be: the red roses (Lancaster) won over the white rose (York). The Lancastrians won with the help of Henry Tudor, who ascended the throne as Henry VII after the York King Richard Ill was slain in battle. Henry then married the slain king's niece and the houses were joined. In Mrs. Smith's seal the roses are white (not dark) - but of a Tudor rosette design.

In 1975, the Town's American Revolution Bicentennial Committee commissioned artist Steven Read of North Hampton to sculpt a relief of the Town Seal as its gift to the Town for the Town Office Building, which was enlarged that year. Nearly two feet in diameter, it was presented during the ceremonies on the Fourth of July in 1976, and hangs near the Town Clerk's office. The colors are more natural than those used in the 1938 watercolor. Some orange (or orange-gold) is retained but purple is not.

The colors of the Town Seal were defined via a vote of the 1977 Annual Town Meeting that adopted the newly manufactured Town Flag with seal as the official Town Flag. The flag, with colored seal on a blue field, was custom-made under an appropriation of Federal Revenue Sharing Funds by the March 1975 Town Meeting. The Board of Selectmen, at the request of Selectman Ashton J. Norton, had sought the appropriation to acquire a Town and U.S. ceremonial flag set for the Bicentennial. The colors of the seal are normal: a blue river (not orange) and ocean (not light green); a silver (not orange) background area behind the shield's lower half; a lot of gold and yellow. (Silver and gold are the two heraldic "metals.") All three roses are red. Some of the drawn details differ from Mrs. Smith's seal. The three haystacks are all on the same bank of Hampton River; there is just one building (small) on Boar' Head and it's farther up the point; the spruce trees look like a deciduous leaf-bearing tree (that would not be "forever green").

The Town Flag with the Town Seal is displayed in the Selectmen's Meeting Room at the Town Offices. (The preceding explanation and analysis is by Former Selectman Art Moody)

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