Heraldic Banners of U.S. Presidents

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Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, etc. More than a third of America’s presidents have had their own personal coat of arms. But almost none of them have been displayed in public. This is how they would look in flag form, as banners of arms.

The American Heraldry Society must be commended for having collected and made public all available knowledge on the heraldry of U.S. Presidents and other historic figures in American history. Their research shows that about half of the presidential arms are family arms inherited by a President. The other half are arms created for a President, inspired by his ancestry, his family name or the symbols of office.

Except for the arms of the 1st President of the United States, presidential arms are virtually unknown. In only two cases, banners of these arms have been used in public. The illustration shows how heraldic banners of six U.S. Presidents would look together.

Top row, from left to right:

George Washington (1789-1797) proudly and consistently used his family arms. Without doubt, the Washington arms are the best known of any U.S. president. In 1938, his arms were used to create the flag of Washington, D.C. Therefore, the capital’s flag with the proportions 1:2 is a variant of the heraldic banner in the illustration above.

Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), the 3rd President of the United States, scorned the snobbery of people who used coats of arms. But at the same time he was a gentleman of his time and made use of his family arms in his personal seal and on silverware, not least while being the American minister to France in the 1780s.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945), 32nd President, was a fifth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President. The Roosevelt arms spell out the family’s name in Dutch (literally, rose field): “upon a grassy mound a rose bush proper bearing three roses”. These arms were used by Teddy Roosevelt; FDR used a modified version with three cut roses criss-crossing each other.

Bottom row, from left to right:

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) was not only the 34th President of the United States, he was also a highly decorated WWII general. In 1945, King Christian X of Denmark conferred on him the Order of the Elephant. However, Eisenhower didn’t show a great deal of interest and it took more than a decade for him to live up to what is required of a Knight of the Elephant: to provide the Chapter of the Royal Danish Orders with a drawing of his personal coat of arms. In the end, he had help from Denmark. The anvil plays on the German roots of the family name Eisenhower/Eisenhauer (literally, iron miner).

John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) was of Irish descent. On Saint Patrick’s Day 1961, the President and his family were presented with arms granted by the Chief Herald of Ireland at the behest of the Irish government. After the President’s assassination, his brother Robert F. Kennedy led an expedition to the summit of Mount Kennedy in Canada, named in honor of the 35th U.S. President. Here, he planted a heraldic banner with the Kennedy arms.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) accepted a grant of arms from the now defunct American College of Heraldry and Arms in 1968. However, according to the research of the American Heraldry Society, the 36th President never made use of his arms. Since LBJ, only three U.S. Presidents are known to have used arms: Reagan, Clinton and Trump.

 

Read more about presidential coats of arms in the USA on the website of the American Heraldry Society: https://www.americanheraldry.org/heraldry-in-the-usa/arms-of-famous-americans/presidents-of-the-united-states.

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