Friday, January 15, 2016

HERALDRY | Eagle in the Great Seal of USA (Updated July 21, 2016)

Thomson's design of the Great Seal of the USA, 1782.
January 15, 2016–George Washington presented the Stars and Stripes to the Continental Congress saying that the stars represented "a new constellation".

In the canton of the flag that had previously been used to represent the new nation, the Union Jack was replaced by a solid dark blue background or field, with 13 white stars on it, representing the 13 states.

Congress voted to accept the new design of the flag on June 14, 1777, and June 14 is now designated Flag Day.

Five years later, Congress asked 53-year-old Charles Thomson to design America’s Great Seal based on reports and drawings of the three committees that had looked into it.

Thomson had served the previous eight years as Secretary of the Continental Congress. He had previously been a Latin master at an academy in Philadelphia.

His sketch of a design is shown above. His description of it shows he has in mind the 13 original colonies leaning into one another to make the red-and-white chevron or upside-down V. This substitutes for the stripes on the flag, or the bars on the Washington shield.

The Great Seal looks a lot like the one the White House uses today. The bird, stars and stripes on the seal includes the major elements of the Washington coat of arms. The bird on the seal has morphed into the American bald eagle and two main additions have been made:
  • In the eagle’s beak, Thomson placed a scroll with the first committee’s motto: E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One).
  • The eagle is now facing the olive branch in one talon instead of the bundle of arrows in the other. In the sketch, Thomson has the eagle's head looking in the direction of peace. This was reversed in the final version, perhaps to make the eagle look more threatening to a possible invader. Britain did try to retake their colonies in 1812 and were fighting again here until January 1815, although a peace treaty was signed in Ghent a month before. The direction that the eagle faces was reversed again after World War II.
Several different reasons, not necessarily contradictory, have been advanced for the post-World War II change in the direction faced by the eagle:
So we now have at least three people (FDR, Elsey and Truman) to credit with the post-WW2 change, and at least three good reasons for making it.

Friday, January 8, 2016

R.I.P. | Natalie Wales Douglas-Hamilton

Working on Bundles for Britain.
Natalie Wales Douglas-Hamilton, also known by her husband's first name as Lady Malcolm, passed away on January 14, 2013 at 103.

Born Natalie Scarritt Wales in 1909, she grew up in Boston and New York City, where she attended Nightingale School, graduating in 1928, and then Columbia University. She became an American Florence Nightingale, aggregating volunteer help and money to assist those suffering in World War II.

She was first married to Kenelm Winslow in 1928, and with him gave birth to Natalie Wales Mead (1930-1988), known as Bubbles, and Mary-Chilton Winslow Mead (1934-2014), known as Mimi, who also attended Nightingale before going on to Brearley and then Radcliffe.

Natalie divorced Winslow and remarried in 1937. In 1939, soon after Britain declared war on Germany, when she was known as Natalie Latham, she asked the British Ambassador to the United States what Britain needed that ordinary Americans could supply.
The answer: knitted caps for sailors. So she got to work, building a national organization with nearly 2,000 branches and over 1.5 million volunteers working to send to Britain not only knitted items but also X-ray machines, ambulances, children‘s cots, surgical instruments and more, all labeled “From your American friends.” 
She enlisted the help of Joan Crawford, Clementine Churchill, Janet Murrow, Louise Carnegie and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. For her services in WWII, she was named the first non-British woman to be named an honorary Commander of the British Empire (C.B.E.) by King George VI in 1946. Bundles for Britain was just the first of many organizations she founded. At the request of the White House, she created a related group, Bundles for America, to aid Americans during the war. In 1947 she established Common Cause, an anticommunist group, and thereby met her third husband, Edward Bragg Paine. Among other things, the organization shipped food during the Berlin airlift and sheltered refugees (sometimes in her own home).

After the death of her third husband, Natalie met Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton, and they married in 1953. Together, they started the American-Scottish Foundation to strengthen ties between Scotland and the United States. After Lord Malcolm‘s tragic death in a plane crash in 1964, Lady Malcolm continued to devote herself to the foundation, organizing “Scotland Week” in New York City and creating the annual Scottish Ball fundraiser. She also established the Wallace Award, celebrating an individual's contribution to American-Scottish relations, as well as Scotland House, a gathering place for those with Scottish roots and a center for Scottish culture. [Sources: the Nightingale-Bamford School, The Blue Doors, Fall 2013; the Boston Globe; and the New York Times.]

Saturday, January 2, 2016

R.I.P. | Edward B. McMenamin (1912-1994), Economist, Columbia Provost

Edward B. McMenamin was born in 1912 in Portland, Me., and graduated from Bowdoin College in 1933 with a degree in economics. [He started his career in the FDR administration in the same office as Spike Marlin, who was born three years earlier than McMenamin and died eight months later in 1994.]

During World War II, he served with the United States Marine Corps in the Pacific Theater, and later was in government service in Washington and abroad as an administrator with international economic cooperation programs such as the Marshall Plan, the Mutual Security Agency in Paris and the International Cooperation Administration.

After he retired from civil service and came to Columbia University as associate provost 1957-61 and then director of personnel from 1959 on, and secretary of the University from 1961 until his retirement in 1972.  After retiring from Columbia, he continued to work as a consultant to the federal government, the city of Boston, the Aspen Institute and several environmental agencies. He also worked for St Bernard's School.

He died Apr. 18, 1994 at a Manhattan apartment where he and his wife were staying. He had been in declining health for three years. He lived in Bridgehampton, L.I.  He is survived by his wife, Joan Stitt McMenamin, who at the time was Head Mistress of the Nightingale-Bamford School.

I attended his 1994 memorial service, which was well attended thanks in part to the participation of many Nightingale students. Mrs. McMenamin died in 2004. Sources include Columbia University Record (19:26), April 29, 1994; New York Times obit.