Try to keep the design as simple as possible. Arms are still meant to be means of identification and representation and should be easily recognized and remembered. Crowded designs do not
to this condition.
- The Art of Heraldry (Carl-Alexander von Volborth, Blandford Press, Dorset, 1987)
Many persons, unacquainted with heraldry, experience great difficulty in ascertaining their proper family-arms; and very often, no doubt,
those who are fairly entitled to hereditary coat-armour are induced to assume
any bearing belonging to their name, however mistaken, it may be, because it
has been assigned to them by some coach painter, seal cutter, or engraver. By
these means, there must be numerous instances in which gentlemen exhibit on
their carriages, their seals and their plate, arms, with their crests and
mottoes, which appertain to different families, although of the same name. This
is, in fact, a very common abuse of an useful object, in this country; and an
error into which persons entitled to hereditary coat-armour are too often
Every man, therefore, who holds a respectable standing in
society must be desirous not only of avoiding, in the first instance, mistakes
of this nature; but of having them rectified, as speedily and as far as
possible, after it shall be discovered that they have been actually committed.
Because, independently of the consideration, that no person of reputable
character would wish to use, and thereby probably perpetuate in his family, any
armorial insignia, which might evidently appear to be the right of
another - every abuse of this sort tends to diminish the usefulness of
coat-armour, in an important particular: - it thus loses its aptitude to serve as
a permanent badge of discrimination between families of different lineage
bearing the same name; and it also ceases to be an useful mean of determining
the rights of inheritable property, in cases of descent.
- William Barton, Esq., 1814
American College of Heraldry
is a Chartered, non-profit body established in 1972, with the aim
of aiding in the study and perpetuation of heraldry in the United
States and abroad. Registrations are restricted by policy to American citizens or residents, as
well as to others with significant personal or business connections in America.
FIRST TIME HERE? Please visit our FAQ page
before submitting any designs or questions.
Heraldry is at once both an art and a science. Its origins are rooted in the social and political structure which existed in Europe and the British Isles from about the year 1100 A.D. However, far from being an obsolete relic of a bygone era, heraldry has rather emerged as a vibrant and growing cultural
form. Legitimate coats of arms are
more widely used throughout the world today than ever before in history.
The notorious "Coat of arms for the Name of Jones, Smith, or whatever," purchasable by mail order or in one's local shopping mall, represents no more than improper and illegitimate armorial bearings.
A large and rapidly growing number of Americans rightfully bear coats of arms. Many of these were granted, certified, registered or otherwise recognized by armorial authorities abroad, and a sizable number of these have been registered by their owners with The American College of Heraldry. In addition,
the College has assisted many persons
in designing a new coat of arms for their use which is then properly registered and published. An increasing number of corporate bodies have also acquired coats of arms which they display on armorial flags and in place of the less distinctive logo which is so rapidly outdated in terms of artistic style and structure.
While Americans are usually fascinated by the beauty of heraldry, they are rarely familiar with its meaning and traditions and, therefore, often misunderstand and even abuse this rich cultural heritage. They seldom understand that a coat of arms is usually granted, certified, registered or otherwise
recognized as belonging to one individual
alone, and that only his direct descendants with proven lineage can be recognized as eligible to inherit the arms. Exceptions to this rule are rare. It is highly inappropriate for one to locate the arms of another person sharing the same surname, and to simply adopt and use these arms as one's own. In order to properly claim the right to existing arms, one should approach an office of arms offering genealogical proof of proper kinship, and to receive confirmation of the right to bear the arms and thus to be recognized
by the heraldic community as legitimately bearing the arms.
The notorious "Coat of arms for the Name of Jones,
Smith, or whatever," purchasable by mail order or in one's local shopping mall,
represents no more than improper and illegitimate armorial
bearings. To buy and bear these commercially produced arms is to claim for oneself a direct kinship which has only the most remote possibility of validity, and is thereby to deny one's own legitimate and rightful line of descent. Such infraction of armorial regulation and custom constitutes a flagrant abuse of arms which no knowledgeable and honorable person would intentionally commit.
Sadly, most of the heraldic abuse in this country is done by honest, well-meaning persons. They greatly admire the heraldic tradition, but in their desire to participate in that tradition they inadvertently abuse heraldic arms due to their lack of familiarity with
heraldic regulations and customs.
While such armorial abuse does not apparently
violate state or federal statute in this country at this time, still to usurp the use of another person's coat of arms is highly improper and is a dishonest practice. Such conduct disregards the regulations of all recognized heraldry and violates the rights of the legitimate owners of the arms.