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Tag Archives: Great Seal

- A Few of Our Favorite Things: Letterhead in the Archives, Great Seal Edition


189_, Governor's Office

The design of the Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia was adopted by the Virginia Convention on 5 July 1776, based on the work of a committee including George Mason, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, and Robert Carter Nicholas. Their design emphasized themes of civic virtue based on ancient Roman mythology, but it was not cast properly and over the years numerous variations sprang up. In 1930 a committee was formed, including the current Librarian of Virginia Dr. H. R. McIlwaine, to look into the situation and establish an official version of the great seal. As part of the work for that committee, McIlwaine collected a series of letterheads with variations of the Virginia seal on them. They differed wildly in their portrayal of the Roman goddess Virtus, the defeated tyrant, and even the background of the scene. The original text on letterheads by Vince Brooks is included here for context.

Commercial stationery can offer a fascinating snapshot of a place or time. Scholars of this subject point out that the rich illustrations and elaborate printing of commercial letterheads, billheads, and envelopes correspond with the dramatic rise in industrialization in America. According to one expert, the period 1860 to 1920 represents the heyday of commercial stationery, when Americans could see their growing nation reflected in the artwork on their bills and correspondence. … read more »

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