Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

January 30, 2014

Andover's town seal tells many stories

Andover Stories Tom Adams, Andover Historical Society
The Andover Townsman

---- — It is an image we have seen a thousand times. It appears on official documents and on town buildings. It is worn by first responders and displayed on town vehicles. The image is our town seal commemorating the founding of Andover with the purchase of land from Cutshumache, the sagamore of Massachusetts Indians, for six English pounds and a coat.

The origin of today’s town seal came from a local jeweler, John E. Whiting. He created a cloisonné pin memorializing the town’s 250th anniversary. The distinctive pin pictures a Native American in full headdress, standing arm outstretched, holding a coat and gazing out over a river and down on the town below.

It incorporated our then-circular town seal, the date of incorporation and a flowing ribbon hailing Andover’s 250th anniversary.

The design and his pin caught the town’s fancy — so much so that it became the official logo of the celebration. An artist created a large canvas banner depicting the seal. Restored by the Andover Historical Society for Andover’s 350th anniversary, it now hangs at Town Hall outside the town manager’s office.

In the afterglow of Andover’s 250th anniversary celebrations, the town began renovating Town Hall. Local architect, artist and Andover native Perley Gilbert was hired to oversee the project. The results of his work can still be seen today — the dramatic spiraling staircase leading to the second-floor ballroom and the town seal on the front foyer tile floor.

Determined to get it right, Gilbert and our town fathers hired local artist and photographer Leonard Sherman to give the seal a more polished look. They brought in mosaic artist Elias Galassi to help create the ceramic pieces for Gilbert’s design and Sherman’s adaptation. Set in the Main Street entryway, it remains today a stunning version of Whiting’s original creation.

The Town Hall project behind them, the work accomplished by Gilbert, Sherman and Galassi in the ensuing years continues to leave a lasting mark on today’s Andover and far beyond.

Gilbert designed the West Parish vestry and Junior High Memorial Auditorium. Hired by William Wood, he designed Orlando Cottage, now the Lanam Club, for Wood’s son, William Wood Jr.

Sherman later worked as paymaster at Wood’s company, American Woolen, and was active in town theater productions.

Galassi did important work on prominent public and private buildings, including the statehouses in Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire and several city halls.

Since the creation of our town seal in the early 1900s, and the efforts that preceded those, the design has been interpreted by many. It has been studied and discussed among local historians and drawn by town school children. Its evolution reflects the subtle changes the seal has undergone over time.

The changes have not come without some much-discussed controversy. The headdress worn by Cutshumache appears to be a war bonnet of a Plains Indian rather than one worn by tribes here in Massachusetts. The headdress on the seal designed by Andover High School student Kristoffel Meulan for the town’s 350th celebration is said to be more accurate.

A year ago, the seal found a new medium — and a new audience to embrace. The Andover Veteran Services Department created a challenge coin honoring those veterans from town who have helped veteran-related causes here at home.

Challenge coins carry a meaningful tradition among many veterans. Struck on one side of the Andover coin is the town seal; the other side reads, poignantly, “Andover Veteran – Proudly Served.” It is a fitting tribute indeed to those who served our town and nation.

So as you walk down Main Street or around Town Hall and see our town seal, pause for a moment to take it all in. It tells a great and enduring story.