Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Arkham Seal, Part Deux

What does the town seal of Arkham, Massachusetts look like?

That's the question I started with yesterday, driven by a desire to add a realistic touch to prop documents from Lovecraft's famed city. I could probably just cobble something together, or adapt an existing seal from the real world, and save myself a whole lot of effort. But where's the fun, much less the defining obsessiveness of true fandom, in that?

The wonderful Town and City Seals of Massachusetts provides detailed examples of the official insignia of every major municipality in the Commonwealth. Examining the seals from cities of comparable size and history to the fictional Arkham should provide us with some helpful design cues, helping the final product look as realistic as possible. We'll start off with Salem, the place most often cited as an inspiration for Lovecraft's creation.

The official seal of Salem, Massachusetts:

Notable elements include:

- A ship under full sail behind a native of the East Indies carrying a parasol. An appropriate device for a city that made it's fortunes from trade with the east.

- The dates of the city's founding and incorporation along the circumference in Latin

- The motto "To the furthest parts of the rich East", again in Latin, displayed in a ribbon device. Another nod to the city's extensive trade history.

- The dove of peace bearing an olive branch above the central shield. Somewhat ironic considering the hundreds of vessels from Salem bearing Letters of Marque during wartime.

Next we have the city of Brockton. Here's their official seal:

Notable elements include:

- The parlay between Chief Massasoit and Myles Standish at Sachem's Rock in 1649. This marked the purchase of the land where Brockport would eventually be.

- The beehive of industry.

- The globe of education.

- The electric bulb of progress. Brockton incorporated from the former Duxbury plantation lands in 1881 and was one of the first cities in the United States to be electrified.

- The two-headed snake symbol of Thulsa Doom's cult from the movie "Conan the Barbarian", directly under the beehive. I suspect this was just a decorative flourish, but it's funny to imagine the sigil of Yig being right out in the open for hundreds of years.

Next we have the official seal of Dover:

Notable elements include:

- A plain, two story meeting house, without a steeple or religious adornment. Dover broke away from the Town of Dedham so the inhabitants could follow their own path of worship in such a building.

- On the left, the town's first school house. Behind it is the highest elevation in the township, Pine Rock Hill.

- On the right, three Native Americans, the original settlers of the area. In the background is Pegan Hill, a native gathering place.

- A plow and sheaf of wheat at the top, symbolizing the town's agricultural history.

Finally, the official seal of Falmouth:

Notable elements include:

- Nobska Lighthouse, surrounded by gulls. Probably the most identifiable geographic landmark in the town.

- A plow, marking the emphasis on farming of the first settlers.

- A three-masted ship under full sail, commemorating the huge whaling fleet that called Falmouth home.

- "Suckanesset", the native name for the area, and "1602", the date the first European visited.

- A sprig of cranberries on either side of the main design.

After looking at these, and other designs from Massachusetts, I'm definitely getting some ideas for Arkham's seal. Many of the historical events that inspired the above imagery have close parallels in the history of Lovecraft's city, which should come as no great surprise. I'm going to take a few days to let the symbolism of the real seals marinate my brain and then start looking at specific correspondences with the Mythos canon. At this point I think Falmouth's seal is a good starting point to work from, since the town's history of an initially agricultural settlement that later developed into a significant seaport matches up with Arkham quite well.


Harald said...

Just a thought, inspired by the Brockton-seal. How about 'hiding' an Elder Sign, or somesutch, in the seal of Arkham?

I am assuming you've already considered that, but just in case ;)

Propnomicon said...

@ Harald

I'd like to do it if I can incorporate it in a very subtle, unobtrusive way that wouldn't draw attention to itself. Ideally, it would be an "easter egg" or in-joke that would require some effort to notice, not something that's right out in the open.