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Phi Gamma Delta's Heraldic Insignia

Adapted from an article by Karl Overholt (1891)



Heraldic insignia in the Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta date from the year 1879. Prior to that time the Fraternity used the early representation of the seal: a closed book, upon which were two clasped hands, and above which were the Greek letters, Phi Gamma Delta, respectively perioded, and emanating from such in every direction were sunrays, or rays of light. The open motto of the Fraternity was inscribed there under in the Latin words, "Fortiter, Fideliter, Feliciter."

The 1878 convention appointed J. S. Battell, T. W. Weeks, and Frank Keck to recommend heraldic insignia for Phi Gamma Delta. The 1879 convention in Cleveland adopted a Coat of Arms and an open motto to accompany same:

Arms: A shield, gold, bearing three roses red, crossed by a chevron purple, bearing three stars silver.
Crest: An owl.
Motto: (in Greek letters) - "Philotes, Glukutate, Dunasteia."

The helmet and mantlings in heraldry originally denoted nobility. However, in representing the Coat of Arms today, the helmet and mantlings are never used.

The heraldic insignia of the Fraternity was extended further through the initiative of Grand Chapter member Frank Keck. In the 1880s he created secondary shields, with purple field, for use by individual chapters of the Fraternity. Each chapter selected for its own distinctive mark an individual chapter charge for their shield, and also an individual chapter motto, the initial letter of the motto following the letter of each individual chapter's name. It is fully exemplified in Keck's "Uncompleted Catalog of Phi Gamma Delta," published in 1895, and in The History of Phi Gamma Delta, Tomos Beta. When the current form of government replaced the Grand Chapter in 1898, the extension of this secondary heraldry to new chapters was neglected, so that at present our younger chapters possess no chapter heraldry.

Some confusion developed in these years about the coat of arms. In 1883 the Grand Chapter voted to adopt a coat of arms designed by the Dreka company of Philadelphia. It is unclear why they did this after the convention adopted different arms in 1879. The arms were displayed in college yearbooks and even The Phi Gamma Delta magazine for a time.

In 1901 the 53rd Ekklesia appointed Dandridge Spotswood (Hampden Sydney 1893) and William S. Wadsworth to determine exactly the proper coat of arms. The following year the 54th Ekklesia adopted their report: ". . . the coat of arms as adopted at the Cleveland convention in 1879 was correct heraldry and we deem it advisable to re-adopt these arms."

These actions resulted in some difficulties. Confusion remained over the appearance of the stars: silver stars as noted in 1879, or gold mullets (pierced stars) as indicated in the 1902 report? And how should the owl look, brown as in 1879, or snowy white like the mascot? Brothers also debated what precisely constituted "proper" heraldry. As a result, the 55th Ekklesia passed a resolution endorsing "the proper coat of arms, when the helmet is stricken there from." So for a few years three or four representations of the arms circulated, like the version depicted at the right.

In 1913, the Ekklesia sought to clarify the picture. They confirmed the coat of arms adopted in 1879 and re-adopted in 1902. The 1903 ban on the helmet remained. The snow white owl, our mascot, would grace the crest, as depicted in a 1913 representation, and today's interpretation to the left.

Cussans, in his Handbook of Heraldry, page 301, shows a facsimile of the Arms of the family of Baldington of Oxford, which has some characteristics of our own coat of arms. The arms of the City of Leeds, England also has similarities, although they were designed in the 1920s.


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