Friday, December 17, 2004
When Carlisle's Town Seal was re-designed
In 1969, with the Bicentennial on the horizon, the Carlisle Colonial Minutemen, with the cooperation of the Selectmen, began to explore the idea of redesigning the town seal. With interest in local history at its peak, other nearby communities had made the decision to redesign their seals to "tell the story of the town." A new seal might better reflect Carlisle's character than the existing corporate-style seal. The original seal was simple: a series of circles that enclosed the words "Town of Carlisle, Massachusetts / Incorporated a District April 19, 1754 / A Town Feb 18, 1805." It had been approved by a Town Meeting vote in 1897. To gather ideas for a new design, the Carlisle Town Seal Design Competition was announced. Participants were urged to use their imagination when creating their designs, the only restrictions were that the final product must incorporate the words "Carlisle" and "Massachusetts," and that it could be scaled to large or small formats.
Carlisle resident Bob Thomson's design was selected as the winner of the competition. Thomson originally presented to the Selectmen at a preliminary judging a series of eight different drafts, each highlighting a variety of Carlisle-related objects and themes. He eventually integrated these elements into a single design, one that would ultimately become the new town seal.
Thomson's completed design uses an outline of Carlisle that has been divided into four quadrants. The crooked lines dividing the quadrants represent the four major byways in town: Bedford Road, Concord, Lowell, and Westford Streets. The upper left quadrant contains several tall pines. These trees symbolize the importance of woodlands to the town in general, but also represent the ancient Carlisle Pines. In the upper right quadrant is a rendering of the Meeting House, symbolizing the strong moral fiber of the community as well as the townmeeting form of government. Carlisle's long farming tradition, represented by the image of a plow, is in the lower right quadrant. A hatchet overlain by a tricorn hat in the lower left quadrant represents the two cultures that have occupied the land. Thomson also included 1754 and 1780, the dates that mark Carlisle's two tenures as a district, and 1805, the year it was finally incorporated as a town. Together, these elements depict the history of the town of Carlisle, just as Bob Thomson intended when he designed the seal thirty-five years ago.
Though it was ultimately voted not to adopt Thomson's design as the official town seal (the original seal prevailed), his imaginative rendering of Carlisle's history has become more recognizable today than the original. It is seen all around town — on flags, town government letterheads, and is worn on the uniform of Carlisle's police officers. The seal design is also featured on the Carlisle Historical Society's holiday ornament, which is available at Ferns and Carlisle Antiques.
Information for this article about Carlisle's Town Seals, past and present, was generously provided by former Carlisle resident Bob Thomson, now residing in Maine, and Town Clerk Charlene Hinton.
© 2004 The Carlisle Mosquito