Ancient Shield of Town of Portsmouth

Elizabeth Wilkey wrote a pamphlet on how she came to design the Portsmouth insignia. Denise Wilkey sent me images from the pamphlet. I am including these images on this blog so you can read them for yourself. I will summarize some of the new information I noticed as I read the pamphlet. Having Elizabeth’s description in her own words is a valuable document.

When the Portsmouth Historical Society was founded in 1938, Evelyn Chase asked Henry Wilkey to construct a large sign for the Society and Elizabeth (a RISD grad) was asked to letter and paint the Seal of Portsmouth on both sides of the sign.  Miss Chase loaned Elizabeth an old leather bound book to refer to in painting the seal.  The seal – a circle with seven irregularly spaced stars with eight wavy rays – was on the left hand side of the reference page.  “On the opposite page was a shield containing the same seven stars in vertical balance – three stars down the center – two on either side.” Elizabeth said that metal replicas of the shield were placed at all the entrances to the town as part of the 300th celebration.

In 1961 the Town Council asked Mrs Wilkey to design an emblem that could be an insignia on town vehicles.  Elizabeth began to gather information for the project.  In 1957 a town councilman brought back a scroll from the city of Portsmouth in England.  Elizabeth noticed that the star on the scroll was the same as the stars on our seal.  She wrote the city of Portsmouth in England and they sent her information on the star and a colored transfer.  No one in our town knew why our seal and shield had seven stars.  Albert Sherman was asked and he thought it might be because the compact was signed on the 7th day of March (which was the first month in those days.)

The Town Council requested that the “Compact of 1638″be incorporated into the design.

In 1976 the town wanted a flag for Portsmouth.  Elizabeth worked on the design even though she lost her husband and was going through many adjustments.  “It remained on my conscience that I had not completed my assignment.”  She worked with the Ebenezer Flag Company and there were difficulties in getting colors just right.  She used the design of the shield that had the seven stars in balanced order.


To our shame the town and the Portsmouth Historical Society did not pay Elizabeth for her time, work, or materials.  She comments that she was willing to give of herself and her time.