|Dining room at the Gibson House.|
|Gibson family crest, c. 1896.|
Gibson House Museum 1992.123
A coat of arms, however, is not given to a surname forever. Official heraldic rules (laid out, with slight variations, by governments across Europe) state that a coat of arms belongs to an individual and his direct descendants in the male line. A true coat of arms was acknowledged and allowed by the king.
|Sketches of coat of arms, 1896.|
Gibson House Museum Archives.
|Mary Hammond Family Crest.|
In a related example of burnishing the family history, the Warrens paid for genealogical research to create a family tree—a copy hangs in the front hall of the Gibson House. (So, if you're keeping score, that means that by the time guests sat down for dinner, they were subject to demonstrations of Warren AND Gibson family lineage.) It was later discovered that the research was incorrect; the family tree is simply another example of the eagerness of many wealthy 19th century Bostonians to link themselves to English nobility.
For Anglophiles like the Gibsons and Warrens, displaying a family coat of arms, or a family tree, was a way to connect to a medieval English past. In the Victorian era, coats of arms were wildly popular (even if most of them were bunk). It’s not hard to imagine Rosamond and Mary traveling together in Europe and deciding to purchase a coat of arms to bring home, as a souvenir, as a pretty decorative item, and maybe most significantly, as a conversation starter about the family history.
- Meghan Gelardi Holmes, Curator
The coat of arms was recently restored thanks to a generous gift from Robert Severy.
To learn more:
A Complete Guide to Heraldry, Arthur Charles Fox-Davies (1909). Via the Gutenberg Project https://www.gutenberg.org/files/41617/41617-h/41617-h.htm#page233
Unzipping Your Coat of Arms https://www.familytreemagazine.com/premium/unzipping-your-coat-of-arms/