Sunday, January 8, 2012

Connecticut: "Older than the nation"

theConnecticut's state flag
Surviving in new soil ...
Connecticut, the Constitution state, was made the fifth state of the new nation. The fifth of the original 13 colonies, it was granted statehood in 1788. While Connecticut's state flag was not adopted until some 90 years later in 1879, the flag's thematic roots rest in the fertile soil of this earliest founding.
The Connecticut state flag has a classical design based on traditional heraldic forms and a motif of grapevines that are staked vines, not wild vines. Its shield, in the rococo style, dates to the 1600s, at a time when England's "second sons" journeyed far to make their fortune and their mark. This is, at its heart, the story of Connecticut's grapevine flag, a story about new roots and new harvests that extend far beyond the journey of a "second son."
The grapevines on the Connecticut flag represent the first "transplants" to Connecticut in the 1600s. These early "transplants" arrived from England as well as Massachusetts Bay Colony. The imagery of the grapevine, however, an image that has been chosen to represent this state for centuries now, can be traced directly to one of Connecticut's first territorial governors. This idea of being transplanted and thriving in a new environment also is present in the state motto, "Qui transtulit sustinet," which translates to "He who transplants, still sustains" ( 
Both the transplanted grapevine motif and the motto date to Colonel George Fenwick and a signet ring that he possessed, the Saybrook seal (
A parting gift...
The Fenwick seal (
Fenwick, the son of a Northumberland country squire,  arrived from England in 1639 with his wife and his two sisters ( He arrived as one of the partners in the Warwick Patent, an unusual patent in that it had 15 partners and these partners also were tiered. 
The first partners were titled. The second tier included "gentlemen": landowners, sons of squires, lawyers, and so forth. Col. Fenwick was part of this second tier of ownership. A member of Parliament (, solicitor, landowner, and former soldier, he was the second governor of these new lands until 1644. 
Common to the time, Fenwick was known to use a signet ring for validating documents. The seal was decorated with grapevines and the Latin motto, "Sustinet qui transtulit," an appropriate legend for a group of Puritans and land owners who had come to establish a new society amidst new land.
The state motto, that same motto as found on the Saybrook signet ring, has been interpreted by Charles J. Hoadly, a former Connecticut State Librarian and scholar (c. 1889) as having biblical roots taken from Psalm 80: 8-9 ( It reads:
8 Thou has brought a vine out of Egypt: Thou hast cast out the heathen and planted it. 
9 Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. 
Connecticut's 1711 colonial seal
In 1644, Fenwick sold the Saybrook land to the newly forming Colony of Connecticut. The price for the land, by the way, was £1800 of which Fenwick collected £1600. He then returned to England in 1645 ( after his wife's death. 

The signet ring accompanied the sale and continued to be used by the Connecticut General Assembly and the Secretary of the Colony until its disappearance in 1687. A new stamp was not made until 1711.

Other sources claim that the three vines on the state seal and the state flag symbolize the first three towns or settlements in Connecticut. These towns/ settlements are variously identified as Hartford (1636), Wethersfield (1634) and Windsor (1633); or Hartford, New Haven (1638) and Fenwick's plantation of Saybrook (1635), or some version thereof.  

Looking at the dates of their founding (, it is clear that the oldest settlements are Windsor, Wethersfield and Saybrook. Hartford, however, created from settlements merging into the Colony of Connecticut, was the site of an early Dutch fort that was built in 1633, the House of Hope. 

Connecticut's state seal
Either way, these early settlements became the Colony of Connecticut, founded on the notion of "new shoots" transplanted from the old country and strong enough to not just survive but to flourish.

Older than the nation...
After the Revolution, a new state seal was reworked from Fenwick's original Saybrook seal with its Latin motto and symbolism of transplanted vines. This 18th century seal remains the official state seal of Connecticut.

The "seal" that is on the Connecticut state flag actually is the state's official coat-of-arms. The coat-of-arms was designed in 1931 and is designated by the state to be not just a formal heraldic shield but "an armorial shield of rococo design." 

While much of Connecticut's history is "older than the nation," this particular phrase is identified with one particular Connecticut institution, the Hartford Courant.

Front page of The Courant Courant, Oct. 29, 1764

The Courant is the nation's oldest newspaper still in existence. Founded in 1764, the Hartford Courant was originally known as the Connecticut Courant so it really is "older than the nation." To read about George Washington's advertisement in the Courant and Thomas Jefferson's libel suit against the Courant, go to

Let it fly!

sources: Society of Colonial Wars in CT


  1. I have always believed that Connecticut holds a fine community. That's why we're considering buying from the CT Homes for sale we saw.

  2. Thank you for sharing. I have been looking at houses for sale in Windsor, CT. I never knew all the history behind the state.