Friday Flagging: Burrillville

Burrillville. Created in 1806, it is named after James Burrill Jr., the then-Attorney General who died 14 years later in office as a U.S. Senator and was instrumental in the creation of the town. In the 19th Century, Burrillville was a major manufacturer of woolen textiles, and today the town’s population is centered around nine or ten former mill villages.

I would guess most Rhode Islanders don’t think of Burrillville but for Wright’s Farm, Daniele Foods, and the political controversies over the Invenergy power plant and the Keablemander. But did you know it also has its own quasi-public power utility? The town is estimated to have 16,700 residents.

What has Burrillville got now?

I would argue Burrillville probably has the best coat of arms. Here they are from my colored-in version of the Bowditch drawings:

Burrillville CoA
Illustration by Harold Bowditch, printed by Roger Williams Press, colored by Marlowe de Christoper, obtained from the Providence Archives, and from Sam Howard’s collection.

They are described by the Tercentenary Commission Report in this manner:

Or a saltire gules, on a chief azure a crescent between two etoiles pierced of six points or. On a gold field a red diagonal cross, with a blue stripe at the top of the field, on which is a gold crescent between two golden six-pointed stars pierced with a hole through the centre.
These are the arms used by the Burrill family in New England. James Burrill, for whom Burrillville was named, belonged to this family.

There’s a few problems. Technically, estoiles (the spelling error is present in the report) are six pointed wavy stars (we’ll get to them when we come to Portsmouth), these are six-pointed mullets. Also, once again, de Christopher has failed to faithfully follow the named colors. The red saltire should be on a yellow background (“or” means “gold”), not a white one (that would be “argent”).

Fortunately, Burrillville knows the correct coloring, and uses the correct version of their arms on their town seal and town flag.

Retrieved from Burriville town website:
Flag of Burillville
Image supplied the Burrillville Town Clerk

Fundamentally, these arms are really solid. There’s strong color contrast (which makes sense for heraldry, since it follows the rule of tincture), and the arms are pretty instantly memorable. This is the advantage of basing your arms on an existing family’s arms (though, we’ll see how that can also lead to head scratching when we come to Johnston).

The seal is one of the simplest in Rhode Island, with the arms modified to include the date “1806” below the saltire.

The flag is… not great. Like a lot of American flag design, it says what it’s representing right on flag and includes the incorporation date. In many ways, the flag of Burrillville follows the same layout as the current flag of Barrington. There’s a really easy way to adapt this directly from the arms that’s been completely ignored, and would make a really great flag.

Digitizing existing designs

So, let’s bring Burrillville’s exist civic symbols into the 21st Century by giving them some vector versions so they can resize and modify them to their heart’s content.

First the flag, which uses Arial as an approximation of what the Town is already using (at first glance, I’m guessing they use Helvetica):

Existing Flag of Burrillville

Then the arms, first of my own creation, and then using WappenWiki assets and colors:

Again, these are both representations of the arms. How you want the six-pointed mullets is up to you. You can go more pointy like I’ve done, or you can go fatter so they’re almost a Star of David. You can thicken or narrow the saltire to your heart’s content, or alter its angle as you want.

I’m feeling generous today, so I’ll go a little farther and also make Burrillville a vector seal. In this series, some seals will have to be made to accommodate existing flags, but in this case, it’s purely a personal exercise. Typically, I’ll try to avoid doing seals to save myself labor.

Anyhow, the big decision here is what fonts to use, so I’ve gone with EB Garamond Bold for the name, and Arial for the date, as close approximations of what the Town currently uses.

Burrillville Seal

Okay, that’s our existing symbols gone, so let’s move on to the flag redesign.

Redesigning Burrillville’s Flag

Design 1

Flag of Burillville based on CoA

This is basic adaption of arms to a flag: shift the chief to the hoist, use the rest of the flag for the rest of the arms. While this has no relation to Burrillville, it’s reminiscent of the Valencian Community‘s flag. Its biggest positive is that it adapts an already a well-used symbol of Burrillville. Its biggest flaw is that it contains almost zero symbolism about Burrillville in it; these are the Burrill family arms, and symbolize that family. I’ve used a ratio of the length being twice the height to give both elements room to breathe.

Design 2

Burillville Scales and Stripes Mullets up

In my head, I refer to this as the “Scales and Stripes” flag. Burrillville is made up of ten(?) mill villages, so the mullets and stripes represent those ten villages. The scales represent James Burrill’s position as Rhode Island’s Attorney General at the time of the incorporation of the Town. The ring of mullets around the scales recalls the Rhode Island flag’s anchor surrounded by stars, and the whole flag together recalls the American flag.

Designs 3a & 3b

Flag of Burrillville Crescent Wheel

Flag of Burrillville Crescent Wheel b

Here I’ve done ten lines for ten villages, meeting at the central hub (for the town itself), reminiscent of a mill wheel. 3a maintains the crescent and mullet symbols from the arms, while 3b totally discards them (these could potentially be misinterpreted as specific religious symbolism and I’m trying to avoid that — although I think they look very cool together). The blue disc also symbolizes Burrillville’s ponds, lakes, and reservoirs.

Design 4

Flag of Burrillville Stars and Border

And again, a similar design playing on themes I’ve already introduced. The ten mullets for the villages and the crescent for the Town itself. However, rather than put these on a pure gold field, I’ve put a red border around the flag in reference to the Town’s rather boxy shape.

Wrapping Up

That’s it for Burrillville. I think they have one of the most solid set of arms to work from, but I’m not from the town, so if you have thoughts or ideas about what kind of symbols work better, please reach out and tell me. I don’t get many responses, but I’ll try to respond as I can, and speaking of that…

Two weeks ago Andrew wrote:

You might want to replace the cross in the circle symbol in the sword hilt on the Barrington flag. See [the ADL’s website on the Celtic Cross].

Andrew makes a good point. The sword hilt did feature a circumscribed cross on my Barrington redesign, which could be misinterpreted as a white supremacist symbol. This was a result of me following the Bowditch illustration. If you were going to do a Barrington redesign for real and incorporated the sword into the flag, you might not want to make that same mistake and go for a less ornate sword like the WappenWiki asset, or choose a different symbol.

Don’t forget to vote in this week’s poll:


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