Photo of the Week
—– June 6, 2020 —–
FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES
“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck
The Suffolk County Seal
by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian
Suffolk County Seal, 1784 (reproduction). (From the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives.)
Suffolk County was founded in 1683. The first version of the Suffolk County Seal was made in 1784 by Elias Pelletreau, a noted Southampton silversmith and an ancestor of Judge Robert S. Pelletreau, a Surrogate of Suffolk County for many years. Elias Pelletreau noted in an account book that he was instructed by the Suffolk County Board of Supervisors to “make a seal for Suffolk County…the bigness of a half-dollar…in the figure of an ox. Motto–‘Suffolk County Seal–Freedom and Independence’ with a socket on the top for a handle.” This seal was delivered to County Clerk Ezra L’Hommedieu, who paid for it and was reimbursed in the sum of two pounds by the Board of Supervisors in 1784. The whereabouts of the original seal by Pelletreau are unknown today.
In 1913, a certificate was filed with the Secretary of State and the Suffolk County Clerk (who is the official custodian of the county seal), indicating that a new seal would be made and be represented by a wreath within a circle accompanied by the words “Suffolk County Seal.” In 1938, however, the Board of Supervisors ordered the County Historian, Morton Pennypacker, to redesign the seal by reverting back to the original seal containing the figure of an ox. There is no official explanation of the symbolism behind the ox, though it’s often been claimed that it represents Suffolk County’s agricultural heritage.
Suggested Readings: The Great Seal of the State of New York, the Seal of Suffolk County, and the Seals of the Ten Towns, compiled by George L. Weeks Jr., the Suffolk County Historian, in cooperation with the Town Historians and the Suffolk County Historical Society, 1976. “History of the Suffolk County Seal,” by Ruth S. Hague, Deputy Clerk, Suffolk County Board of Supervisors, 1960.
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CLOSURE NOTICE: The Suffolk County Historical Society Museum will remain closed based on the closure order issued by NYS Governor Cuomo in response to the COVID-19 crisis. We are also suspending all upcoming events at this time, and will continue to monitor the situation closely.
The health and safety of our visitors, members, and staff remain the Suffolk County Historical Society’s priority. Every day brings new developments related to the virus, and we understand that uncertainty can be unsettling. Our thoughts are with the entire Suffolk County and Long Island communities and with all who have been impacted by COVID-19.
During our closure, we invite the Long Island community to visit our website for updates and special offerings, including a free subscription to our historic Photo of the Week series and our Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube content: www.
From all of us at the Suffolk County Historical Society, thank you for your continued support through these uncertain times. Stay tuned, and stay safe!
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