Whole Number 34
Col. William C. Robertson, of 416 Millaudon Street, New Orleans 18, Louisiana, a member of the Sparks Family Association since 1958 and a descendant of Josiah Sparks of Baltimore County, Md., recently presented your editor with a truly beautiful plaque bearing the Sparks Coat of Arms. On a polished wooden base in the shape of a shield 5/8 of an inch thick, measuring 6 x 7 inches, is mounted a slightly smaller shield ¼ inch thick upon which the arms, crest, and mantling have been hand painted. The mantling and helmet are slightly raised, enhancing the beauty of the arms. The scroll, bearing the name Sparks, has been carved from a separate piece of wood and mounted below the shield. On the back there is a slot for hanging the plaque on the wall.
Col. Robertson is in the import business and obtained the plaque from an English company which has a contract with heraldic artists to make these items. He reports that the company has agreed to send him any number he wishes for about $5.00 each. 'I don't know whether you have ever corresponded with an English firm of this type,' Col, Robertson writes, 'but the letters you receive from them in answer to any question that you might ask are so vague that I have suggested to them that they enclose a crystal ball to decipher their content. However, whatever the cost of these items, I shall be glad to forward them for any member of the Association without any compensation, and I am sure that they will not be over the price quoted.'
We feel that Col. Robertson is most generous in offering to import these plaques for members of the Association, and we are certain that a large number will take advantage of this opportunity. Your editor is certainly proud of his and can scarcely believe that the cost could be as low as $5.00. If it were made in this country, the cost would be several times this amount. In order that we may impose upon Col. Robertson as little as possible, may we suggest tInt you send your orders rather soon so that he can submit one large order to the English firm rather than several small ones.
As a further kindness to the Association, Col. Robertson has announced that he will present anually to the member of the Association who secures the lartest number of new members during the year, a similar, but larger, plaque measuring 8 x 9 inches. The only other difference will be that the scroll at the base will bear 'Sparks Family Association' rather than just 'Sparks.' This is certainly a prize worth winning, and we hope that we shall have a substantial increase in membership as a result of Col. Robertson's generosity. THANK YOU, COLONEL ROBERTSON!
Whole Number 54
PAINTINGS OF THE SPARKS COAT OF ARMS AGAIN AVAILABLE
In the March, 1966, issue of the Quarterly we reported with deep regret the death of Lois W. West who, for a number of years, had made paintings of the Sparks coat of arms for members of the Association. We are now pleased to announce that Mrs. West's daughter, Mrs. S. R. Rountree, who inherited her mother's artistic gifts and who studied heraldic painting under her mother, has agreed to continue this service. Mrs. Rountree is willing to continue to make these paintings for the very low price of $5.00, plus fifty cents for handling and shipping. (Most heraldic artists charge from $25.00 to $50.00 per painting.)
Mrs. Rountree is willing to paint coats of arms for other families for $10.00 each, plus fifty cents for handling and shipping. It will be necessary for the individual ordering arms other than the Sparks arms to furnish Mrs. Rountree with an exact description. If such a description is not available, Mrs. Rountree is willing to do research to locate it, but will have to charge for this service.
Orders should be mailed as follows: Mrs. S. R. Rountree, Jr.
Rt. 1, Box 114,
Gatesville, North Carolina (27938)
Whole Number 68
In the Quarterly for June I960 (Vol. VIII, No. 2, Whole No. 30), we published an article on the Sparks coat of arms, with a drawing of the arms on the cover which had been made for the Association by Lois Weatherspoon West. Since many of our members who have joined the Association since the publication of that article have inquired about the Sparks coat of arms, it seems appropriate to republish this article with Mrs. West's drawing.
Mrs. West died on January 7, 1966. Prior to her death, she had made many paintings of the Sparks coat of arms for members of the Association, Mrs. West's daughter, Mrs. S. R. Rountree, Jr., Rt. 1, Box 114, Gatesville, North Carolina (27938) has taken up her mother's hobby and is willing to make paintings of the Sparks coat of arms for Association members for $5.50. Most heraldic artists charge from $25.00 to $50.00 for such paintings, so Mrs. Rountree's offer is a real bargain.
Let us begin with a brief introduction to the very complex field of heraldry. It all goes back, of course, to the Middle Ages when fighting men were encased in armor. Since the warrior's face was hidden by his helmet and since the armor of one knight or esquire was little different from that of any other, friend and foe often looked very much alike. Since most of the fighting was done either hand to hand or "horse to horse," some means of easy identification was essential. Inasmuch as the shield was the most visible piece of a warrior's armor, it became the custom to paint on the shield a design which one's friends would recognize. The same design would be painted or sewed upon the short coat which a knight usually wore over his armor to ward off the heat of the sun-hence the term "coat of arms." To further identify himself, the warrior frequently attached a small object on the top of his helmet, such as a carved animal or other device. Known as the "crest," this object could often be seen above the din of battle, and friend could recognize friend.
Although at first each warrior seems to have chosen his own decorative figures to paint on his shield, it gradually became the custom for these to be "granted" by his overlord, whether king, emperor, or prince. These were carefully "registered" to avoid duplications. However, coats of arms were sometimes used for centuries before anyone got around to "granting" them. Even today, in countries where aristocratic titles and the pomp of royalty survive, coats of arms are still granted and registered. In this country, it is unusual for a family to design a new coat of arms for itself, but institutions, especially colleges and universities, frequently engage heraldic artists to design unique arms for their use.
It also became the custom for sons to inherit the father's coat of arms and his crest. Thus these marks of identity came to relate to whole families, not just to individuals. Some families also adopted motoes-actually war cries used to locate friends during battle. However, the motto frequently changed-often brothers with the same coat of arms would adopt different mottoes. So it is that no single motto is usually identified with one entire family.
Heraldry, which is the study of coats of arms, is foreign to a democratic country such as the United States, there are no facilities for "registering" a coat of arms in Washington. But because most of us descend from families of Western Europe, we may take pride in displaying a coat of arms used by our European relatives. An authority on Heraldry, Roberta McClean, has made the following interesting observation: "There was at one time a general idea that the possession of a coat of arms was a sign of aristocracy, and for that reason many people would not use them for fear of appearing snobbish. Nothing is further from the truth. Family pride is an honorable things found in all walks of life. The arms might have been earned by any brave soldier, and to have your own and care for them is no more a sign of snobbishness than to treasure great-grandmother's best breastpin or grandpa's watch."
Since the name Sparks is a British name, it is to the authoritative work entitled Encyclopaedia of Heraldry, or General Armory of England, Scotland, and Ireland that we must go for information on the Sparks coat of arms. This work was compiled by John Burke and John Bernard Burke, the third edition was published in London in 1847 and describes the coats of arms and crests of about 20,000 families. According to this work, a family named Sparke, with branches in Essex, London, and Plymouth, registered its coat of arms in 1577. The Burkes list other branches of the family in the counties of Suffolk, Norfolk, Surrey, Cornwall, and Devon. Whether all persons named Sparks in America descend from these branches of the family in England is unknown. It is known that Simon Sparks, who settled in New Jersey prior to 1739, used this coat of arms with the motto "Scintillae."
Because coats of arms were common to the upper classes of all countries of Western Europe, a regular "science" of heraldry was developed by which a description of coat of arms was equally meaningful to a Frenchman, a German, an Englishman, or Italian. Thus, a description (called a "blazon") of a coat of arms in heraldic terms is almost meaningless to one who is unfamiliar with the language of heraldry,, the terms having been taken originally from the old Norman-French tongue.
The Burkes described the Sparks coat of arms as follows: "Chequy or and vert, a bend erm. Crest-Out of a ducal coronet or, a demi panther rampant guardant argent spotted with various colours, fire issuing from the ears and mouth, proper," This means that the shield in the Sparks coat of arms is divided into squares (chequy) of alternately different colors-gold (or) and green (vert). (When represented in black and white, gold is indicated with black dots and green with slanting lines.) The words "a bend erm" mean that two lines extend diagonally across the shield ("from the Dexter Chief to the Sinister Base") and that between those two lines is contained one fifth of the "field" which is covered with erm The description of the crest is more easily understood. Immediately above the helmet is a golden ducal coronet out of which arises the upper half (demi) of a panther standing upright (rampant), full faced (guardant, meaning "on guard"), silver (argent) and spotted with various colors, with fire coming out of the tiger's ears and mouth-the fire being the natural color of fire (proper).
In many instances, the colors used on a coat of arms were chosen because of the symbolic meanings. Ermine, being white, was embolical of purity and honor . Go symbolized generosity and elevation of mind, while green frequently represented the forest, in some cases the king's forest. Possibly the first Sparks to use this coat of arms was a guard of the king's forest, a man of purity and honor, generous and learned.
No motto is given by the Burkes for the Sparks family.
In painting or drawing the coat of arms, it became customary to use what is called mantling, or scrollwork, around the shield and helmet. This is purely decorative and has no particular meaning except to add color to the painting. The mantling represents the cloak worn over the armor by the warrior to pages himself from both sun and rain. This cloak frequently became torn in battle and, since these tears were marks of bravery, they were patched with various colors in order better to display them. Upon returning home and hanging his shield on a peg in the wall the warrior would hang his cloak on the same peg so that it draped on either side of the shield. The helmet, with the crest on top, would also be placed on the same peg, above the shield. It is with this arrangement in mind that, for centuries artists have painted the family coat of arms. In Mrs. Rountree's paintings of Sparks coat of arms, the mantling is gold, with red used for shading.
Whole Number 76
[Note: Here appears a drawing of the Sparks Coat of Arms by Borum 1971]
On the cover of this issue of the Quarterly we have again published the Sparks coat of arms. The drawing on this occasion was done by a professional artist named Bob Borum of 280 Chiquita #19, Mt. View, California (94040). Mr. Borum is a son of Edgar T. and Ruth (Sparks) Borum and a grandson of Adrian Leland Allen Sparks who was born in Henderson, Texas, on September 19, 1880, and died on June 16, 1966. (See page 882 of the Quarterly of March 1965, Vol. XII, No. 1, Whole No. 49.)
In the Quarterly of December 1969 (Vol. XVII, No. 4, Whole No. 68) we published an article on the Sparks coat of arms which had been published earlier in the June 1960 issue.
Mr. Borum, in reproducing the Sparks coat of arms in black and white for publication here, has followed carefully the established rules for representing colors. He has also sent to your president and editor the Sparks coat of arms in full color on special paper measuring 14 x 18 inches. Mr. Borum reports that his process for making these beautiful color prints is that of silk screen and that if there is an interest among the membership of the Association in obtaining copies in color, he could reproduce and sell them through the silk screen process at reasonable cost. Members who are interested in obtaining their own color print for framing should write directly to Mr. Borum for information regardiig cost. We can assure you that you will be delighted with the results.
Authorities on heraldry have a language all their own for describing coats of arms The official description of the Sparks coat of arms is as follows: “Chequy or and vert, a bend erm, Crest - - Out of a ducal coronet or, a demi panther rampant guardant argent spotted with various colours, fire issuing from the ears and mouth, proper." This means that the shield in the Sparks coat of arms is divided into squares (chequy) of alternately different colors - - gold (or) and green (vert). (When represented in black and white, gold is indicated with black dots and green with slanting lines.) The words “a bend erm” mean that two lines extend diagonally across the shield ("from the Dexter Chief to the Sinister Base”) and that between those two lines is contained one fifth of the “field” which is covered with ermine. The description of the crest is more easily understood. Immediately above the helmet is a golden ducal coronet out of which arises the upper half (demi) of a panther standing upright (rampant), full faced (guardant, meaning "on guard”), silver (argent) and spotted with various colors, with fire coming out of the tiger's ears and mouth - - the fire being the natural color of fire (proper).
In painting or drawing a coat of arms, it became customary to use what is called mantling, or scroliwork, around the shield and helmet. This is purely decorative and has no particular meaning except to add color to the painting. The mantling represents the cloak worn over the armor by the warrior to pages himself from both sun and rain. This cloak frequently became torn in battle and, since these tears were marks of bravery, they were patched with various colors in order better to display them. Upon returning home and hanging his shield on a peg in the wall, the warrior would hang his cloak on the same peg so that it draped on either side of the shield. The helmet, with the crest on top, would also be placed on the same peg, above the shield. It is with this arrangement in mind that, for centuries, artists have painted the family coat of arms. Mr, Borum has used the colors green and silver in painting the mantling for his representation of the Sparks coat of arms.
Whole Number 76
In addition to its coat of arms, the Sparks family possesses another symbol that is closely associated with its name, that of an attractive bird called the sparrow hawk. An article on the origins of the Sparks name appeared in the Quarterly of December 1967 (Vol. XV, No. 4, Whole No. 60) which was reprinted from the issue of June 1953. There it was pointed out that authorities are generally agreed that the name Sparks derived from the name Sparrowhawk. There are numerous records of persons named Sparrowhawk as early as the eleventh century in England. Whether the first Englishman who bore this name was so-called because he raised and trained sparrow hawks, because he was an expert in the art of falconry, or because he was said by his neighbors to resemble a sparrow hawk either in appearance or personality will never be known. Probably several different men, unrelated to each other, adopted the name when it was finally decreed in England that the head of every household must adopt a surname if he did not already possess one.
The sparrow hawk has been a common bird in England for centuries. It is really a small falcon, eleven to twelve inches long, and was used extensively in the ancient art of falconry, where hawks were trained to attack other birds and carry them back to their masters. The sparrow hawk is noted for its boldness and frequently attacks birds considerably larger than itself, though it is also shy and wary.
[Note: Here appears a copy of a painting, beneath which is the following caption:]
The name sparrow hawk is not a name that one can say quickly and it has long been an English habit to shorten names to one or two syllables. As generations passed, therefore, branches of the Sparrowhawk family not only became, known by the shortened form of “Sparhawk”, but often by the even shorter word, “Spark.”
The last change which took place in the name was the addition of the letter “s”. This change, according to most authorities, came about as a result of adding the possessive, that is, Spark's, when a son was identified by using his father's name. When a baptismal record was made, it was customary to enter the father's name as well as that of the child, and the entry might read: “John, son of Richard Spark's.” The same boy might be identified in the community as “Spark's son.” In some names, the word “son” became a part of the name, as in the case of “Wilcockson,” while in others only the possessive “s” was tacked on, as happened in the case of “Sparks.” The question immediately arises as to why all surnames do not end in “s”. One reason is that, though the genitive case ending of “s” came into official use in England in the 13th century, many years passed before it became common in colloquial speech. Why one name acquired it and another did not, can seldom be determined. Perhaps in some cases, it simply sounded better and was easier to pronounce. In any case, many of the families named Spark gradually changed it to Sparks. This final change seems to have occurred largely during the 16th century, and by 1600 there were about as many persons named Sparks in England as were named Spark.
In some instances, it became customary to spell the name Sparkes. This was simply a matter of personal choice, however. There are many instances on record where two full brothers would use different spellings, one Sparks and the other Sparkes.
There are legal records dated in the 1800's where the same individual is referred to in one paragraph as Sparks and in the next as Sparkes.
From the earliest settlement in America, we find persons bearing this name which had derived from Sparrowhawk. It is interesting, however, that in nearly all instances, the forrn of the name found in the United States has been Sparks, so that today for everyone named Spark there are about one hundred named Sparks. A study of the names appearing in the 1790 census of the United States reveals that there were approximately two persons named Sparks per 10,000 population. This same ratio probably still holds true today.
Because the sparrow hawk figures importantly in the history of the Sparks name, many members of the family have made an effort to find paintings of the bird. Recently a member of the Association wrote to your editor telling of his delight in having obtained an original painting of the sparrow hawk from a prominent Ohio artist named Roy Cable of Peebles, Ohio. We have written to Mr. Cable and he has expressed a willingness to establish the following prices for original paintings measuring 12 x 16 inches of the sparrow hawk: in pastels, $21.00; in oil, $31.00. These prices will include shipping charges, but the pictures will, of course, be unframed. Both will be ready for framing, however; the pastel paintings will be double matted.
Mr. Cable has supplied us with a photograph of one of his paintings of the sparrow hawk which is reproduced on page 1438. Members interested in this offer should send their orders to Mr. Roy Cable, R.R. #2, Box 290A, Peebles, Ohio (45660).
Roy Cable was born near Greenville, Ohio, in 1910. Although always interested in art, he did not begin formal training until in the early forties, Later he was a student under the late Martin Wogoman, then studied under the direction of Bob Brubaker, a well known area artist. Mr. and Mrs. Cable are the parents of three children, all artists in their own right.
Whole Number 94
Maggie Sue Rountree (Mrs. S.R.) continues to paint coats of arms and continues to give a discount to members of the Association requesting hand painted copies of the Sparks coat of arms. She charges $8.00 plus mailing costs for one copy of the Sparks arms, 6.00 for each additional copy. For the coat of arms of other families, she charges 12.00 plus mailing costs for one copy and 10.00 for each additional copy. Her address is RFD Box 195, Gatesville, North Carolina (27938)
Whole Number 110
In the Quarterly of December 1971, Vol. XIX, No. 4, Whole No. 76, we featured a reproduction of the Sparks coat of arms drawn and painted by Sparks descendant Bob R. Borum. Mr. Borum informed us recently that he has a limited number of reproductions of his painting on hand which he is willing to sell to Association members at the reduced cost of $3.00 plus $1.00 for postage and handling. Printed in six colors on heavy parchment paper, Mr. Borum's very attractive painting is suitable for framing. The small number yet remaining from his original edition of 250 copies (14" x 18") will be collectors' items for SFA members in future years.
Mr. Borum's address is: Bob R. Borum, 722 Manzanita Ave., Sunnyvale, California (94086).
Whole Number 188
Over the years, your editor has had numerous inquiries from SFA members regarding how they might obtain an authentic reproduction in color of the coat of arms used since medieval times by members of the Sparks family in Great Britain. We published a black and white drawing on the cover of the June 1960 issue of the Quarterly, with a description and explanation in the same issue. Whole No. 30, beginning on page 470.
One of our members, James J. Sparks of San Carlos, California, wrote recently of his having obtained an authentic and particularly beautiful hand-embroidered reproduction of the Sparks coat of arms from a specialist in heraldic art located in Inverness, Scotland. He has provided the editor with a photograph in full color of his copy, and it is handsome, indeed. Unfortunately, we cannot reproduce it in color in the Quarterly, but, as Jim mentions in his letter below, members with access to the Internet can see the coat of arms in color on his website home page.
At your editors suggestion, Jim has agreed to assist SFA members in obtaining their own copy; his letter regarding this follows:
James J. Sparks 27 Trillium Lane San Carlos, California 94070-4525
Tel. (650) 598-0823 Fax (650)631-1748 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
December 6, 1999 RE: Sparks Coat of Arms
As I mentioned in my October letter to you, my wife's cousin in Inverness, Scotland, personally visited the makers of our family Coat of Arms, Heraldic Art and Design, in Inverness. As a result, I received a letter from Hugh T. Grant, the managing director, a copy of which I enclose along with a copy of the Coat of Arms and a copy of a brochure which Mr. Grant forwarded.
At the present rate of exchange (£1 = $1.61) the price for a single Coat of Arms at £90 would be about $145 plus £8 or $13.00 shipping. An order of 20 - 50 would result in a single cost of £75 or $121 plus shipping and over 50 would cost £65 or $105 each plus shipping. Not inexpensive in any event. I assume that shipping costs would not change regardless of the number purchased. (I could have them shipped to one place in bulk but they would still have to be reshipped to the buyer.)
I am sending you a life-size copy of the Coat of Arms. It is hand-embroidered in gold and silver thread to a black material; the shield on the Coat of Arms is about 3/16 of an inch thick. Members with access to the Internet can see the Coat of Arms in color on my website home page at the following address: http://www.dnai.com/-jjsparks (note that the character before jjsparks is a tilde, not a dash.)
I had my Coat of Arms framed locally with two matte boards surrounding it which raise the glass face to accommodate its thickness. I had the back of the entire frame covered with brown paper to seal the interior from dust. The dimensions of the actual Coat of Arms itself are 51/4 inches wide by 61/2 inches high. My frame is 10 inches wide by 13 1/2 inches high. I can only say that the workmanship on the Coat of Arms is exquisite in every regard and it is a beautiful object and historically accurate. In spite of the cost, I am very proud to own it. I should also point out that it took about 8 weeks to get delivery. Incidentally, '"Dum Spiro Spero" means '"While I have breath I hope."
Perhaps you could include an item in the Quarterly that interested persons should contact me at my mailing address, by email, or by fax (all provided in my letterhead) within thirty days. If 20 or more members indicate an interest within that time, I would contact the interested people and request that they forward their check for the purchase price plus shipping charges to me by a certain date. I would then contact Mr. Grant and place the order providing him my credit card number and the names and addresses of the buyers. If less than 20 people contacted me, I would advise them that the price is £90 and that they should contact Heraldic Art and Design directly. I hope this meets with your approval Russell.
James J. Sparks