Westborough’s town seal on Town Meeting warrant

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Town seal featuring cotton gin and town hall over yellow map of Westborough. "Westborough Massachusetts, established 1717" written around the perimeter of the circle.
The current Westborough town seal sits emblazoned on the side of a vehicle. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

WESTBOROUGH – Three articles on this fall’s Town Meeting warrant will have residents deciding on the future of the town seal.

The current Westborough town seal, which was adopted in 1977, depicts a cotton gin, invented by Westborough native Eli Whitney, and the top of Town Hall against a background of the town’s borders.

Westborough’s town seal on Town Meeting warrant
Westborough’s Town Seal

In July 2020, Anthony Vaver, local history librarian at the Westborough Public Library, presented a history of the town seal for WestboroughTV.

The first town seal appeared in the 1913 annual town report. It remained unchanged until 1967, when the town was celebrating its 250th anniversary.

“Art students from Westborough High School were invited to submit drawings for a new seal design,” Vaver said. “The anniversary committee ended up selecting four drawings to be used as a composite for the official seal: a sketch of the tower on Town Hall, an outline of a map of Westborough proclaiming it as the 100th town in Massachusetts, a ‘pie crust’ edge around the seal, and a drawing of Eli Whitney’s cotton gin based on his patent.”

The seal was officially adopted in 1977.

Committee discusses Westborough’s town seal

During its July 6 meeting, Nicholas Argento, co-chairman of the Town Seal Review Committee, called the 1977 seal “visually too busy, and that the cotton gin should not be the sole representation of such a vibrant community’s heritage.”

According to surveys conducted by the committee, some residents find the cotton gin offensive because of its association with the rise of slavery in the South during the 1800s.

Westborough’s town seal on Town Meeting warrant
The 1913 seal

Argento said he’d prefer the town to go back to the 1913 seal — two circles set in black and white, with “Westborough Massachusetts” on the outer circle, and “Incorporated Nov. 18, 1717” on the inner circle.

“I think that returning to the 1913 Town Seal, a 109-year-old symbol of Westborough, unifies the community. The 1913 Town Seal speaks to the town’s rich heritage and retires a town seal that has a symbol on it which caused divisiveness in the community,” said Argento.

“It was never meant to be a town seal,” said committee member Phyllis Jaffee during the committee’s Sept. 19 meeting of the 1977 seal. “It’s an icon for the town’s 250th anniversary. We just ended up with it.”

During the Sept. 19 meeting, the committee worked on its presentation to Town Meeting, which will convene on Oct. 17, at 7 p.m.

The committee also discussed possible costs associated with the proposed changes. The costs would include updates to the town’s letterheads, business cards, patches and magnetic signs for vehicles.

Any changes made to the town seal would also require notifying the Massachusetts secretary of state’s office.

What is before Town Meeting

There are several articles before Town Meeting relating to the town seal.

Article 21 is a request to replace the current town seal with the 1913 seal. Should this article be approved, voters will recommend that Article 22 be passed over. If not approved, Town Meeting will proceed to vote on Article 22.

That article will establish a Town Seal Design Committee. Should this be approved, the Town Moderator will appoint a minimum of three and a maximum of five members with a charge to create a request for proposal for the creation of a new town seal; determine possible funding sources for a new town seal; review the proposals that are received; recommend the town vote on a specific new town seal at a future Town Meeting; and other duties required to bring a new town seal to the Town Meeting for approval; or to take any other action thereon.

Details on the warrant articles may be found via https://www.town.westborough.ma.us/home/news/draft-october-town-meeting-warrant.

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