The Mecklenburg County seal can be found on everything from letterhead to buildings. But what are all of those little images that make up the seal? And an even better question, why are they a part of it? And while we’re at it, how did we even end up with a County seal?
It may be best to start at the beginning. Sometime around the late ‘50s to early ‘60s, the Chamber of Commerce sponsored a contest to design a County seal – something that represented the County’s history, its growth and its future. The winning design, and the one that adorns the side of the County Courthouse, vehicles, signs and numerous other things, was designed by Harvey Boyd, an employee in the Art Department of the Charlotte Observer. The Board of County Commissioners officially adopted it in 1964. Boyd was only 20 years old at the time and this was his first shot at designing.
Harvey Boyd designed Mecklenburg County’s seal in 1964. Photo courtesy of Paul Anderson.
As he thought about how to artistically represent the past, present and future of Mecklenburg County, Boyd said he was inspired by one of his heroes, Crispus Attucks, the first man killed in the Boston Massacre. Attucks, who was of African and Native American descent, stood up for the ideals of freedom.
As an African American man in the South during the 1960s, Boyd experienced first-hand the stark contrast between the notion of freedom and the reality of enforced racial segregation.
Pondering on the example of Attucks, Boyd thought, “In spite of what I’m living, there were other people who understood the concept of freedom.” He wanted his design to be “a reminder of what we are supposed to be.”
Before submitting his design for consideration, Mr. Harvey H. Boyd copyrighted his work with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Washington, DC. Today, he has exclusive permission from Mecklenburg County Officials to offer his design to the public for sale. No other individual -- including County Officials -- have this exclusive right!
Boyd was a Matthews, NC native. At a time before school busing, he transferred from J.H. Gunn in southeast Mecklenburg County to West Charlotte High School on Charlotte’s west side so he could study art.
After high school, he enrolled in the graphic arts program at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC). Although he was one of only a handful of African Americans attending CPCC, he felt welcome because his classmates judged him by his skills and not by his skin color.
His artistic abilities landed him a job designing ads for the Charlotte Observer. Working in the city, away from his accepting neighbors and classmates, Boyd said he became more aware of racial inequalities. Since he wasn’t allowed to enter certain establishments in town, he was not invited to attend social gatherings with his colleagues after work.
Boyd went on to study at Howard University and then had a successful career as a graphic artist in locations around the world. In 1988, he returned to his childhood home in Crestdale, a community with significant African-American significance in Matthews, to take care of his aging parents.
Here's a breakdown of what all the images of the seal mean and why they're included:
- The date on the banner, May 20, 1777, is when the Mecklenburg Declaration (also known as the Meck Dec) was signed. (This date is also on our state flag and state seal).
- The inkwell, quill pen and paper symbolize the Meck Dec.
- The hornet’s nest represents the entire community, which British General Charles Cornwallis referred to as a “hornet’s nest” of rebellion during the Revolutionary War. (You’ve probably also seen the hornet’s nest on the side of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police cars. It’s the black scribble on the side.)
- The farm buildings represent agriculture and our community’s history in that industry.
- The office buildings represent the growing urban areas.
- The bottom left branch represents the County’s traditional times and the right branch represents modern times.
In April 2004, Boyd discussed the difficulty of obtaining an arts education in the segregated South in an oral history interview with UNC Charlotte. Click here to listen!