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History of Lewiston City Seal

What Does It Mean?

The follow narrative is from a radio transcript of a WLAM radio program entitled "Historically Speaking," preformed by Ralph Skinner, local historian. The following radio address was delivered on December 22, 1963.

City SealIn some dusty archives or a newspaper item of that period, one would probably find who it was that designated the official seal of the City of Lewiston. Whoever it was could see artistry in industry and was able to convey in pictured symbols the motivating idea that hoisted the community into cityhood and made it the second largest municipality in Maine.

The seal is an unusual one, even for that day. Only one Latin word is emblazoned upon it and that one easily understood, even by those unable to speak the Latin tongue. The word is "INDUSTRIA."

I think of this whenever, in crossing North Bridge between Auburn and Lewiston, I look over at those old mills near the falls of the Androscoggin River that mark the beginning of the "Industrial Heart of Maine"...the Columbia (Mill), the Cowan (Mill), and the Lincoln (Mill), that by their own or earlier names set the pattern for Lewiston’s great progress. They were thriving, even before canals spread great textile manufacturing plants the length of the city.

It is not merely because I realize that cluster of mills near the falls occupy the site of Lewiston’s industrial start, but some of the remaining features of that location are an unusual part of that design on the Lewiston city seal. Take a look at the hoist tower at the northeast corner of the present Libbey (Mill), first known as Lincoln Mill, and then compare it with the central scene on the seal. I think you’ll agree they are practically identical. Two sets of old fashioned small-pane windows on the outer sides of each of the six story levels, that being one story above the 5-floor mill. Alongside the base of the tower to the left, in symmetrical design as befits an official seal, are the great falls of the Androscoggin. Most significant of all, in the background of that scene on the central shield of the seal is the railroad trestle that still crosses the river above the falls, and on it a wood-burning locomotive with its broad smokestack just pulling a train into Lewiston.

It was that great facility that reached Lewiston in 1849 and allowed it to become a cotton, as well as a woolen textile, town that drew outside capital to this water-powered community, that spread the mills, increased population, started other businesses and banks to service them, established more churches and educational institutions, and pushed Lewiston into cityhood.

That artist knew what Lewiston was and what it wanted to be. He knew what its people were like, what they were thinking about and how they wanted to be known. Atop the shield he set a beehive and about each side of it...in symmetrical position of course...busy bees buzzing about.

In central theme, the shield heralds Lewiston as a thriving manufacturing city but it takes note also of the other occupations and professions that make it the complete community. On the right side of the shield a hoe, a scythe and a rake reach out in tribute to agriculture, an activity less extensive than it was in earlier days but still essential to the city’s well being. On the left an arm and hammer in recognition of the artisans of many sorts, and a caduceus or mercury’s wand indicative of the medical profession and other safeguards of the health, welfare and protection of citizens.

It’s a design that tells a story any school child can understand and it should be pointed out to more of them. No excuse why it cannot, because there is an enlarged form on the arch of the 1st floor corridor of City Hall. It’s a good way to learn that Latin word "INDUSTRIA" and to be reminded by the only other inscriptions upon the seal "Lewiston, Incorporated 1795"... "Became a City 1863".

This is Ralph Skinner......historically speaking.

This article was reprinted by permission of WLAM - AM 1470 Radio

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