THE MAYOR'S STAFF
Thomas Seymour (1735-1829), the First Mayor, served the City of Hartford from 1784 to 1812. Ever since the latter date, his staff or cane has been used as a part of the ritual of installing his successors. It is kept in a glass case or reliquary in the Reception Room of the Municipal Building. Prior to the installation of a new mayor, the staff is taken into the Mayor's private office; just before the ceremony it is carried by the City Marshal in procession before the outgoing Mayor into the Reception Room, where the incoming Mayor awaits him attended by his friends. During the ceremony and after the oath is administered, the City Marshal hands the Mayor's Staff to the retiring Mayor, who, with appropriate remarks to the incoming Mayor, hands the Mayor's Staff to him. This concludes the ceremony. The staff is then returned to the reliquary where it is kept with other relics which have to do with the city, until the next occasion for its use.
My friend and fellow antiquarian, the late Arthur Leffingwell Shipman, endeavored to find some written record of the ritual of the Mayor's Staff, but failed to do so. The late Mr. George S. Godard and Mr. James Brewster, both State Librarians, have also tried to find some description of the ceremony, but without success. But the long tradition of it is clear.
The Mayor's Staff, itself, is nothing more than a long cylindrical tapering cane, such as gentlemen of the First Mayor's time carried. It is forty-five and one-half inches long, made of malacca, has a brass head and a brass ferrule, and is transversely perforated near the head for the passage of the tasseled cord, as seen in the cut. We get just a glimpse of the Mayor's Staff in his hands from the letter herein printed (see page 161), written by his granddaughter, Mrs. Mary Eliza (Chenevard) Comstock. Similar staffs are seen in the hands of the subjects of some of Earl's portraits. Thus, one was carried, apparently as a feature of a gentleman's dress rather than for use, by Moses Seymour, Jr., of Litchfield, as illustrated in this book.
The ceremony above recorded is evidently taken from some much more formal English ceremony such as the transfer of a key, symbolizing authority. Similarly, the Sheriff once carried a sword on formal occasions of state in Connecticut. In Madam Lee's narrative of the ceremonies connected with the inauguration of Governor Huntington in May 1791, she says, “The General Assembly organized and then, preceded by the Military, proceeded to the Meeting-house, to hear a sermon. The procession was the longest I had ever seen. The Governor was preceded by the Sheriff, with a sword.” [Hale and Wyllys, p. 110.] When, the author asks, did the custom of having the Sheriff carry a sword before the Governor begin, and when was it discontinued? Evidently it was also a custom copied from England, but so far as the author can find, no written record of it survives.
It is a pity that the Sheriff's sword was not preserved along with the Mayor's Staff.