Title: Jamaican Coat of Arms

Date: Victorian, 1875-1906

Description: Circular shield with red cross and pineapples. Helmet and aligator on top.

Caribbean Pineapple

The coinage of Barbados, an island nation of the Lesser Antilles, came into existence as a result of British colonization by King James I (of England) in 1625. “Barbados” the Spanish word for “bearded ones”, as its colonists from Hispaniola invaded but never colonized the island due to a lack of natural resources. Instead Charles I patented the island to Lord Carlisle, eventually revoking this in 1660 with the settlement of British colonists, introduction of sugar industry, and importation of 50,000 African slaves.

The presence of 745 plantations and a slave population of 80,000 transformed Barbados from a remote island into a lucrative British entity. The issuance of the pineapple penny, a copper coin weighing a half-ounce, by either an official mint or private individuals and British inspired suite of arms demonstrates this economic prosperity.

Although the pineapple may seem a novel addition to the British repertoire, it is closely tied with Christian religious iconography, as the English associated the physical features of the the pineapple and pine cone. The term ‘pineapple’ itself is derived from a modification of the term ‘pine cone’, first recorded in 16941. Today Spanish and the Spanish speaking countries of Latin America use the term “pina”, literally “pine cone” to identify the piny fruit2. What was originally constructed as an icon of wealth and prosperity may then be interpreted in a religious context.

1 “Pineapple.” Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 2010.

2 “Pine Cone.” Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 2010.

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My name is Brienne. While pursuing a Masters in Classics, I have also been attracted to the curation of collections. This site is a place to study the objects not often exhibited on museum walls. Taken out of storage these objects are presented afresh.