Sandwich is named for the seaport of Sandwich, Kent, England and the name of that town is, most likely, of Danish origin, meaning a sand place or camp on a bay (vig, wich) or near the mouth of a river. The word sandwich as an item of food came into being centuries later (we’ll get to that in a bit) .
The seal for Sandwich in Kent, England had 3 ships with lion heads. By 1900 all towns in Massachusetts were required to establish a town seal. The design adopted for Sandwich, Mass. was proposed by Melanie Elisabeth Norton (who married Jonathan Leonard in 1898). She drew American eagles in place of the British lions. On the version of the seal shown here, those 3 blips on the ships don’t look much like eagles, but we hear from the Leonard’s grandson that the town is working on re-drawing the seal so the eagles can be more easily discerned.
If you are curious about the Latin phrase on the Town Seal “Post Tot Naufragia Portus,” it translates to: “After So Many Shipwrecks There Is A Harbor (or a Haven).”
This phrase was also the motto of John William Montague (1718-1792), the 4th Earl of Sandwich, and is on the Montague family Coat of Arms. It is said that we get the name of the “sandwich” we eat from the 4th Earl. Legend has it that Montague was a hardened gambler and usually gambled for hours at a time at a restaurant, sometimes refusing to get up even for meals. He ordered his valet to bring him meat tucked between two pieces of bread so he didn’t need to bother with utensils to eat it. Because Montague was also known as the Earl of Sandwich, others began to order “the same as Sandwich!” And the name stuck.
An alternative explanation is that the Earl invented it to sustain himself at his desk, which seems plausible since there is ample evidence of the long hours he worked from an early start, in an age when dinner was the only substantial meal of the day, and the fashionable hour to dine was four o’clock.
Note however, the family of the Earls of Sandwich has no real connection to the English town itself, only the title. Apparently, the First Earl, Edward Montagu, originally intended to take the title of the Earl of Portsmouth—this might have been changed to honor the town of Sandwich, because the fleet he was commanding in 1660 was lying off the coast of Sandwich, before it sailed to bring Charles II back to England.
OPEN SANDWICH: History of Sandwich Kent