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Armorial de Suisse
Obwalden and Nidwalden originally were part of the Canton Unterwalden. The arms of Unterwalden were a shield divided horizontally of red and silver, and were derived from the banner. These arms were first mentioned in 1478.
After the division of Unterwalden, Obwalden continued the old arms and new arms were needed for Nidwalden. The new arms showed a double-key. The key itself is the symbol of St. Peter patron saint of Unterwalden and the oldest seal of Nidwalden, dating from the 14th century, showed St. Peter holding a key.
The seal form 1291
The arms on a 1569 coin
The arms on a 1811 coin
The arms with the key have basically not changed since. The size and shape of the key on the other hand has changed considerably during the centuries.
Variations of the arms in the Kaffee Hag albums 1914-1960
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Literature : Mühlmann, L. : Wappen und Fahnen der Schweiz, Bühler Verlag, Lengnau, 1977 and 1997.