What Does the State Seal Symbolize? A Deep Dive into the Meanings and Origins

If you’ve ever taken a closer look at your state’s flag, then you might have noticed that it features a state seal that sits at the center of the design. But what does the state seal actually symbolize? Most people might not know the answer to this question, but it deserves some attention as the state seal holds significant significance to the identity of a region.

Every U.S state has its own seal, and each one carries a unique message in terms of what their state represents. Take for instance the California state seal with a grizzly bear. It symbolizes the strength and resilience of the state’s wildlife. Or the New York state seal, which features a bald eagle sitting atop the globe. It represents the idea that New York is truly a global hub and a leader in the world’s economic pursuits. From the symbols that are visible within the seal to the words and mantras that are emblazoned on it, every state seal tells a story about the region that they represent.

History of the Development of State Seals

State seals are an important symbol of governance, and their history dates back centuries. In the early years of the United States, state seals were created as a way to distinguish each state from one another and to establish a sense of identity and pride among its citizens.

The development of state seals can be traced back to colonial times when each colony had its own emblem or seal. These seals were used to authenticate official documents, such as land deeds or contracts, and served as a form of identification for legal documents.

  • Massachusetts, for example, featured an Indian with a bow and arrow on its seal that symbolized the state’s Native American population.
  • Maryland’s seal included the motto “Fatti Maschii Parole Femine” which means “Manly Deeds, Womanly Words.”
  • Virginia’s seal depicted a woman, symbolizing the Roman goddess Virtus, representing virtue and valor.

As the colonies transitioned to states, they continued to use their previous seals as a basis for their new state seals. Over time, state seals became more complex and included more intricate designs and symbols.

Today, most state seals feature a variety of symbols, such as state landmarks, state animals, and state mottos, that represent the unique characteristics of each state. For example:

State Seal Description
California The seal depicts a grizzly bear, a symbol of strength and courage, while the surrounding scenery includes the Golden Gate Bridge and the California state flower, the poppy.
Texas The seal features a six-pointed star, symbolizing the state’s unity, while the surrounding images include a cowboy, an oil derrick, and the Alamo.
New York The seal showcases the state’s coat of arms, which features two supporters, Lady Liberty on the left and Justice on the right, as well as the state motto “Excelsior,” which means “Ever Upward.”

Overall, state seals have a rich history and serve as an important symbol of each state’s unique identity and heritage. They offer a sense of pride, unity, and belonging among its citizens.

Common Symbols Found on State Seals

The state seal serves as a visual representation of the values, culture, and history of a state. It typically features a variety of symbols that hold significance to the state’s identity. Here are some common symbols found on state seals:

  • Stars: Many state seals feature stars, often representing the number of states in the Union or the ideals of freedom and hope. For example, the Texas state seal features a lone star, while the Alaska state seal features eight stars representing the Big Dipper constellation.
  • Animals: Some state seals feature animals that are significant to the state’s history and culture. For example, the New Mexico state seal features a zia symbol and a state flower, the yucca, along with a depiction of an eagle and a red banner with the state motto.
  • Eagles: The national bird of the United States, the bald eagle, is a common symbol found on state seals. It is often associated with strength, courage, and freedom. For example, the New York state seal features an eagle with a banner reading “Excelsior,” meaning “ever upward.”

The Significance of the Number 2 on State Seals

The number 2 is a symbol that is frequently featured on state seals. It traditionally represents balance and harmony, often used to depict the balance between opposing forces in the natural world. For instance, the Pennsylvania state seal features two horses pulling a plow, representing the balance between agriculture and industry.

In addition to balance, the number 2 can represent other concepts on state seals. For instance, the Hawaii state seal features two islands, representing the two main islands of the state. The Mississippi state seal features two sections, one representing the United States and one representing Mississippi as a separate entity.

State Seal Description Significance of 2
Pennsylvania Two horses pulling a plow Balance between agriculture and industry
Hawaii Two islands Representation of the two main islands of the state
Mississippi Two sections Representation of the United States and Mississippi as a separate entity

Overall, the number 2 holds significant symbolism on state seals, often representing balance, harmony, or a particular aspect unique to the state.

Religious symbols on state seals

State seals are often rich in symbolism, reflecting the values, history, and culture of the state they represent. One common element found on state seals is religious symbolism, particularly Christian iconography.

  • Religious References: Many state seals incorporate religious references to reflect the state’s history and legacy. For example, the seal of Alabama features stars that represent the 13 original colonies on which America was founded, along with a map of the state and the Latin phrase “Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere,” which translates to “We Dare Defend Our Rights.” Similarly, the seal of Pennsylvania features a ship and plow, symbols of the state’s Quaker heritage and its early agricultural and commercial industries.
  • Christian Iconography: Many states incorporate Christian iconography into their seal designs. For example, the state seals of Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, and North Carolina, among others, all feature images of Lady Justice or some other emblem of the Christian faith, such as a cross or a church building. These symbols speak to the values of the state and the historical role that religion has played in shaping its culture and identity.
  • Controversy: While many states continue to use religious symbols on their state seals, there has been growing controversy over this practice in recent years. Critics argue that the inclusion of Christian iconography on state seals violates the principle of the separation of church and state, and that it may alienate citizens of non-Christian religions or no religion at all. Some states have responded to these concerns by revising their state seal designs to remove overtly religious imagery or to incorporate more inclusive symbols.


State seals provide valuable insight into the culture, history, and values of individual states. While religious symbolism has long played a prominent role in many state seal designs, there has been growing debate over the appropriateness of such imagery. Ultimately, the decision to include religious symbols on state seals is a matter of interpretation and individual state preference.

Whatever the decision may be, state seals will continue to serve as important symbols of state identity and pride for generations to come.

Secular Symbols on State Seals

The state seal of any given state is a powerful and symbolic representation of its history, culture, and values. It is a visual depiction of the state’s unique identity and distinctive character. State seals typically feature a range of symbols and imagery, many of which have secular origins and historical significance. This article will explore the meaning behind the secular symbols on state seals, including the number 4.

The Number 4

The number 4 is a common secular symbol on state seals, often represented in the form of four stars, four quadrants, or four figures. The number 4 carries various cultural and historical meanings, depending on the context of the seal. In many cases, the number 4 represents the cardinal directions (North, South, East, and West) or the four seasons (Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter). These symbols highlight the state’s geography and climate, showcasing its natural beauty and resources.

  • Four Stars: The four stars on the Texas state seal represent the four nations that have governed Texas: Spain, France, Mexico, and the United States.
  • Four Quadrants: The four quadrants on the New York state seal represent the state’s diverse industries, including farming, commerce, navigation, and the arts.
  • Four Figures: The four figures on the Virginia state seal represent the powers of government: the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, along with the militia.

The number 4 also carries social and cultural connotations, often symbolizing balance, stability, and unity. In some cases, it represents the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water) or the four humors (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile) in ancient medicine and philosophy.


The secular symbols on state seals provide a fascinating glimpse into a state’s history, culture, and values. Whether represented in the form of four stars, four quadrants, or four figures, the number 4 carries various meanings and significance, highlighting a state’s geography, climate, and resources. Understanding the meaning behind these symbols reveals the rich heritage and character of each state, leaving a lasting impression on anyone who encounters them.

Use of state seals on official documents

State seals have been used on official documents for centuries in the United States. The purpose of these seals is to authenticate and validate official government documents. The design and symbolism of each state seal is unique and reflects the history, culture, and values of each state.

  • State seals were first used in the colonial era as a way to indicate the origin and validity of a document. They were often imprinted with a coat of arms or other emblem that represented the issuing authority.
  • With the formation of the United States, each state was given the authority to create its own seal. This allowed states to establish their own identity and distinguish themselves from other states.
  • State seals are typically used on official documents such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, and other legal documents. They may also be used on state flags, buildings, and monuments as a symbol of state pride and identity.

The design and symbolism of each state seal is carefully crafted to reflect the unique characteristics of the state. For example, the Massachusetts state seal features a Native American holding a bow and arrow, representing the state’s Native American heritage, while the Montana state seal displays the state’s mountains, forests, and agriculture.

State seals are an important part of American history and serve as a symbol of each state’s identity and values. They remind us of the diverse cultural and historical backgrounds that make up our country, and are a visual representation of the rich history and traditions of each state.

State Symbolism
Alabama Displayed in the seal are a map showing the state’s location relative to the rest of the country, cotton, one of the state’s major crops, and a riverboat, representing the importance of water transportation in Alabama’s history.
Alaska The seal displays a rising sun, setting behind the Aleutian Islands, as well as a fishing vessel with a fisherman, a dog sled team, and a depiction of Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America.
Arizona The seal displays a phoenix bird, symbolizing the state’s rebirth after devastating fires, and a saguaro cactus, representing the state’s unique landscape.

Each state seal has its own unique history and symbolism, and provides a visual representation of each state’s identity and values.

Controversies surrounding state seals

State seals are meant to symbolize the values and heritage of each state. However, some state seals have been the subject of controversies due to their symbolism, design, or historical relevance. Here are six examples:

  • Mixed symbols: Some state seals have been criticized for containing conflicting or offensive symbols. For instance, the Mississippi state seal features an eagle above an Native American warrior who is holding a bow and arrow. Some Native American groups find this depiction to be stereotypical and negative.
  • Outdated features: Several state seals depict historical scenes or people that may be deemed controversial today. The Delaware state seal, for example, features a farmer and a soldier standing next to a seated figure of an African American. This depiction has been criticized as being racially insensitive and out of touch with modern values.
  • Religious elements: Some state seals contain religious symbols, which can be seen as inappropriate or exclusionary. The Tennessee state seal, for instance, has an image of a Roman numerals representing the number 16, which is a reference to the number of states that joined the Confederacy. Critics argue that this is a symbol of pro-slavery attitudes and a glorification of the Confederacy.
  • Political implications: State seals can also reflect political views that may not be universally accepted. The Alabama state seal, for instance, has an image of a bald eagle holding a banner that reads “Here We Rest.” Some people see this as a reference to a Confederate soldier’s gravesite and a desire to maintain the status quo in the state.
  • Style and design: Some state seals have been criticized for their design and artistic merit. The Montana state seal, for example, has been mocked for featuring a cow in a river and a pick and shovel on a hill, which many find to be uninspired and mundane.
  • Cost and controversy: Some state seals have come under scrutiny due to the cost of redesigning them. The South Carolina state seal, which has a reference to the state’s failed secessionist movement, has faced calls to be updated, but the cost and political implications of such a move have led to debate and controversy.


Although state seals are meant to represent the values and history of each state, they are not immune to controversy and criticism. From outdated elements to political and religious implications, some state seals have been subject to protests and calls for redesign. However, the cost and potential for backlash may prevent some states from making changes to their seals in the near future.

Evolution of State Seal Designs Over Time

State seals have been around in the United States for almost as long as the country has existed, with the very first one being created in 1777 for the state of Virginia. Since then, every state has created their own unique seal to represent their individual identity. These seals serve as symbols of each state’s values, history, and culture. Over the years, the design of state seals has gone through many changes in order to stay relevant and accurately depict the state that it represents. In this article, we will explore the history and evolution of state seal designs over time.

The Number 7

  • The number seven is a recurring theme in many state seals.
  • It is often depicted in the form of seven stars, seven rays, or seven pillars.
  • There are a few theories as to why the number seven is so prominent in state seals.
  • One theory is that the seven stars represent the seven liberal arts and sciences, which were considered to compose a well-rounded education during the Renaissance period.
  • Another theory is that the seven pillars represent the seven virtues: fortitude, prudence, temperance, justice, faith, hope, and charity.
  • Regardless of the exact meaning behind the number seven, it is clear that it holds great symbolism and importance in many state seals.

Other Common Themes

In addition to the number seven, there are other common themes that can be found in many state seals. For example, agriculture is often represented by images of wheat or corn, while industry is represented by images of factories or machinery. Native American culture is often depicted through images of teepees, arrows, or feathers. Natural resources such as timber, minerals, and water are also commonly featured in state seal designs.

A Look at State Seals Over Time

As previously mentioned, state seals have gone through many changes over time. One example of this is the evolution of the seal for the state of Connecticut. The original 1639 seal featured three vines, which represented the three colonies that formed Connecticut: New Haven, Saybrook, and Hartford. The vines were later replaced with a Latin motto, which was then replaced by a more detailed image of the coat of arms in 1711. In 1784, an eagle was added to the design, and the seal has undergone several more revisions since then.

State Year of First Seal Design Description of Design
Virginia 1777 The seal features Virtus, the goddess of virtue, holding a spear and a sword while standing over a defeated tyrant.
New York 1778 The seal features the state motto, “Excelsior,” which means “ever upward,” along with images of the sun, mountains, and fields.
California 1849 The seal features the goddess Minerva, who represents wisdom, along with a miner, a grizzly bear, and the state motto, “Eureka,” which means “I have found it.”

Overall, state seal designs have changed and evolved over time, but one thing remains consistent: their importance as symbols of each state’s identity and values.

Variations in State Seal Designs and Symbolism

State seals are vital elements in the identity of a state. They typically feature the state’s name and motto, the year it was established, and a unique design that incorporates symbolic elements representing the state’s history, traditions, and values. However, the design and symbolism of state seals can vary greatly from one state to another. In this article, we will discuss the variations in state seal designs and the symbolism they represent.

The Number 8

One interesting variation in state seal designs is the use of the number 8 in some seals. Georgia, for instance, features a circular seal with the number 8 in the center, surrounded by the state’s name and a banner with the state’s motto, “Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation.” North Carolina’s seal, on the other hand, features a depiction of a woman seated on a pedestal with the number 8 on it.

  • Georgia’s use of the number 8 can be traced back to the state’s original colonial charter, which was signed by King George II on April 21, 1732. The charter created the trustees of the colony, who were given eight years to establish a self-sustaining colony in Georgia.
  • North Carolina’s use of the number 8 is also linked to its history. The state was the eighth to ratify the United States Constitution, and its seal was designed in 1777, just five years after the country was founded.
  • The number 8 is also significant in other cultures and traditions. In Chinese culture, for example, the number 8 is considered lucky because it sounds like the word for “prosperity” or “wealth.” In Christianity, the number 8 is associated with rebirth and renewal because Jesus Christ was resurrected on the eighth day.

To summarize, the use of the number 8 in some state seals is a nod to the state’s history and traditions, as well as to the significance of the number in various cultures and beliefs.

The Great Seal of the State of California

The Great Seal of the State of California is another example of a state seal with rich symbolism. The seal features the Roman goddess Minerva, who represents wisdom and skills, standing in front of a depiction of the California landscape. The image includes a miner, a grizzly bear, and a sheaf of wheat, which represent the state’s natural resources, wildlife, and agriculture.

Symbol Meaning
Minerva Wisdom and skills
Miner The state’s mineral resources
Grizzly bear The state’s wildlife
Sheaf of wheat The state’s agriculture

The seal also features the words “Eureka” and “California,” which mean “I have found it” and “land of the bear,” respectively. These words reflect the state’s history of gold mining, as well as its natural riches.

In conclusion, state seals are unique expressions of a state’s identity, history, and values. The variations in state seal designs and symbolism reflect the rich diversity and complexity of our nation.

Meanings behind specific state seal symbols: Number 9

The number nine is found in several state seals and has various meanings. In numerology, the number nine symbolizes completeness and represents the highest level of consciousness and spiritual attainment. Here are the meanings behind the number nine in some state seals:

  • Delaware: The seal of Delaware includes a coat of arms with a ship, a farmer, and a soldier. The ship has nine sails, which are said to represent the nine counties in the state.
  • Connecticut: The seal of Connecticut also features a crown with nine jewels, which are thought to represent the first nine colonies that formed the United States. The motto “Qui transtulit sustinet” (“He who transplanted still sustains”) also has nine letters.
  • Georgia: The seal of Georgia includes a circle of 13 stars, which represent the original 13 colonies. Within the circle is an arch with three pillars, each topped with a globe that has a band with the word “constitution” on it. Above the arch are nine stars, which represent Georgia being the ninth state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

In addition to state seals, the number nine is also significant in other areas of American history. For example, the United States Constitution was created by a convention of nine states, and the first U.S. president, George Washington, was elected unanimously by nine of the 13 original states.

The use of the number nine in state seals shows the importance of numerology and symbolism in American history and serves as a reminder of the country’s past and its values.

Differences between state seals and state flags

State seals and state flags are two different symbols used by states to represent their identity. While both symbols represent an important aspect of the state, there are significant differences between them.

  • A state seal typically includes a coat of arms or a graphic representation of the state’s history, culture, and values. On the other hand, a state flag tends to include recognizable symbols, colors, or images that represent the people, geography, or even the economy of the state.
  • Most states have both a state seal and a state flag, but the use of each varies. A state seal is used for official government documents and forms, while a state flag is used for public celebrations and events.
  • While both symbols may have important historical or cultural significance, a state flag is more visible and recognizable to the public than a state seal.

The Number 10

The number 10 appears on several state seals and flags. In the United States, it has various symbolic meanings that represent different aspects of the country’s history and values.

The number 10 represents unity in the seal and flag of Pennsylvania. The state’s flag has the number 10 in its lower half, and it has been interpreted to represent the ten original colonies that formed the United States.

The ten stars on the seal of North Carolina represent the ten dates of secession, including the date that North Carolina declared its independence from British rule (May 20, 1775), and the date the colony became a state (November 21, 1789). The number 10 on the seal of North Dakota also represents the equality of the three branches of government – legislative, executive, and judicial, with 10 examples for each.

The number 10 also appears in the seal of Hawaii, which has ten stripes representing the eight main islands and two parts of one island that make up the state. The state of Alabama has ten flags on its seal that represent important eras in the state’s history (including the French, Spanish, British, and American flags) as well as the Confederacy and the United States flags.

State Symbol Featuring Number 10
Pennsylvania Flag
North Carolina Seal
North Dakota Seal
Hawaii Seal
Alabama Seal

In conclusion, the number 10 is an important symbolic element that represents different aspects of the history and values of various states in the US. While it may not have the same significance in all states, it serves as a unifying element that connects the states to their history and identity.

FAQs about What Does the State Seal Symbolize

1. What is a state seal?

A state seal is an emblem or badge representing a particular state. Every state in the United States has an official seal.

2. What does the state seal symbolize?

The state seal represents the values and culture of a state. Each element in the seal has a significant meaning that reflects the history and identity of the state.

3. What are the common elements found in state seals?

The common elements found in state seals are a shield, a motto, a banner, a crest, branches or wreaths, and a helmet.

4. How does the design of state seals differ from one another?

The design of state seals differs from one another because it reflects the distinct character and identity of each state. Each state has unique elements incorporated into its seal that reflects its geography, culture, and history.

5. What is the significance of the eagle in state seals?

The eagle is a symbol of freedom, strength, and courage. Most state seals feature an eagle, either as a crest or other symbolism, to represent these values.

6. Can you buy merchandise with state seals on them?

Yes, you can buy merchandise with state seals on them. However, the use of state seals is often heavily regulated, and permission may be required to use them on commercial products.

7. What is the purpose of state seals?

The purpose of state seals is to serve as a symbol of the state’s identity and history. It is used on official documents, state flags, and other state-related materials to denote its authenticity.

Closing Title: Thanks for Learning about What Does the State Seal Symbolize

We hope that this article has been helpful in understanding what state seals represent. Each state’s seal carries a unique meaning that represents its history, geography, and culture. Thanks for reading and please come back again soon for more informative articles.