History of the Arizona State Seal - PDF of this document
seal sits atop countless pages of official state documents,
stationery, and statute books. Arizonans have seen it on
their tax return, driver’s
license, and election pamphlet.
What is little known is that the Arizona
seal has graced instruments of the state for the last century
and a half, undergoing several dramatic changes over the years.
One element of the seal, however, remains the same today as it
was 140 years ago.
When President Lincoln approved a bill in
1863 providing for temporary government in the Territory of Arizona,
he appointed Richard McCormick, a former businessman and journalist,
to be its secretary. Although Congress hadn’t given
McCormick the authority to create a territorial seal, he
knew one would be necessary to authenticate official documents.
He designed his seal and brought it west
in 1863. The Spartan artwork (which to some was comic) featured
a bearded miner standing casually in front of a wheelbarrow,
pick, and short-handled spade. Two bare mountains rose in the
background, and at the bottom was the phrase “Ditat
Deus,” God enriches. (Figure
Perhaps in response to criticism of his seal,
McCormick introduced a revised version (Figure
2). The redesign
was more elaborate and included new shadowing and a small
stream at the miner’s feet.
Gone were the wheelbarrow and spade, replaced with a
more befitting long-handled shovel. The mountains now featured
a pointed peak, which may have been Thumb
Butte, west of
the capital in Prescott. “Ditat
Deus” remained in its former place.
Both McCormick seals bore a striking resemblance
to the label on cans of Pioneer Baking Powder, a popular brand
at the time (Figure
3). Whether to honor or dishonor,
the McCormick seal was nicknamed the “baking
powder seal” for the
duration of its use.
Members of the First Territorial Legislative
Assembly had other ideas for the design of a territorial seal.
In the fall of 1864 the Assembly approved an act
creating a seal and authorizing the secretary “to
entrust said seal to proper parties for engraving.” The
seal was to be 2 1/4 inches in diameter and feature “a
view of San Francisco mountain [sic] in the distance,
with a deer, pine trees, and columnar cactus in the
foreground; the motto to be ‘Ditat
Despite these plans for a new seal, Arizona
continued to see the baking powder seal. McCormick, evidently
preferring his design, took advantage of a provision of the act
that allowed him to use the former seal in his official duties “until
the seal authorized in this act is prepared.” It was
not prepared until 1879, 15 years after the act that authorized
it. McCormick went on to become governor of the territory
in 1866, and the capital moved to Tucson a year later. During
the ten years that the capital was in Tucson, the initials “L.S.” (Legal
Seal) were used to authenticate documents rather than
the Arizona miner.
Although the baking powder seal was retired
in 1879, a version of the original McCormick seal is still in
use by Gila County. It bears a small discrepancy in
the motto, “Dit Deus” (Figure
The first known use of the legislatively
approved territorial seal was by Secretary John Gosper to certify
the Acts of the Tenth Territorial Legislative Assembly on March
3, 1879 (Figure
5). Mulford Winsor, a delegate to
Convention and later a state senator, provided this
grandiloquent description of the seal in a 1945 report he
prepared while serving as director of the Department of Library
“[The seal] was simplicity exemplified,
the artwork being rudimentary. The objects are shown in bare
outline. Three strokes of the artist’s
pen dispose of a trio of mountain peaks in the
distance. The pine trees — three in the left center, one
in the right center — bear
a striking resemblance to attenuated multiple-deck
Chinese pagodas. The columnar cactus is singular in number
and effect, smooth, stubby as a fence post, and innocent
of any sign of branch or slightest protuberance.
deer forms the frontispiece — the pièce
de résistance, as it were. A noble five-point
buck, he occupies a third of the width and height of
the pictorial design, in the geographical centre of the
forefront. Standing erect, head thrown far back, facing
east, but with one eye on the audience, his forefeet
stand firmly on the motto, ‘Ditat Deus.’”
Secretaries of the territory introduced several
variations of the legislative seal during the more than 30
years that it was in use. In 1895 Secretary Charles Bruce
6) added simple shading lines to the mountains,
deer, and cactus (although the shading on the cactus
was strangely on the wrong side).
Bruce also employed a seal showing everything
in deep shadow. A seal used by Secretary Charles
Akers in 1899 brought the scene back to daylight, but
the deer reportedly appeared to have stomach
cramps and the nearby cactus now had a suspicious dent.
An improvement in the seal’s artwork
came in 1905 when Secretary W.F. Nichols adopted a drawing from
Phoenix artist Walter Rollins (Figure
7). In it the deer faced
left, the mountains bore more resemblance to the San Francisco
peaks, the trees and cactus were more realistic, and grass grew
in the foreground. As always, “Ditat Deus” remained
the motto. This was the last seal used before
statehood, and it appeared on the original copy of the Arizona
Constitution adopted in 1910.
The subject of a new seal for the state was
discussed informally by delegates at the
Constitutional Convention, but the matter did not get serious
attention until Delegate M.G. Cunniff of
Yavapai County submitted a proposed design by Phoenix
newspaper artist E.E. Motter. A special
committee of three delegates formed to consider the
Motter seal, and on the penultimate day of the Convention
it recommended adoption of the language
that became Article 22, § 20
of the Constitution, which describes the
present seal (for description see Overview).
The committee’s report met with sharp
protest from delegates who wanted to retain the territorial seal.
Morris Goldwater from Yavapai County argued for tradition and
said that “any man
who has lived in this territory under
the present seal as long as I have can continue to live with
it until he dies, without hurting himself.” E.E. Ellinwood
of Cochise County, the committee’s
chairman, explained that the committee’s
aim was to “get
away from cactus, Gila monsters, and
feature other industries of the state.
After lengthy debate that at times wandered
into other political issues, delegates
on December 9 approved the new seal by
a vote of 28 to 11, with 13 members absent.
Delegates adjourned the Convention later
Like the McCormick seal, the territorial
seal lives on: Mohave County and the
Corporation Commission use versions
of the original territorial seal and the
Rollins seal, respectively (Figure
8 a & b).
It was probably Ellinwood who was responsible
for the image of the miner on the seal
9). Unlike the McCormick seal’s
miner, the state seal miner was modeled
after a real person: Bisbee prospector
George Warren. In 1880 when pioneer
photographer C.S. Fly visited Bisbee
during its boom, he took a photo of
Warren posing as a miner.
A print of this photo hung in the office
of William Brophy, founder of the Bank
of Bisbee and general manager of the
Phelps Dodge Mercantile Company. During
the Constitutional Convention in 1910,
Delegate Ellinwood, a former director
of the Bisbee bank, borrowed the picture
of Warren from Brophy to use as a model
for the seal. Warren’s
signature pose, with right arm and
leg propped up, became part of the
first state seal.
In the years since statehood, state
agencies have used a host of great
seals with variations in every element
of the basic design, from missing clouds
to redrawn mountains to typeface alteration.
(The cow – rarely “cattle
grazing” – is
often unrecognizable or even absent
from some seals.)
The two most prevalent versions
(the original Motter seal and one
introduced in the early 1980s,
Figure 10 a & b) contain several noticeable
differences. It has also been colorized
(see below), but the true version
of the seal is the one described
in the Arizona Constitution.
What hasn’t changed in the seal over
the many years since Arizona became a territory is the seal’s
simple promise that “God
The Arizona State Seal Today
state seal was approved by Article 22, Section 20 of the Arizona
Constitution and adopted in 1911. The state’s
key enterprises are symbolized on the face of the seal.
In the background is a range of mountains
with the sun rising behind the peaks.
At the right side of the range of mountains
there is a storage reservoir and a dam, below which, in the middle
distance, are irrigated fields and orchards reaching into the
foreground with grazing cattle to the right.
To the left, the middle distance depicts
a mountainside with a quartz mill. In the foreground is a miner
with a pick and shovel. Above this is the motto “Ditat
Deus,” meaning God enriches.
In a circular band surrounding
the whole seal is inscribed “Great
Seal of the State of Arizona” and the year of admission
to the Union, 1912.
The official state seal is the one described
in the Arizona Constitution, but this color version has been
in use by state agencies for more than 20 years.
Much like the black and white state seal,
the colorized version has been altered over the years. Colors
have been added, deleted, and manipulated with desktop publishing
programs. To view the colorized version, click
© 2004, Arizona Blue Book, printed under
the authority of the state of Arizona, A.R.S.