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California State Seal

Great Seal of the State of California

California Great Seal - California State Seal

Adopted in 1849;1937

The Great Seal of California was adopted at the California state Constitutional Convention of 1849 and redesigned in 1937. The seal features the Roman goddess Minerva (Athena in Greek mythology), the goddess of wisdom and war; a California grizzly bear (the official state animal) feeding on grape vines, representing California's wine production; a sheaf of grain, representing agriculture; a miner, representing the California Gold Rush and the mining industry; and sailing ships, representing the state's economic power. The phrase "Eureka," meaning "I have found it!"  is the California state motto.

California Great Seal

California Seal of 1849

The original design of the seal was by Major R. S. Garnett of the United States Army. However, Garnett was unwilling to introduce the design to the 1849 state constitutional convention, so Caleb Lyon, a clerk of the convention, introduced it as his own design, with Garnett's approval.

The seal features the Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva, has at her feet a grizzly bear and clusters of grapes representing wildlife and agricultural richness. A miner works near the busy Sacramento River, below the Sierra Nevada peaks. The Greek word "Eureka" meaning "I have found it", probably refers to the miner's discovery of gold. Near the upper edge of the seal are 31 stars representing the number of states with California's anticipated admission. Just as Minerva sprung full-grown from the head of Jupiter, California became a state on September 9, 1850, without having to go through a territorial stage.

There has been and is only one Great Seal, there have been many redesigns and reproductions of the seal - but there is only one Great Seal. There have been four designs and four master dies [1849, 1883, 1891, and 1937], all basically the same with variations in some minor details and in detail relations.

Bayard Taylor, "Bayard Taylor's Letters, No. XXVII - The Great Seal of the State of California," New York Weekly Tribune, 22 December 1849, 1

California Great Seal - California State SealAround the bevel of the ring are represented thirty-one stars, being the number of the States of which the Union will consist, upon the admission of California. The foreground figure represents the goddess Minerva [Greek: Athena], having sprung full-grown from the brain of Jupiter [Greek: Zeus]. She is introduced as a type of the political birth of the State of California, without having gone through the probation of a Territory. At her feet crouches a grisly [grizzly] bear, feeding upon clusters from a grape vine, which, with the sheaf of wheat, are emblematic of the peculiar characteristics of the country. A miner is engaged at work, with a rocker and bowl at his side, illustrating the golden wealth of the Sacramento, upon whose waters are seen shipping, typical of commercial greatness; and the snow-clad peaks of the Sierra Nevada make up the back-ground. Above, is the Greek motto "Eureka," (I have found it,) applying either to the principle involved in the admission of the State, or the success of the miners at work. "

Geography of the Seal

California Great Seal - California State SealAlthough the waters were described in 1849 as being "of the Sacramento" and the mountains in the background as being "the snow-clad peaks of the Sierra Nevada," other, very early descriptions referred to the body of water as San Francisco Bay. In fact, in a letter to Lyon dated two days before the seal was approved by the convention, Garnett described the landscape as a "view of the Bay of San Francisco and its vessels," and in 1899, Garnett's brother referred to the mountain as Mount Diablo, which would back up Robert's San Francisco Bay view. In 1928, due to the number of incorrect details that had crept into the seal over the years (some pointed out as early as 1914), state printer Carroll H. Smith was authorized to prepare a new and correct seal. This seal was drawn by Los Angeles heraldic artist Marc J. Rowe who, among other corrections, narrowed the growing break in the mountains so that it appeared to be the Sacramento River, "fringed by snow-capped Sierra, and not an arm of San Francisco Bay, as the old seal made it appear". San Franciscans considered this change to be "a slight on their city in favor of Los Angeles," despite the fact that Rowe's version was not at all to be interpreted as representing the City of Angels. His design was not adopted as the official seal, although it was used by the State Printing Office. However, just nine years later, the 1937 standardized seal once again featured a widened gap of Golden Gate proportions, although it did keep Rowe's snow-capped Sierra Nevada that had replaced the barren foothills of previous editions of the seal. Both features remain to this day. The 1937 standardization came about when state employees, wishing to print the seal on blotters for the State Fair, could not find any official design of the seal. This prompted a new law (Statutes of California, 1937, chapter 380), which "established for the first time a definite pictured design with which the master die was 'substantially' to conform, and at the same time established the legality of all previous seals which were essentially the same as this one."

California Law

Government Code - GOV
Title 1
Division 2
Chapter 4
SECTION 399-405

399. (a) There shall be a seal of this state, which shall be called
"the Great Seal of the State of California."
(b) The Great Seal of the state shall be used by the Governor

400. The design of the Great Seal of the State shall correspond
substantially with the following representation thereof:
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
appears in the hard-copy publication of the chaptered bill.
See Chapter 134, page 902, Statutes of 1943.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
401. Any document signed prior to August 27, 1937, by the Governor,
the Secretary of State, or both of them and bearing an impression
purporting to be an impression of the Great Seal of the State has the
same validity as if the impression thereon were an impression of the
Great Seal of the State, whether or not it be in fact the impression
of the Great Seal of the State.

402. (a) Every person who maliciously or for commercial purposes
uses or allows to be used any reproduction or facsimile of the Great
Seal of the State in any manner whatsoever is guilty of a
(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), the Great Seal of the State
may be used for commercial purposes by the Golden State Museum Store
located at 1020 O Street in Sacramento, and by the Capitol Bookstore
and Gift Shop located in the rotunda of the restored State Capitol
(c) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), the California
Sesquicentennial Commission may enter into an agreement to use the
Great Seal of the State for officially sanctioned products of the
California Sesquicentennial celebration as approved by the
commission. The funds received from these sales shall revert to the
California Sesquicentennial Foundation and be used only for official
Sesquicentennial celebration purposes.

402.5. (a) In addition to the acts prohibited by Section 402, a
person who uses or allows to be used any reproduction or facsimile of
the Great Seal of the State in any campaign literature or mass
mailing, as defined in Section 82041.5, with intent to deceive the
voters, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
(b) For purposes of this section, the use of a reproduction or
facsimile of a seal in a manner that creates a misleading, erroneous,
or false impression that the document is authorized by a public
official is evidence of intent to deceive.

403. All grants and commissions shall be kept in the name and by
the authority of the people of the State of California, sealed with
the Great Seal of the state, signed by the Governor, and
countersigned by the Secretary of State.

404. (a) No person shall represent, either directly or indirectly,
that the State of California is sponsoring or endorsing a world's
fair or exhibition unless the representation has been specifically
authorized by law. Violation of this section is a misdemeanor.
(b) The Board of Directors of the California Exposition and State
Fair and its employees, as directed by the board, Members of the
California State Legislature, and constitutional officers shall be
exempt from the provisions of subdivision (a).

405. When the Great Seal of the state is prepared in color, the
following colors shall be used:
The field of the seal shall be Independence Blue, Cable No. 70076;
the outer circle shall be Golden Poppy, Cable No. 70071; the 31
stars and the words "Eureka" and "The Great Seal of the State of
California" shall be white; the two circles bordering the words shall
be Spanish Yellow, Cable No. 70068; the mountains shall be shades of
Orchid, Cable No. 70133, and Amethyst, Cable No. 70134; the water
shall be Grotto Blue, Cable No. 70022; the ships shall be
Independence Blue, Cable No. 70076, and white; the smoke of the
steamboat shall be Independence Blue, Cable No. 70076; the terrain
shall be shades of Oakwood, Cable No. 70094, and Cork, Cable No.
70092; the miner's shirt and pick shall be Plum, Cable No. 70135; the
rocker, bowl, and shovel shall be Golden Poppy, Cable No. 70071; the
face and arms of Goddess Minerva and of the miner shall be Ecru,
Cable No. 70103; the helmet and breastplate of Minerva shall be
Robins Egg, Cable No. 70204; the dress of Minerva shall be white; the
robe of Minerva and the pants of the miner shall be Cardinal, Cable
No. 70081; the shield of Minerva and the sheaf of wheat shall be
Spanish Yellow, Cable No. 70068 and Oakwood, Cable No. 70094; the
spear of Minerva shall be Oakwood, Cable No. 70094 and the tip white;
the vine shall be Spring Green, Cable No. 70061; the grass shall be
Irish Green, Cable No. 70168; the bear shall be in colors as set
forth in Section 420.
All white shall be Cable No. 70001.
All Cable number colors herein specified are those of the Textile
Color Card Association of the United States, Inc., New York.

State Seals
State Seals
When communications were transcribed by hand and tediously undertaken, seals authenticated official government documents. In this day of computers & instant communications, seals still serve the same purpose.
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