The Great Seal of the state of Rhode Island was adopted in 1875.
The Seal of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations features a blue field with a golden maritime anchor as its central image below the phrase "HOPE." The anchor has been used as a symbol for Rhode Island since the colony's founding in 1636, well before the region claimed statehood.
The colors white and blue were used in flags carried by Rhode Island regiments during the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War. The stars which represent the thirteen original states were also used on flags of Rhode Island regiments during the Revolution.
The anchor has been associated with Rhode Island since its foundation. An anchor was adopted as the province's seal in 1647. Roger Williams received an official charter in England in 1644 in which King Charles II granted the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations a more liberal charter, and the world "Hope" was placed above the anchor on a new seal.
There is no official documentation from the time when Rhode Island first adopted the word "Hope" on its Seal and flag that explains why this word was chosen. The most coherent explanation as to the use of "Hope" comes from the historical notes of Howard M. Chapin published in Illustrations Of The Seals, Arms And Flags Of Rhode Island, printed by the Rhode Island Historical Society in 1930. On pages 4 and 5, Mr. Chapin wrote that the words and emblems on the Seal were probably inspired by the biblical phrase "hope we have as an anchor of the soul", contained in Hebrews, Chapter 6, verses 18 and 19.
At the Rhode Island State House, in the middle of the Rotunda, in the center of the floor, is a brass replica of the State Seal, embedded into the marble floor. At the center of the seal is an anchor, which symbolizes hope and reminds us of the importance of water to the Ocean State. Above the anchor is the word "Hope," drawn from the words of Roger Williams to the early settlers: "Hope in the Divine." A garland of leaves surrounds the shield which holds the anchor and around it all are the words "Seal of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations 1636."
The seal has been adopted by successive Rhode Island government authorities since 1644. The current (2009) General Laws enactment asserts:
State Affairs and Government
§ 42-4-2 State seal. - There shall continue to be one seal for the public use of the state; the form of an anchor shall be engraved thereon; the motto thereof shall be the word "Hope"; and in a circle around the outside shall be engraved with the words, "Seal of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, 1636".
History of Section.
(G.L. 1896, ch. 5, § 2; G.L. 1909, ch. 5, § 2; G.L. 1923, ch. 5, § 2; G.L. 1938, ch. 19, § 2; G.L. 1956, § 42-4-2; P.L. 2007, ch. 340, § 7.)