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Vermont State Seal

Great Seal of the State of Vermont

Vermont Seal

Adopted on February 20, 1779.

The Great Seal of the State of Vermont is the official seal of the U.S. state of Vermont, used to emboss and authenticate official documents. It was designed by Ira Allen, brother of Ethan Allen and one of the state's founders.

The seal contained some basic symbolic images that represented the state. These images were not intricately sophisticated, but they did depict the character of Vermont at the time.

The design was accepted by resolution of the Vermont General Assembly on February 20, 1779.

Vermont Great Seal

The first Great Seal of Vermont, designed by Ira Allen and made by Reuben Dean of Windsor in 1778, was accepted by resolution of the General Assembly on February 20, 1779. That seal wore out so a new seal was made in 1821. While this included many of the basic design elements of the original seal, it was distinctly more pictorial, rather than symbolic, in character. Seals in several variations of that second design, which was similar to the State Coat of Arms described elsewhere, were used over the next 115 years. In 1937 a new seal was adopted, this a precise reproduction of the original Ira Allen design. It remains to use today.

While an interpretation of the meaning of the seal's different elements involves some supposition, the row of wooded hills certainly indicate the Green Mountains; the sheaves and cow, agriculture; the wavy lines at the top and bottom, sky and water. Henry Steele Wardner, in his THE BIRTHPLACE OF VERMONT: A HISTORY OF WINDSOR TO 1781, suggested that the four sheaves of grain stood for the four counties in existence in 1777; and that the cow stood on the eastern or more peaceable side of the State, while the spearhead on the western side represented the danger to Vermont at that time from the State of New York.

The Vermont motto on the original seal, "Freedom & Unity," may have been suggested by the desire that Vermonters should be free and united, or more likely, that the individual states should be free, but united. It has been suggested that this motto may have been the verbal source for the Liberty and Union speech of Daniel Webster.

The most dominant feature of the seal is the central pine. The pine trees of that time were noble trees, sometimes looming a hundred feet higher than the other trees around them. The pine was used on pine tree shillings, samplers, platters and other familiar objects. It was the feature of the Pine Tree Flag, representing all New England since 1700. Vermont charters reserved for the use of the State such pines as were suitable for masts for the State's Navy.

The peculiar cutting of the Vermont seal tree shows fourteen distinct branches, none a leader. It is interesting to examine possible reasons for this. The national flag adopted in 1777 had focused attention on the number "thirteen," representing the original thirteen states. Since Vermont felt so strongly on the subject of admission to the Union that she had marked her coins "Quarta Decima Stella," or fourteenth star, it is easy to imagine that Ira Allen picked the New England Pine as a proper symbol for the United States, and deliberately made it a pine of fourteen branches to indicate that Vermont should be a member of the Union, that the Union should have no one dominant state, and that it was a living and growing organization, capable of adding branch after branch as it went higher and grew stronger.

Hemenway's VERMONT HISTORICAL GAZETTEER in the section on Arlington carries an account by Vermont's prominent antiquarian, Henry Stevens, of his interview of a survivor of the bodyguard of Vermont's first governor, Thomas Chittenden. He told Stevens that Allen's state seal design originated from a carving made on a horn cup (apparently lost) which represented a view from the west window of Chittenden's house in Arlington; one element of that representation was a multi-stemmed pine. Until 1978 a majestic white pine tree, more than 175 feet tall and with many large stems branching from the base trunk, was visible from the site of Chittenden's house. This great pine was toppled by high winds May 9 that year.* Its numerous main stems and its visibility, from the Chittenden house site create a real possibility that the tree itself, or the horn carving of the tree, were indeed the inspiration for Ira Allen's design.

Use of the seal is governed by 1 V.S.A. § 494 and 13 V.S.A. § 1904.
Principal source is an article. "The Coat of Arms and Great Seal of Vermont." by John P. Clement. which first appeared in the VERMONT LEGISLATIVE DIRECTORY of 1939. See also William Gove. THE STATE SEAL PINE TREE. Vermont Department of Forests. Parks and Recreation. n.d. (1979). and  Office of the Secretary of State, Vermont Legislative Directory and State Manual, Biennial Session, 1993-1994. Donald M. Hooper, Secretary of State.

Vermont Seal Law

Vermont Statutes Annotated, Title 1, Chapter 11 and the Vermont Constitution, Section 22.

1 V.S.A. § 493 (2012)

§ 493. State seal

The state seal shall be the great seal of the state, a faithful reproduction, cut larger and deeper, of the original seal, designed by Ira Allen, cut by Reuben Dean of Windsor and accepted by resolution of the general assembly, dated February 20, 1779. The seal shall be kept by the secretary of civil and military affairs.

1 V.S.A. § 494 (2012)

§ 494. Use of state seal

The Vermont development board may, with the prior written consent of the governor, reproduce the seal of the state of Vermont in any state sponsored publication whether or not advertising is included in such publication.

HISTORY: Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 18(a), eff. March 1, 1961.

The following information was excerpted from the Constitution of the State of Vermont.

Constitution of the State of Vermont

§ 22. [Commissions; state seal]

All commissions shall be in the name of The People of the State of Vermont, sealed with the State Seal, signed by the Governor, and in the absence of the Governor by the Lieutenant-Governor, and attested by the Secretary; which Seal shall be kept by the Governor.

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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