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Wisconsin State Seal

Great Seal of the State of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Seal

Adopted in 1851.

The Great Seal of the state of Wisconsin was adopted in 1851. The seal of the state of Wisconsin is a symbol of the authority and sovereignty of the state and is a valuable asset of its people. It is the intent of the state government to ensure that appropriate uses are made of the state seal and to assist the secretary of state in the performance of the secretary's constitutional duty as custodian of the seal.

Wisconsin Great Seal

Wisconsin has seen a multitude of seals that have been used from territorial times through to the present. Even after Wisconsin gained statehood in 1848, one of the last territorial seals was still in use. In fact, the first state seal that Wisconsin used was simply the last territorial seal that had been modified to say "State of Wisconsin" rather than "Territory of Wisconsin", and carried the date of statehood, "May 29th, 1848", rather than the date on the territorial seal, "Fourth of July, 1836".

The present Great Seal began taking shape in 1851 as Governor Nelson Dewey, and Chief Justice of Wisconsin's Supreme Court, Edward Ryan, discussed designs that would be appropriate. What they came up with was a basic design for a coat of arms to be placed in the seal, surrounded by images and text representing the state. Although the details have changed with the years, Wisconsin's current seal adheres to their concept. The state's industry is depicted with images of a plow, a pick and shovel, an arm and hammer, and an anchor. Wisconsin's dedication to the Union is represented with a shield of thirteen vertical stripes and the US motto "E Pluribus Unum". The state's resources are represented by a full cornucopia and a pyramid of pig lead. On either side of the shield are a sailor and a yeoman, symbolizing the marine and land-based labor force. Because Wisconsin is known as the "badger state", what could be more appropriate than the badger over the shield? The state's motto, "Forward", displays over these images, and under the words "Great Seal of the State of Wisconsin".

Description of Wisconsin Seal

Wisconsin Great Seal consists of the state coat of arms, with the words "Great Seal of the State of Wisconsin" above it and 13 stars, representing the original states, below it.

Top:

  • Forward, the state motto
  • A badger, the state animal

Center, the state shield:

  • Top left: A plow, representing agriculture
  • Top right: A pick and shovel, representing mining
  • Bottom left: An arm and hammer, representing manufacturing
  • Bottom right: An anchor, representing navigation
  • Center: The U.S. coat of arms, including the motto E Pluribus Unum
  • The shield is supported by a sailor and a yeoman (usually considered a miner), representing labor on water and land

Bottom:

  • A cornucopia, representing prosperity and abundance

13 lead ingots, representing mineral wealth and the 13 original United States

The state seal emphasizes mining and shipping because at the time of Wisconsin's founding in 1848 the mining of lead and iron and shipping (via the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River) were major industries.

The Secretary of State is the keeper of Wisconsin's great seal. The seal is displayed in all courtrooms in the state, often alongside the county seal.

Wisconsin Law

2011-12 WISCONSIN STATUTES & ANNOTATIONS
Published June 4, 2014.
The coat of arms of the state of Wisconsin
CHAPTER 1
SOVEREIGNTY AND JURISDICTION OF THE STATE

1.07 State coat of arms. The coat of arms of the state of Wisconsin is declared to be as follows:
Arms.- Or, quartered, the quarters bearing respectively a plow, a crossed shovel and pick, an arm and held hammer, and an anchor, all proper; the base of shield resting upon a horn of plenty and pyramid of pig lead, all proper; over all, on fesse point, the arms and motto of the United States, namely:
Arms, palewise of 13 pieces argent and gules; a chief azure; motto (on garter surrounding inescutcheon), "E pluribus unum".
Crest.- A badger, passant, proper.
Supporters.- Dexter, a sailor holding a coil of rope, proper; sinister, a yeoman resting on a pick, proper.
Motto.- Over crest, "Forward".
History: 1975 c. 41.

2011-12 WISCONSIN STATUTES & ANNOTATIONS
Published June 4, 2014.

CHAPTER 14
CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICES AND INTERSTATE BODIES
SUBCHAPTER III
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE

14.45 Great and lesser seals.
(1) The state shall have a great seal and a lesser seal both of which shall be kept in the office of the secretary of state.
(2) The great seal of the state consists of a metallic disc, 2 3/8 inches in diameter, containing, within an ornamental border, the following devices and legend: The coat of arms of the state, as in s. 1.07 described; above the arms, in a line parallel with the border, the words, "Great Seal of the State of Wisconsin;" in the exergue, in a curved line, 13 stars.
(3) A lesser seal, 1 3/4 inches in diameter, engraved with the device of the great seal, with the words, "Seal of the Secretary of State," in a curved line above, and the words, "State of Wisconsin," in a curved line below such device, is the seal of the secretary of state, and may be used to authenticate all papers and documents issued by the secretary of state, except the official acts of the governor, and such copies of the laws and records in the office of said secretary as may be required for use as evidence in any other state, territory or country.

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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