Kansas State Motto

"Ad Astra Per Aspera"

Kansas State Motto and Seal

(To the Stars Through Difficulties)

Adopted on May 25, 1861.

Language: Latin

See Kansas State Seal

The Great Seal of the State of Kansas, along with the motto, Ad Astra per Aspera, was adopted by a Joint Resolution of the first session of the Kansas Legislature on May 25, 1861.

"Ad Astra Per Aspera" has been translated as: "To the Stars Through Difficulties." John J. Ingalls a lawyer; scholar; orator; statesman; delegate to the Kansas Constitutional Convention; secretary of the Kansas Territorial Council; Kansas State senator; Secretary of State and judge advocate during the Civil War and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel; and US Senator was responsible for including this motto in the design of the great seal in 1861. While secretary of the State Senate in 1861, at the first session of the Legislature, he submitted a design for a state seal.

Kansas State Motto:
"Ad Astra Per Aspera"

It is also of interest to note in this connection that Mr. Ingalls suggested the original design for the great seal of Kansas upon the admission of the state into the Union, together with the motto "Ad astra per aspera" (To the stars through difficulties). Unfortunately, however, the simplicity and beauty of his original design were marred by the committee to whom it was submitted for adoption.

The history of this emblematic device can best be given in ex-Senator Ingalls' own characteristic words:

"I was secretary of the Kansas state senate at its first session after our admission in 1861. A joint committee was appointed to present a design for the great seal of the state and I suggested a sketch embracing a single star rising from the clouds at the base of a field, with the constellation (representing the number of states then in the Union) above, accompanied by the motto, "Ad astra per aspera." If you will examine the seal as it now exists you will see that my idea was adopted, but in addition thereto the committee incorporated a mountain scene, a river view, a herd of buffalo chased by Indians on horseback, a log cabin with a settler plowing in the foreground, together with a number of other incongruous, allegorical and metaphorical augmentations which destroyed the beauty and simplicity of my design.
The clouds at the base were intended to represent the perils and troubles of our territorial history; the star emerging therefrom, the new state; the constellation, like that on the flag, the Union, to which, after a stormy struggle, it had been admitted."
From a biographical record prepared by G. H. Meixell.

This motto refers not only to the pioneering spirit of the early settlers, but also is a reference to the seven-year struggle to make the Territory of Kansas a state. The anti-slavery forces and slavery proponents waged battles in the electoral process as well as on the battle field. Kansas earned the nickname "Bloody Kansas" because of the war regarding slavery, much of which was fought on Kansas' soil.

The motto of Kansas is "Ad Astra Per Aspera," signifying (To the stars through difficulties.) It was probably formed by the combination of the ideas and words of two passages from Virgil's Aeneid: itur ad astra- Book IX, Line 641; ardua pennis astra sequi- Book XII, Lines 892-3.

Kansas Law

The law designating the official Kansas state motto is found in the Kansas Statutes, Chapter 75, Article 2.

This statute describes the Kansas State Seals. The motto is specified within this description.


75-201. Great seal of the state of Kansas. The great seal of the state of Kansas, procured by the secretary of state, as required by the joint resolution approved May twenty-fifth, eighteen hundred and sixty-one (which resolution was published as chapter seventy-eight [*], Laws of eighteen hundred sixty-one), shall be and remain the great seal of this state. Such seal is described in said joint resolution as follows: The east is represented by a rising sun, in the right-hand corner of the seal; to the left of it, commerce is represented by a river and a steamboat; in the foreground, agriculture is represented as the basis of the future prosperity of the state, by a settler's cabin and a man plowing with a pair of horses; beyond this is a train of ox-wagons, going west; in the background is seen a herd of buffalo, retreating, pursued by two Indians, on horseback; around the top is the motto, "Ad astra per aspera," and beneath a cluster of thirty-four stars. The circle is surrounded by the words, "Great seal of the state of Kansas. January 29, 1861."

History: L. 1879, ch. 166, § 15; March 20; R.S. 1923, 75-201.

75-202. Record of seal. The description in writing of the great seal of the state, deposited and recorded in the office of the secretary of state, shall be and remain a public record.

History: L. 1879, ch. 166, § 16; March 20; R.S. 1923, 75-202.

75-203. Custody and use of seal. The great seal of the state shall be kept in the executive office, and shall be used only in attestation of the proclamations, commissions and executive warrants issued by the governor, and of all obligations of the state issued in pursuance of law, and of such acts of authentication as may be required under the laws of the United States, and under the rules of comity between states.

History: L. 1879, ch. 166, § 17; March 20; R.S. 1923, 75-203.

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