Seal of Ohio

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Seal of Ohio
Seal of Ohio (Official).svg
Seal of Ohio.svg
Artist's Version[1]
Armiger State of Ohio
Adopted 1996 (current form)
Earlier versions Many, starting 1803
Use State government offices and letterheads, driver's licenses, (formerly) license plates
Coat of arms of the State of Ohio
Coat of arms of Ohio.svg
Armiger State of Ohio
Adopted 1953[2] (current form in 1996)
Use State and local government offices

The Great Seal of the State of Ohio features the U.S. state's coat of arms surrounded by the words, "THE GREAT SEAL OF THE STATE OF OHIO" in news gothic capitals (ORC §5.10). Ohio's coat of arms features a full sheaf of wheat, symbolizing agriculture and bounty; a cluster of seventeen arrows, symbolizing Ohio's admittance as the seventeenth of the United States of America; a representation of Mount Logan, Ross County, as viewed from the Adena estate; a rising sun three-quarters exposed and radiating thirteen rays to represent the original thirteen states shining over the first state of the Northwest Territory; and a representation of the Scioto River and cultivated fields (ORC §5.04).


Seal of the Territory of the United States Northwest of the River Ohio

Ohio's state seal has been redesigned at least ten times in the state's history.[3] From 1805 to 1866, the seal's design was left unspecified, a situation unique among the states.[4]

Territorial seal[edit]

Before Ohio's statehood, the territorial government of the Northwest Territory had its own seal. The United States Congress passed legislation on May 8, 1792, that directed the U.S. Secretary of State to "provide proper seals for the several and respective public offices in the [Northwest] Territories". A seal was created by the State Department to be used on official papers of the territory. The original seal was maintained by Governor Arthur St. Clair. Its first recorded use was in a proclamation made on July 26, 1788.[5] The seal bears a Latin inscription, Meliorem lapsa locavit, "He has planted one better than the one fallen," commemorating the decline of wilderness to make way for civilization.[6]

A rising sun[edit]

The first Constitution of Ohio, adopted on November 29, 1802, and effective March 1, 1803, provided for a state seal but left the details unspecified:[4]

There shall be a seal of this State, which shall be kept by the Governor and used by him officially, and shall be called "The great Seal of the State of Ohio."

Ohio Constitution of 1802, Article II, section 14

The first Secretary of State, William Creighton, Jr., initially used his personal seal on official documents.[7]

View of Sugarloaf Mountain and Sand Hill from Adena

On March 25, 1803, the General Assembly passed an act concerning the duties of the Secretary of State, introducing the first of many designs for the state seal, based on a sketch by Creighton:

That the secretary of state shall procure a seal, two inches in diameter, for the use of the state; a seal of the supreme court, for each clerk thereof that may be appointed, of one inch and three-fourths in diameter; and also one other seal, one inch and a half diameter, for the use of each and every county now or hereafter to be created; on which seals shall be engraved the following device: On the right side, near the bottom, a sheaf of wheat, and on the left a bundle of seventeen arrows, both standing erect, in the back ground, and rising above the sheaf and arrows a mountain, over which shall appear a rising sun. The state seal to be surrounded with these words, "The great seal of the state of Ohio." The seal of the supreme court, with these words: "The supreme court of the state of Ohio;" and the county seal with these words, "Common pleas of the county of _____," the expense of said seals to be audited by the auditor and paid out of the state treasury.

—Act of 1st General Assembly, March 25, 1803[8]

The design is said to depict the view of Mount Logan from U.S. Senator Thomas Worthington's Chillicothe-area estate, Belle View (later Adena), symbolizing "the rising sun of the new state".[7] Creighton and Worthington both belonged to the "Chillicothe Junto" that dominated early state politics.[9]

The physical seal followed the adopted design loosely: from behind a full mountain range rose a sun with eyes.[10]


Unofficial 1840 coat of arms, featuring a canal boat

On February 19, 1805, the 1803 statute was replaced with identical wording, except for the omission of a design for the great seal. The original state seal had long since fallen out of use.[11] Despite the 1805 act being itself repealed on January 31, 1831, no replacement design was specified.[7] Legislators neglected to address the issue even after the Constitution of 1851 left intact the constitutional requirement for a design.[4]

In the meantime, a wide array of designs emerged,[12] particularly on court seals. Common embellishments included a plow and recumbent sheath of wheat, a range of mountains instead of a single peak (as in the Creighton seal), and an "ark" (a broad horn flatboat with a roof) floating on a river (understood to be the Ohio River, quite a distance from Chillicothe).[13][14] In an 1840 version, the arrows levitate among the clouds. The 1847 seal depicted in the Statehouse rotunda skylight substitutes the Ohio with a canal, replete with a canal boat.[15] Besides artistic liberty, some seals reflected confusion over the state's founding year, which was popularly believed to be 1802, the year the original constitution was adopted.[4]


Illustration of the 1866 seal, bearing the motto Imperium in imperio

In 1865, Secretary of State William Henry Smith issued a report on the need to reign in the seal's design. Though appreciative of the symbolism behind the 1803 design, he found the state's 2-inch (51 mm) seal to compare unfavorably to other states' larger, more ornate seals, which also featured mottoes and obverse designs.[13] On April 6 the following year, a Republican General Assembly responded, calling for an elaborate coat of arms:

That the coat of arms of the state of Ohio shall consist of the following device: A shield, upon which shall be engraved on the left, in the foreground, a bundle of 17 arrows; to the right of the arrows, a sheaf of what; both standing erect; in the background, and rising above the sheaf and arrows, a range of mountains and the arrows and sheaf, in the left foreground, a river shall be represented flowing toward the right foreground; supporting the shield, on the right, shall be the figure of a farmer, with implements of agriculture, and sheafs of wheat standing erect and recumbent; and in the distance, a locomotive and treat of cars; supporting the shield, on the left, shall be the figure of a smith with anvil and hammer; and in the distance, water, with a steamboat; at the bottom of the shield there shall be a motto, in these words: "Imperium in Imperio."

The act increased the size of the great seal to 2 12 inches (64 mm) and added mandatory seals for various public officials at the state and county levels.[4]

The 1868 coat of arms did away with the controversial motto but kept the river.
An 1879 rendering hews unusually closely to the statute.

The Republicans' new motto was problematic, as it ironically recalled states' rights just after the Civil War.[16] Moreover, the increased size, intricate design, and additional seals more than exhausted the $1,000 that had been appropriated to the Secretary of State. An even larger budget overrun would have resulted from an amendment on April 16 the following year. On May 9, 1868, a newly-elected Democratic General Assembly reverted to the 1803 coat of arms and formalized the depiction of a mountain range, present since Creighton's seal.[4] The river remained in contemporary depictions.[14] The Governor, Secretary of State, and Supreme Court continued to seal documents with the 1866 device into the 1880s.[4]

Modern form[edit]

Seal of 1967–1996

The Ohio General Assembly adopted the current coat of arms in 1967:[17]

The coat of arms of the state shall consist of the following device: a circular shield; in the right foreground of the shield a full sheaf of wheat bound and standing erect; in the left foreground, a cluster of seventeen arrows bound in the center and resembling in form the sheaf of wheat; in the background, a representation of Mount Logan, Ross county, as viewed from Adena state memorial; over the mount, a rising sun three-quarters exposed and radiating seventeen rays, the exterior extremities of which form a semicircle; and uniting the background and foreground, a representation of the Scioto river and cultivated fields; when the coat of arms of the state is reproduced in color, the colors shall be substantially the same as the natural color of the terrain and objects shown.

The latest modification, in 1996, reduced the number of rays from 18 to 13, "to represent the thirteen original colonies shining over the first state in the northwest territory".[18] There were unsuccessful attempts in 1999, 2003, and 2011 to add the Wright Flyer to the seal.[19][20][21]


The "Sunburst" license plate design featured the upper half of the Ohio coat of arms.

Section 5.10 of the Ohio Revised Code requires the seals of all "state, county, and municipal agencies, divisions, boards and commissions" to bear the state coat of arms. It also specifies the exact wording of the text surrounding the coat of arms of various courts and statewide elected offices. Various state agencies, such as the Departments of Transportation and Veterans Services, along with many cities, have developed more distinctive emblems and logos to complement their seals.

The state coat of arms appears in the center of the Flag of the Governor of Ohio.

From 2004 to 2010, the state's official coat of arms served as a backdrop for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles' "Sunburst" license plate design, which was issued over a longer period than any other design since the 1980s.

Seals of state government offices[edit]

Seals of other government associations[edit]

Seals of local governments[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The State Seal of Ohio
  2. ^ "Ohio". State of Ohio. Retrieved 2011-09-21. 
  3. ^ "Rotunda". The Ohio Statehouse. Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board. 2005-12-20. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-08-04. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Sloane, Rush R. (1903). "The Organization and Admission of Ohio into the Union and the Great Seal of the State". Ohio Centennial Anniversary Celebration at Chillicothe, May 20–21, 1903, under the auspices of the Ohio State Archælogical and Historical Society: complete proceedings. Ohio Centennial Anniversary Celebration. Chillicothe, Ohio: Ohio State Archæological and Historical Society. pp. 90–119. LCCN 04018527. OCLC 855752 – via Internet Archive. 
  5. ^ Bennett, Pamela J.; January, Alan (January 21, 2005). "Indiana's State Seal—An Overview". Indiana Historical Bureau. Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  6. ^ Reinke, Edgar C. "Meliorem Lapsa Locavit: An Intriguing Puzzle Solved". Ohio History 94: 74.  says the young tree on the seal is an apple tree, while Summers, Thomas J. (1903). History of Marietta. Marietta, Ohio: Leader Publishing. p. 115.  says it is a buckeye and perhaps the genesis of Ohio's nickname.
  7. ^ a b c Galbreath, Charles Burleigh (1907). Ohio Emblems and Monuments: Seals, Flag, Flower, Buckeye, Jewels, McKinley Memorial. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio Board of Library Commissioners. 
  8. ^ "An act designating the duties of the secretary of state". Acts of the State of Ohio: first session of the General Assembly, held under the Consitution of the State. Norwalk, Ohio: The Lansing Company. 1901 [1803]. pp. 17–18. 
  9. ^ "History of the United States Attorney, Southern District of Ohio". United States Attorney's Office of the Southern District of Ohio. Retrieved July 21, 2014. 
  10. ^ Baessler, Jack (March 3, 2003). "Seal has picturesque history". The Blade (Toledo, Ohio). Retrieved July 21, 2014. 
  11. ^ Swan, J. R., ed. (1841). "Secretary of State". Statutes of the State of Ohio, of a general nature, in force, December 7, 1840. Columbus, Ohio: Samuel Medary. p. 850. 
  12. ^ From A Territory To the State of Ohio: Student Activities to Understand the Transition (PDF). Museums and Interpretation Division, Ohio Historical Society. 2005-08-22. Archived from the original on 2012-03-13. Retrieved 2010-10-27. 
  13. ^ a b Smith, William Henry (November 25, 1865). Report of the Secretary of State. Columbus, Ohio. p. 435–441. 
  14. ^ a b Knabenshue, S. S. "The Great Seal of Ohio". Ohio History 10: 489–490. 
  15. ^ "Art in the Rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse". The Ohio Statehouse. Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board. 2008-07-26. Retrieved 2010-10-17. 
  16. ^ "Great Seal of Ohio". Ohio History 10: 392–393. 
  17. ^ "The Great Seal of Ohio; The ODOT Emblem". Ohio Department of Transportation. 2005-08-12. Archived from the original on 2007-12-14. Retrieved 2007-08-04. 
  18. ^ "FINAL Legislative Status Sheet - 121st GA" (PDF). Ohio Legislative Service Commission. 1996-12-31. Retrieved 2010-10-17. "[SB 213] Great Seal/Coat of Arms-change-13 rays" 
  19. ^ 123 HB 17, 123rd General Assembly.
  20. ^ 125 HB 99, 125th General Assembly.
  21. ^ 129 HB 309, 129th General Assembly.

External links[edit]