lawyers in office with california state bar frames

Have you ever thought about the origin of your state’s official seal? Although there are 50 individual state seals, each one bears unique artwork that is rich in symbolism and steeped in historical significance. Representative of the state’s ideals, the seal functions as a legal designation on licenses, certificates, contracts, and government buildings. Of all the logos, the Great Seal of California is probably the one that sparks the most curiosity. So what does the state of California seal represent? Let’s examine its significance.

What is the history behind the state seal?

According to, when the first 13 states of the United States declared their independence from England, each one created their own state seal. The very first state seal to be designed was for Delaware on December 7, 1787, as it was the first state to join the union. 

As other states joined the union, each one would design their own representative seal. These seals contained important cultural and historical elements about the state. Once state seals were established, these designs were then adapted for each state flag.

What is the meaning of the state seal?

In addition to symbols representing the spirit of that state’s culture and commerce, many seals incorporate state mottos. For example,the Connecticut state seal includes the Latin motto, “Qui Transtulit Sustinet” (“He Who Transplanted Still Sustains”), while the New Jersey seal includes their state motto, “Liberty and Prosperity.”

Very often, these seals include the year the state joined the union or the year their territory was first settled. Alternatively, many seals feature stars indicating their admittance into the United States. For example, the Great Seal of Nevada features 36 stars, as it was the 36th state to join the union. While other seals, like the 30th state admitted to the union, Wisconsin, bear 13 stars to pay homage to the territories that severed ties with Britain and became the first states of the union.

original and current california state seals

Who made the California state seal?

The state seal of California was designed by Robert S. Garnett in 1849. A U.S. Army Artillery Major, Garnett was actually a Virginian native who just happened to be stationed in Monterey, California, the site of the state’s Constitutional Convention. While there have been some minor revisions to the design since the seal’s inception, today’s state of California seal logo is quite similar to Garnett’s original design.

In 1861, Garnett was killed in battle, becoming the first of 120 general officers to lose his life in the Civil War. In front of Colton Hall where the Constitutional Convention was held in Monterey, is a plaque that celebrates Garnett’s contribution: “The Great Seal of the State of California designed by Major Robert Selden Garnett, US Army, Presidio of Monterey, and adopted by the Constitutional Convention of 1849 in Monterey.”

What do the symbols on the state seal represent?

When you take a closer look at the whimsical and colorful seal, California symbols abound. Just what does the California state seal represent? In the foreground stands the official state animal, the California grizzly bear. What’s interesting to note is that UCLA frames its own mascot around the state’s animal. Originally adopting the Grizzlies moniker in 1924, UCLA changed it two years later in deference to the already established University of Montana Grizzlies. UCLA’s team then became known as the Bruins, the Dutch word for brown bears.

The grizzly bear on the seal of California is feeding on grape vines, which is a nod to the state’s nickname, Wine Country, while a bundle of wheat represents agriculture. When James Wilson Marshall discovered gold in 1848, it triggered the first gold rush in the United States, often referred to as the California Gold Rush, as represented by the miner with a pickaxe and sifting tools. At the top of the state seal, California’s motto “Eureka” is featured prominently. This Greek word, which means “I have found it,” refers to this momentous discovery.

Who is the woman on the California seal?

Arguably, one of the most intriguing California state seal images is the prominent female figure whose spear points directly to the phrase “Eureka”. This is Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom. justice, strategic warfare, heroic endeavors, strength, and the arts. Minerva emerged from her father Jupiter’s head a fully grown adult, an acknowledgement that California was never a territory and was acquired much later. On September 9, 1850, California became the 31st state in the union as indicated by the 31 stars curving over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Minerva’s full-color image appears in the form of an hand-painted enamel medallion on our State of California paperweight. 

Shopping for a state seal California frame

If you earned your state bar certificate, realtor license, or any permit or professional credentials in the state of California, be sure to put it on display in a document frame featuring the Great Seal of the State of California. Of all of our State Seal Logo frames, our State of California certificate frames are our most popular offerings. Available in different mat color combinations and wood moulding styles, you can use our online framing tools to design according to your home or office decor. We pride ourselves on our “Eureka!” moments, so once you find just the right design, we know you’ll love the finished product.

Best of all, you can choose to display California’s state seal in a variety of ways on your frame: as a vibrant color-enamel medallion, a gold engraved medallion, a silver engraved medallion, or in gold foil embossing. State seal frames are ideal for showcasing recognition awards, newsworthy photos, important business documents, and community volunteer certificates. Whether you’re a UCLA Bruin or a proud Californian, give your credentials the respect they deserve by displaying them with the historically significant state of California seal logo.

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