We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is the History of the State Seal of California?

By Christian Petersen
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
America Explained is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At America Explained, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The history of the state seal of California begins well before California achieved statehood in 1850. It was designed by a United States Army officer, but due to political and social issues, was introduced by another man, with the creator's approval. It was officially approved by the California Constitutional Convention, held in 1849. Its design incorporated period-specific references to the Union, reflecting an assumption by its creator that California would be swiftly be admitted as a state. It has undergone numerous modifications since, most of which have been stylistic, without significantly changing any of the symbolic imagery or the layout of the design. The last of these changes were made in 1937

The creator of the state seal of California was Robert S. Garnett. Garrett was a major in the United States Army, who would later go on to accept a commission as a general in the Confederate army at the outset of the American Civil War. His design was engraved by Albert Kuner.

During this period in history, a great deal of enmity existed between the military and many of those involved in California politics. For this reason, Garnett felt that his design would be rejected out of hand by the constitutional convention simply because it was created by a member of the military. To circumvent this possibility, he enlisted the aid of Caleb Lyon, the official clerk of the convention. Garnett's proposed design for the seal was presented by Lyon as his own.

Lyon submitted a proposal for the design of the seal and an explanation of its symbols. The design depicts a landscape with a harbor or river dotted with sailing ships, with mountains in the background and a representation of the Roman god Minerva kneeling beside a grizzly bear in the right foreground. A miner works with a pick in the left foreground. A row of 31 stars, one for each state in the Union at the time, follows the upper arc of the circular seal with the word "Eureka" appearing just below them. The words "The Great Seal of the State of California" were placed around the border of the seal.

Each element of the design was selected to have some relevance to California's history and the pride of its citizens. Minerva was chosen to show that California became a state without first being designated as a territory as was the norm. The grizzly bear, eating a bunch of grapes, represents the diversity of the flora and fauna of the region while the landscape shows the great variety of natural beauty to be found in the region. The miner, a sheaf of wheat, and the ships indicate the strengths of California's commerce, agriculture, and economy. The word "Eureka" is refers to the discovery of gold in the region and the acceptance of California as a member of the United States.

The delegates to the convention debated on the design, and numerous changes were proposed by various members. Garnett's original design did not include the grizzly bear or the miner. Both were added by amendment.

Other proposed changes were rejected, and the design was approved by a vote on October 2, 1849. It was revised three separate times, the last in 1937. Each revision made minor changes in the details without intrinsically changing any of the symbology or main elements. The 1937 revision was legislated and officially designated as the one and only legal seal.

The actual seal is a physical object, and is used by the governor and the secretary of state to place an official stamp on documents, much in the way the stamp of a notary public certifies documents. While innumerable representations of the state seal of California exist, by state law, there is and can be only one official physical seal. It consists of a two part die attached to a press that, when used, embosses the seal on a document.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
America Explained, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

America Explained, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.