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What Is the History of the State Seal of Ohio?

By N. Swensson
Updated May 17, 2024
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The most recent version of the official state seal of Ohio contains most of the same elements as the earliest iteration, but the artwork on the coat of arms has been revised and altered several times throughout the state’s 200-year history. The current seal has been in use since 1996 and pictures some of the state’s most prominent natural features with the words “The Great Seal of the State of Ohio” around the outer edge. A previous version was very similar and appears as a stained glass window at the top of the capitol building’s rotunda. Another early version was created in 1866 and featured the motto of the Republican-controlled General Assembly, “Imperium in Imperio.” Two years later, the Democrats won control of the General Assembly and substituted a simplified version of the seal and did away with the motto.

Some historians believe that the landscape pictured in the state seal of Ohio is based on the view from the Adena Mansion, which is now the site of a historical museum. It was the home of one of the state’s first two senators, Thomas Worthington, who also served as Ohio’s sixth governor. The view from the home does look like the one pictured on the seal, but some scholars dispute the claim that this similarity was intentional.

The sun is pictured at the very top of the state seal of Ohio, with 13 rays to represent the original 13 American colonies. Just in front of the sun is a mountain, which is meant to represent Mount Logan in Ross County, OH. A river that symbolizes the state’s Scioto River flows beneath Mount Logan and separates it from a farm field containing a sheaf of wheat in the foreground, which stands for Ohio’s rich agricultural industry. Next to the wheat stalks is a column of 17 arrows, which is significant because Ohio was the 17th state to become part of the United States of America. The arrows also represent Ohio’s Native American people.

These basic elements of the state seal of Ohio have remained the same, but numerous smaller changes have been made to the design over time. One earlier version, which is also pictured in stained glass on the ceiling of the capitol’s rotunda, has a canal boat sailing on the river. Other iterations have modified the sun’s rays, colorized the seal, or resized the inscription around the perimeter.

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Discussion Comments
By BambooForest — On Dec 12, 2011

For awhile now there have also been license plates with "Beautiful Ohio" on them, and a scene that is similar to the one on the seal. I think it's good, as someone who lived there for awhile, that the state is trying to embrace its natural beauty more in the past few years. Economically Ohio has had a hard time, but it does have a lot to be proud of, like any state.

I also read that there is a movement to get the Wright Flyer, the Wright Brothers' airplane, on the seal as well. Since Ohio has a lot of history in aviation, I think it would be really cool if it passed. We'll see, I guess.

By elizabeth23 — On Dec 11, 2011

@Denha- Well, I don't know about that. My parents live a little south of Akron, near one of the "Amish Country" parts of the state, and it can look pretty idealistic in the summertime and early fall. The seal is a little overdone, maybe, but I think it is just to show pride in the state's farmland.

By Denha — On Dec 10, 2011

Having lived in Ohio for a few years, I have to say that the view on the seal does not immediately make me think of Ohio. Not that it is never beautiful and sunny there; it's just that I am not sure it looks that picturesque very much, at least not in places near Cleveland and Akron, where I lived. Maybe more in the south, where there's more farmland and slightly warmer weather.

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