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In its more than 140 year history, the state seal of Arizona has undergone many changes. The central symbol of the seal remains a miner with his tools, but over the years his figure has been presented in a variety of poses and backgrounds, some unintentionally amusing. The one constant representation, although in one version it was misspelled, is Arizona’s state motto. It proclaims “Ditat Deus,” a Latin phrase meaning "God enriches."
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln approved a bill for the creation of a temporary government for the newly established Arizona Territory. Richard McCormick, previously a journalist and entrepreneur, was appointed territorial secretary by Lincoln. Congress had not included in its bill authorization for a territorial seal, so McCormick designed one himself, knowing that territorial documents would have to be authenticated in some manner.
The artwork of McCormick’s seal was characterized by some as sparse and even comical. It featured a miner standing leisurely in front of a wheelbarrow, against which rested a pick and a short-handled spade. The outline of two bare mountains rose behind the miner and the state motto was displayed beneath him. Even after McCormick replaced the wheelbarrow and tiny spade with a long-handled shovel and placed peaks on the mountains, Arizonans still noticed the uncanny resemblance of the seal to the label on a popular brand of baking soda. The nickname “The baking soda seal” stuck with the emblem until it was replaced in 1879, 15 years after a new seal had already been authorized.
Between the time of the seal’s replacement in 1879 to Arizona’s adoption of a state seal of Arizona as a new state, it underwent many variations and missteps. Cattle added to the territorial seal became a single cow. Wildlife and clouds that appeared on the seal later diminished or disappeared. A cactus had its shadow on the wrong side in relation to the sun.
Arizona became a state in 1912. The design of the state seal of Arizona, adopted in 1911, was a matter of great debate among members of a special committee of the state’s 1910 Constitutional Convention. One improvement hit upon during discussions of the seal was the selection of an 1880 photograph of an actual Bisbee Arizona Prospector named George Warren as the model for the seal’s miner. Another was the addition of other of the state’s important undertakings to the seal.
A mountain range with the sun rising behind its peaks is the backdrop of the 1911 state seal of Arizona. A reservoir and dam sit at the right side of the mountains, symbolizing Arizona’s harnessing of its powerful natural resources. Below these, near grazing cattle, are irrigated fields of cotton and citrus, representing Arizona’s rich agricultural heritage. A miner stands in the foreground of a quartz mill, his shovel nearby. The symbols are enclosed within a shield underneath a banner inscribed with the ever present promise of the state motto, “God enriches.”
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