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What Is the History of the State Seal of Michigan?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2016
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Legislators adopted the state seal of Michigan at the state's Constitutional Convention in 1835. It was designed by Lewis Cass, the second governor of the Michigan territory, who based his design on a seal used in advertising by the Hudson Bay Fur Company. The state seal of Michigan was last changed in 1911, and may only be used on 15 official documents and displayed during official government events.

Michigan’s state seal depicts a man inside a blue shield gazing on a peninsula where the sun rises. He raises his right hand in a symbol of peace, but holds a gun in his left hand to indicate a willingness to defend the state. The shield is flanked by drawings of an elk on one side and a moose on the other. At the top of the state seal of Michigan, the American eagle holds an olive branch and three arrows in its claws, also representing peace and the right to protect the state.

The state seal of Michigan also contains its motto, Teubor, defined as “I will defend.” Directly above the image of the eagle, the U.S. national motto appears as E Pluribus Unum, meaning “out of many, one.” Other words on the seal are translated from Latin as, “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.” Along the border of the seal run the words “The Great Seal of the State of Michigan A.D. MDCCCXXXV."

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When this border is removed, it makes up the Michigan coat of arms. In a lengthy set of descriptions, the Michigan Constitution spells out when and how the state seal may be used. Only 15 state documents may be stamped with the state seal of Michigan, but fewer rules apply to the coat of arms.

The coat of arms appears on a wide range of official documents, but it may not be reproduced for commercial purposes. Exceptions exist for stationery and other items not advertised for sale, as long as the symbol is not combined with other emblems or words. These laws allow the coat of arms on items typically bought by tourists, such as post cards and key chains.

Michigan is known as the Great Lakes State for its five major lakes and more than 11,000 inland lakes. The upper and lower peninsulas are divided by Lake Michigan and connected by the Mackinac Bridge. Very few residents live in Michigan’s upper peninsula, which is mostly forest land. Almost half the state of Michigan is covered by water.

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kentuckycat
Post 4

Although it does say in this article that Lewis Cass designed the original state seal for the state of Michigan, it does also say that it has changed a lot over the years.

I am wondering exactly how many times the seal for the state of Michigan has been changed over the years and who designed the current seal if the original one designed by Lewis Cass is no longer used.

If this original design is the one that is still being used today, with minor differences, I find it to be incredibly intricate and detailed for the time period.

jmc88
Post 3

@TreeMan - I absolutely agree. The state seal should not really be something that is artistic by nature and is supposed to be something that is just used for clerical reasons and to make things official.

To be totally honest I am surprised that the seal for the state of Michigan actually depicts so much on it and that it actually depicts a man in the design.

Most of the time the official state seal is simply something that may have a simple symbol and the name of the state on it so as to distinguish that it is the official stamp of the state of Michigan.

However, as far as state seals go I feel like the official seal for the state of Michigan is something that is a lot more intricate and artistically detailed as opposed to other states.

TreeMan
Post 2

@JimmyT - I do see the point you are trying to make, but I have to say that something like the state seal is supposed to be something that is made to be official looking as opposed to being an artistic design that is supposed to be used as a symbol for the people of the state.

The design of a state flag is a lot more of a symbol for the people of the state to stand behind and the official state seal is something that is used for legal reasons and does not really need to be all that intricate.

The state seal is supposed to simply be used as a symbol to distinguish official documents of the state of Michigan and show that they are official and have been stamped with the official seal of approval for the state of Michigan.

JimmyT
Post 1

It seems to me that the state seal for the state of Michigan was designed to simply be something that looks official to stamp for documents, as opposed to actually being something unique that is supposed to reflect the people and the history of the state.

I have seen state flags and state seals for other places in the United States and they at least reflect the culture, people, and history or the state. However, too many times I see something that is just designed to simply be official looking as opposed to trying to be something unique that is supposed to be a symbol for people in the state to identify and be proud to call the state of Michigan home.

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