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What Is the History of the State Seal of New Jersey?

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  • Written By: Marty Paule
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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Designed by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere, the state seal of New Jersey was considered and approved by the New Jersey legislature in May of 1777. The symbols used in its design reflect the social and political attitudes of New Jersey's populace at that time. Over the years, the various elements of the design have retained their respective placement within the seal, while minor changes were made to several of the symbols. These modifications were codified by the state legislature in Joint Resolution 8 of the Laws of 1928. The 1928 changes marked the first time that New Jersey's year of statehood — 1776 — was first shown using Arabic numerals.

The state seal of New Jersey design was approved by the legislature in a meeting held at the Indian King Tavern in Haddonfield. Circular in design, it incorporated five symbols that held significance for New Jersey's early leaders and bears the text, "THE GREAT SEAL OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY" around its upper perimeter. A horse's head and a helmet appear in the center top portion of the seal. These crest-like figures reflect New Jersey's independent status as a state and speaks to its early adoption of the U.S. Constitution. Immediately below the helmet is a shield containing three plows, reflecting New Jersey's agricultural activity.

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The female figure flanking the shield on the right is the Roman goddess Ceres, protector of grain, who cradles a cornucopia that also symbolizes New Jersey's preoccupation with agriculture and abundant crops. The female figure to the left of the shield is a representation of Liberty — a very popular design theme in post-colonial America. She wears a so-called "liberty cap" representing the U.S. and New Jersey's newly-won independence from Great Britain. The scroll that appears underneath the shield contains the motto of the state — Liberty and Prosperity — along with the year 1776, the year of New Jersey's statehood.

Over the years since its original creation, the state seal of New Jersey has undergone a number of subtle changes. Both female figures looked away from the shield in the original version of the state seal of New Jersey, while, as of 2011, they face the viewer. As of 2011, the Liberty figure holds a staff in her right hand, while the original seal showed her holding it within the crook of her left arm. The opening of the cornucopia or food basket held by the Ceres figure in the original seal faced the ground, where she now holds it facing up.

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Emilski
Post 4

@jmc88 - You do have a good eye. The forefathers looked at the Greeks as models for what they wanted their country to be with their own spin put on it.

They wanted to found their country on the principle and reason and used the Greeks as a model for this.

Because of their emphasis on the Greeks the fore fathers felt that they needed to include the Greeks in things across the country such as the state seals and architecture that dot the nation.

Indeed the Greeks do have a major impact on America and I would say that New Jersey is not the only state that has allusions to the Greeks depicted in the state seals.

jmc88
Post 3

@TreeMan - I absolutely agree with you. The state seal of New Jersey shows itself as an independent state and does not allude to itself being part of the Union and this reflects its independent nature as a state.

Another thing that should be noted is the fact that there is a use of a Greek character in the seal. This is something that I have noticed throughout my study of American History and have seen that there is a lot of emphasis put on the use of Greek culture.

I have always wondered why this is the case because it is not only reflected in the architecture, but is also reflected in the culture itself of early America.

TreeMan
Post 2

@cardsfan27 - You are absolutely correct. Prior to the Civil War the United States really did not focus on itself as being one nation with a bunch of states operating under it.

Actually, there was a massive argument at the time that was a major cause of the Civil War and involved state rights as opposed to federal rights.

People did not feel that federal should override state's rights at the time simply due to the independent status states sought at the time.

t sounds a bit ludicrous nowadays, but this was the ideas at the time and when the New Jersey seal was created it reflected these attitudes as the state saw themself as being part of a larger nation

, but still their own independent selves working in conjunction with one another under a loose confederation.

People would not think that a seal would tell this much but any state's seal shows the history of the state and reflects the attitudes of the state at the time of its creation.

cardsfan27
Post 1

I have always thought that the state seals for states from the original thirteen colonies was interesting simply because of the fact that they saw themselves more or less as their own independent entities as opposed to a bunch of states under one banner.

If people look back to the Constitutional debates and how the colonies looked at themselves around this time they saw themselves as a nation that should operate as their own under own confederation, with the United States basically being made up of several different countries.

This is all reflected in the seals of the various colonies at the time as they tried to show their own uniqueness and celebrate themselves as one state as opposed to as a part of a larger entity.

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