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The basic design of the state seal of New Mexico is believed to date back the the 1860s, although the final design for the seal was not officially adopted until 1913. It depicts a bald eagle, the national bird of the United States, with its wings wrapped around a Mexican brown eagle. This imagery on the state seal of New Mexico symbolizes New Mexico's previous status as part of the nation of Mexico. The Mexican brown eagle on the state seal of New Mexico is depicted as holding a cactus in its claws and a serpent in its beak. Beneath the birds, a ribbon displays the state of New Mexico's Latin motto, "Crescit Eundo," which is usually translated to mean, "It grows as it goes," and the seal is bordered with the words "Great Seal of the State of New Mexico" and the year when New Mexico officially became a state, 1912.
The territory that makes up the modern American state of New Mexico was previously considered part of the nation of Mexico, until about 1846. At this time, New Mexico became a territory of the United States. The territory of New Mexico adopted its first territorial seal in 1851. The state seal of New Mexico now in use differs in its design, in that it depicts both the bald eagle and the Mexican brown eagle, instead of just the bald eagle. This design, believed to have come into use sometime in the 1860s, was probably created by a minor government officer whose identity is now lost.
Territorial Secretary W.G. Ritch is typically credited with adding New Mexico's Latin motto to the seal in 1882. New Mexico's territorial legislature officially approved this amended design in 1887. When New Mexico was granted statehood in 1912, the state's legislature formed a special committee to choose a design for the state seal. This committee is believed to have included the governor, secretary of state, chief justice, and attorney general.
In 1913, the committee chose to retain the territorial seal design for the state seal of New Mexico. The final design changed the words around the rim of the seal to "Great Seal of the State of New Mexico," rather than, "Territory of New Mexico." The date on the final design was also changed, from 1850, when New Mexico first became a territory, to 1912, when it became a state.