The current state seal of Alabama, which was approved by the Alabama legislature in 1939, replaced a previous seal that had been used since 1869. The 1939 seal is actually the same seal Alabama used when it first became a state in 1819. During the American Civil War, Alabama was part of the Confederacy, the league of Southern States that seceded from the Union over the issue of slavery. During the Reconstruction Era following the end of the civil war, Alabama withdrew its state seal, which featured an outline of the state and its principal rivers. It then adopted a new seal featuring the US coat-of-arms and an eagle, and this remained the state’s seal until the legislature in 1939 again approved the original state seal of Alabama from 1819.
What is today Alabama was acquired by the US as a part of the 1798 Treaty of Paris that concluded the American Revolution. The Treaty gave the US all of the lands east of the Mississippi River. From these lands, Congress created the Mississippi Territory, of which the future state of Alabama was a part. By 1804 there were already settlements in the area and slavery was becoming a political and moral issue in America. White southerners, particularly those with large agricultural holdings, began to call for Congress to carve at least two states from the Mississippi Territory in which slavery would be legal.
In response, Congress established the Alabama Territory on 3 March 1817. The new Territory of Alabama was made up of the eastern half of the Mississippi Territory, and William Wyatt Bibb of Georgia was named its governor. Growth in the area had already been so rapid that the territorial government was receiving petitions for statehood in the same year that it was formed. A constitutional convention was held in July 1819, and the resulting Alabama Constitution legalized slavery. Alabama’s petition for statehood was granted on 14 December 1819 and Bibb became its first elected governor.
The state seal of Alabama, approved by the legislature in the same year statehood was granted, was the same as its former territorial seal. The only change reflected that Alabama was now officially a US state. The center of the circular seal shows the outline of the state and a map of its principal rivers. At the time of the seal’s inception, the cotton industry was vital to Alabama, and its major rivers were of great significance to all of its agricultural industry. The importance of the Tombigbee, Tennessee, and Alabama River Valleys is reflected in the state seal of Alabama.