Arizona Secretary of State
The History of the State Seal
T he seal sits atop countless pages of official state documents, stationery, and
statute books. Arizonans have seen it on their tax return, driver’s license,
and election pamphlet.
What is little known is that the Arizona seal has graced instruments of the state
for the last century and a half, undergoing several dramatic changes over the years.
One element of the seal, however, remains the same today as it was 140 years ago.
When President Lincoln approved a bill in 1863 providing for temporary gov-ernment
in the Territory of Arizona, he appointed Richard McCormick, a former
businessman and journalist, to be its secretary. Although Congress hadn’t given
McCormick the authority to create a territorial seal, he knew one would be neces-sary
to authenticate official documents.
He designed his seal and brought it west in 1863. The Spartan artwork ( which
to some was comic) featured a bearded miner standing casually in front of a
wheelbarrow, pick, and short- handled spade. Two bare mountains rose in the back-ground,
and at the bottom was the phrase “ Ditat Deus,” God enriches. ( Figure 1)
Perhaps in response to criticism of his seal, McCormick introduced a revised
version ( Figure 2). The redesign was more elaborate and included new shadowing
and a small stream at the miner’s feet. Gone were the wheelbarrow and spade,
replaced with a more befitting long- handled shovel. The mountains now featured a
pointed peak, which may have been Thumb Butte, west of the capital in Prescott.
“ Ditat Deus” remained in its former place.
Both McCormick seals bore a striking resemblance to the label on cans of
Pioneer Baking Powder, a popular brand at the time ( Figure 3). Whether to honor
or dishonor, the McCormick seal was nicknamed the “ baking powder seal” for the
duration of its use.
Members of the First Territorial Legislative Assembly had other ideas for the
design of a territorial seal. In the fall of 1864 the Assembly approved an act creat-ing
a seal and authorizing the secretary “ to entrust said seal to proper parties for
engraving.” The seal was to be 2 1/ 4 inches in diameter and feature “ a view of
San Francisco mountain [ sic] in the distance, with a deer, pine trees, and columnar
cactus in the foreground; the motto to be ‘ Ditat Deus.’”
Despite these plans for a new seal, Arizona continued to see the baking powder
seal. McCormick, evidently preferring his design, took advantage of a provision of
the act that allowed him to use the former seal in his official duties “ until the seal
authorized in this act is prepared.” It was not prepared until 1879, 15 years after
the act that authorized it. McCormick went on to become governor of the territo-ry
in 1866, and the capital moved to Tucson a year later. During the ten years that
the capital was in Tucson, the initials “ L. S.” ( Legal Seal) were used to authenticate
documents rather than the Arizona miner.
Although the baking powder seal was retired in 1879, a version of the original
McCormick seal is still in use by Gila County. It bears a small discrepancy in the
motto, “ Dit Deus” ( Figure 4).
The first known use of the legislatively approved territorial seal was by Secretary
John Gosper to certify the Acts of the Tenth Territorial Legislative Assembly on
March 3, 1879 ( Figure 5). Mulford Winsor, a delegate to Arizona’s Constitutional
Convention and later a state senator, provided this grandiloquent description of
the seal in a 1945 report he prepared while serving as director of the Department
of Library and Archives:
“[ The seal] was simplicity exemplified, the artwork being rudimentary. The
objects are shown in bare outline. Three strokes of the artist’s pen dispose of a
trio of mountain peaks in the distance. The pine trees — three in the left center,
History of the State Seal
2 Ken Bennett - Secretary of State
The State Seal
Arizona Constitution Article
22, Section 20, Design of the
The seal of the State shall be of the
following design: In the background
shall be a range of mountains, with the
sun rising behind the peaks thereof,
and at the right side of the range of
mountains there shall be a storage
reservoir and a dam, below which in
the middle distance are irrigated fields
and orchards reaching into the fore-ground,
at the right of which are cattle
To the left in the middle distance on
a mountain side is a quartz mill in front
of which and in the foreground is a
miner standing with pick and shovel.
Above this device shall be the
motto: “ Ditat Deus.”
In a circular band surrounding the
whole device shall be inscribed: “ Great
Seal of The State of Arizona,” with the
year of admission of the state into the
History of the State Seal
Ken Bennett - Secretary of State 3
one in the right center — bear a striking resemblance to attenuated multiple- deck
Chinese pagodas. The columnar cactus is singular in number and effect, smooth,
stubby as a fence post, and innocent of any sign of branch or slightest protuber-ance.
“ The deer forms the frontispiece — the pièce de résistance, as it were. A noble
five- point buck, he occupies a third of the width and height of the pictorial
design, in the geographical centre of the forefront. Standing erect, head thrown far
back, facing east, but with one eye on the audience, his forefeet stand firmly on
the motto, ‘ Ditat Deus.’”
Secretaries of the territory introduced several variations of the legislative seal
during the more than 30 years that it was in use. In 1895 Secretary Charles Bruce
( Figure 6) added simple shading lines to the mountains, deer, and cactus ( although
the shading on the cactus was strangely on the wrong side).
Bruce also employed a seal showing everything in deep shadow. A seal used by
Secretary Charles Akers in 1899 brought the scene back to daylight, but the deer
reportedly appeared to have stomach cramps and the nearby cactus now had a sus-picious
An improvement in the seal’s artwork came in 1905 when Secretary W. F.
Nichols adopted a drawing from Phoenix artist Walter Rollins ( Figure 7). In it the
deer faced left, the mountains bore more resemblance to the San Francisco peaks,
the trees and cactus were more realistic, and grass grew in the foreground. As
always, “ Ditat Deus” remained the motto. This was the last seal used before state-hood,
and it appeared on the original copy of the Arizona Constitution adopted in
The subject of a new seal for the state was discussed informally by delegates at
the Constitutional Convention, but the matter did not get serious attention until
Delegate M. G. Cunniff of Yavapai County submitted a proposed design by
Phoenix newspaper artist E. E. Motter. A special committee of three delegates
formed to consider the Motter seal, and on the penultimate day of the Convention
it recommended adoption of the language that became Article 22, § 20 of the
Constitution, which describes the present seal ( for description see Overview, previ-ous
The committee’s report met with sharp protest from delegates who wanted to
retain the territorial seal. Morris Goldwater from Yavapai County argued for tradi-tion
and said that “ any man who has lived in this territory under the present seal
as long as I have can continue to live with it until he dies, without hurting him-self.”
E. E. Ellinwood of Cochise County, the committee’s chairman, explained that
the committee’s aim was to “ get away from cactus, Gila monsters, and rat-tlesnakes”
and feature other industries of the state. After lengthy debate that at
times wandered into other political issues, delegates on December 9 approved the
new seal by a vote of 28 to 11, with 13 members absent. Delegates adjourned the
Convention later that day.
Like the McCormick seal, the territorial seal lives on: Mohave County and the
Corporation Commission use versions of the original territorial seal and the
Rollins seal, respectively ( Figure 8 a & b).
It was probably Ellinwood who was responsible for the image of the miner on
the seal ( Figure 9). Unlike the McCormick seal’s miner, the state seal miner was
modeled after a real person: Bisbee prospector George Warren. In 1880 when pio-neer
photographer C. S. Fly visited Bisbee during its boom, he took a photo of
Warren posing as a miner.
A print of this photo hung in the office of William Brophy, founder of the
Bank of Bisbee and general manager of the Phelps Dodge Mercantile Company.
During the Constitutional Convention in 1910, Delegate
Ellinwood, a former director of the Bisbee bank, borrowed
the picture of Warren from Brophy to use as a
model for the seal. Warren’s signature pose,
with right arm and leg propped up, became
part of the first state seal.
In the years since statehood, state agencies
have used a host of great seals with variations in
every element of the basic design, from missing
clouds to redrawn mountains to typeface alteration.
( The cow – rarely “ cattle grazing” – is often unrecog-nizable
or even absent from some seals.)
The two most prevalent versions ( the original
Motter seal and one introduced in the early 1980s,
Figure 10) contain several noticeable differences. It
has also been colorized ( see below), but the true
version of the seal is the one described in the
What hasn’t changed
in the seal over the many
years since Arizona became a
territory is the seal’s simple
promise that “ God enriches.”
The Arizona State Seal Today
The official state seal was approved by Article 22, Section 20 of the Arizona
Constitution and adopted in 1911. The state’s key enterprises are symbolized on the
face of the seal.
In the background is a range of mountains with the sun rising behind the peaks.
At the right side of the range of mountains there is a storage reser-voir
and a dam, below which, in the middle distance, are irrigated fields
and orchards reaching into the foreground with grazing cattle to the
To the left, the middle distance depicts a mountainside with a quartz
mill. In the foreground is a miner with a pick and shovel. Above this is
the motto “ Ditat Deus,” meaning God enriches.
In a circular band surrounding the whole seal is inscribed “ Great Seal
of the State of Arizona” and the year of admission to the Union, 1912.
The official state seal is the one described in the Arizona Constitution,
but this color version has been in use by state agencies for more than
Much like the black and white state seal, the colorized version has
been altered over the years. Colors have been added, deleted, and
manipulated with desktop publishing programs. The seal to the right is
used on many state publications.
History of the State Seal
4 Ken Bennett - Secretary of State
Graphic provided by Department of Administration, Interagency Printing Services
Bisbee prospector George Warren, circa 1883, photo by C. S. Fly.
Photo courtesy of the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum
Use of the State Seal
Ken Bennett - Secretary of State 5
The Secretary of State’s Office
and the State Seal
T he office is required under the law to be the official keeper of the state
seal. Secretary of State Ken Bennett acts as the official custodian under
A. R. S. § 41- 121 ( 3).
Secretary Bennett affixes the great seal, with his attestation, to public instru-ments
to which the official signature of the governor is attached under A. R. S. §
41- 121( 4), see lower left. It is also attached to Secretary of State proclamations,
certified copies of filed documents, to election canvass’, and the Presidential
Elector Ballot - Certificate of Vote that is filed with the president of the U. S.
Senate and the National Archives and Records Administration ( left), among other
Use of the Seal - Restrictions under the law
Secretary Bennett grants and denies permission to use the Great Seal of the
State of Arizona under A. R. S. § 41- 130 which states, “ 41- 130. Use of state seal
restricted; violation; classification
A person may use, display or otherwise employ any facsimile, copy, likeness, imi-tation
or other resemblance of the great seal of this state only after obtaining the
approval of the secretary of state. The secretary of state may grant a certificate of
approval upon application by any person showing good cause for
the use of the great seal of this state for a proper purpose. The
great seal of this state shall in no way be employed by anyone other
than a state agency for the purpose of advertising or promoting the
sale of any article of merchandise whatever within this state or for
promoting any other commercial purpose. The secretary of state
may promulgate rules for the use of the great seal of this state or
any facsimile, copy, likeness, imitation or other resemblance of the
great seal. Any person who knowingly violates this section is guilty
of a class 3 misdemeanor.”
Any person who wishes to use the state seal must put their request in writing to
Secretary Bennett. Contact the office at 602- 542- 0681 for more information or
Secretary of State Ken Bennett
1700 W. Washington St., 7th Fl.
Phoenix, AZ 85007
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