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What Is the History of the State Seal of Missouri?

By Pablo Garcia
Updated Feb 13, 2024
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The State of Missouri is located in the Midwest region of the US. What is now Missouri was originally land purchased from France in 1803 that became part of the Louisiana Territory. Missouri entered the Union as part of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, in which Congress determined which new states formed from the US territories could allow slavery. The state seal of Missouri was created by Robert William Wells, who was later appointed a federal district judge for the United States District Court of Missouri by President Andrew Jackson. The Missouri General Assembly adopted Wells’ design on 11 January 1822.

In the center of the state seal of Missouri is a circular shield divided in half by a vertical line. The coat of arms and crest of the US is displayed in the center of the right half of the shield. A bald eagle with wings and legs spread is covered by a breast shield of alternating white and red stripes hanging from a banner of blue, representing the original 13 states. In one claw the eagle holds an olive branch and the other a clutch of arrows, symbolizing both America’s power of peace through strength. The eagle holds in its beak a ribbon with the US motto E Pluribus Unum, “From the Many One,” and above the head of the eagle are 13 blue stars bursting through a golden light surrounded by a ring of cloud.

On the left half of the circle, which is further divided in half, are two state symbols, a grizzly bear below a crescent. The crescent on the state seal of Missouri has two symbolic meanings, one has to do with what Missouri was like at the time of its entry into the Union and what it hoped to become. Although small in population, it would increase like a new moon in size and prosperity. The grizzly walks across an open field representing freedom and the abundance of land. Encircling the shield is a buckled belt bearing the state motto, “United we stand divided we fall.”

Two grizzly bears stand on either side of the shield, facing each other as they hold it upright. The bears stand on the ends of a scroll on which is inscribed the Latin phrase Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto, meaning “The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law.” Below the scroll appear the Roman numerals for the year 1820, when it was decided that Missouri could become a state.

In the remaining symbols of the state seal of Missouri, a knight’s helmet tops the shield and represents Missouri’s state sovereignty as part of the Union. A large star surrounded by 23 stars denotes Missouri’s place as the 24th US state. The cloud around Missouri’s star symbolizes the state’s struggles to gain admittance to the Union.

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