History of the Great Seal and Coat of Arms

Image of Coat of arms superimposed over the Great Seal

History of the Great Seal

Michigan's Great Seal was designed by Lewis Cass, Michigan's second (non-acting) Territorial governor. The seal was patterned after the seal of the Hudson Bay Fur Company. It was presented to the Constitutional Convention of 1835 and adopted on June 2, 1835 as the official Great Seal of Michigan.

At the top of the Seal are the words, "E Pluribus Unum." These words come from our national motto meaning, "From many, one." Or, in other words, forming one nation from many states.

Below is the American Eagle, our national bird. This symbolizes the superior authority and jurisdiction or control of the United States. In its claws the eagle holds three arrows and an olive branch with 13 olives. The arrows show that our nation is ready to defend its principles. The olive branch means we want peace. The olives stand for the first 13 states.

"Tuebor," meaning, "I will defend," refers to Michigan's frontier position.

The shield is held by two animals representing Michigan, the elk on the left and the moose on the right. Michigan is on an international boundary, and the figure of the man shows his right hand raised in peace. The left hand holds a gun to say that although we love peace, we are ready to defend our state and nation.

"Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circumspice" means, "If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you." It is believed this refers to the Lower Peninsula. The Upper Peninsula was added in 1837, to pay for the loss of a strip of land on our southern border, given to Ohio when Congress made Michigan a state.

The words, "The Great Seal of the State of Michigan, A.D. MDCCCXXXV," complete the State Seal. When you take away these words and border, this becomes the Coat of Arms of the State of Michigan.

Changes in the Great Seal have been made from time to time. However, the present Seal has not been changed since 1911. No facsimile or reproduction of the Great Seal can be used in a manner unconnected with official functions of the state. (MCL 2.45) A person who violates any provision of the Great Seal Act is guilty of a misdemeanor (MCL 2.46).

History of the Coat of Arms

 

Both the Great Seal of Michigan and the Coat of Arms were adopted at the Constitutional Convention of 1835. Lewis Cass, Michigan's second (non-acting) Territorial governor, created the original design.

The Coat of Arms is familiar to us because it is shown on Michigan's state flag. This first occurred in 1837. From that time, numerous flags were in use bearing the State Coat of Arms, with various designs and emblems.

It was not until 1865, however, that an official Michigan flag was adopted. The design of this flag, recommended by Adjutant-General John Robertson, and approved by Governor Crapo, bore on one side the State Coat of Arms on a field of blue. On the reverse side was the arms of the United States.

Michigan's state flag was first unfurled at the laying of the corner stone at the monument of the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg on the Fourth of July, 1865.

By Act 209 of 1911, the State of Michigan flag was adopted with a simple phrase, "The State Flag shall be blue charged with the arms of the state." (MCL 2.23) Please contact your legislator for information on ordering a State of Michigan flag. You can find your legislator at www.legislature.mi.gov.

Michigan's current Coat of Arms was adopted by the Legislature in 1911. (MCL 2.21) It is identical to the Great Seal of Michigan with the legend or circle, The Great Seal of the State of Michigan, A.D. MDCCCXXXV, omitted.