AZ State Symbols
Updated: May 23rd, 2010 - 21:01:09
| Arizona State Seal - “Ditat Deus”: Our Strange and Wonderful Seal
By U.S. Senator Jon Kyl
Aug 20, 2006, 14:37 PST
|Image from the 2003-2004 AZ Blue Book |
When the state seal so familiar to Arizonans - bearing the words “Ditat Deus,” or “God Enriches” in Latin - was devised a century-and-a-half ago, it did not look like it does today. The seal, just like the territory and later the state of Arizona, was a work in progress whose changes remind us of the evolution of Arizona itself.
I note that a member of the younger generation - my son, John Kyl, to be exact - has unearthed interesting things about this bit of our history. John, who is editor of the Arizona Administrative Code, decided to dig through dusty documents in the basement of the Capitol and piece together the story of the seal. Please forgive my pride in saying that his article in the Arizona Capitol Times (from which the facts in this column were gleaned) makes us stop and appreciate, and hold in greater affection, a symbol we take for granted in our everyday lives.
The reason to have a seal was to mark as “Official” the paperwork generated by what was then a rough and ready start-up: the government of the Arizona territory. Territorial seal turned into state seal in 1912, with Arizona’s admission to the Union as its 48th state. It would come to be affixed to everything from our driver’s licenses to our state tax returns to our ballots. Just as a stark frontier territory became a modern and thriving part of the United States, so too a “baking powder seal” got redrawn and refined from the time of its creation during the Civil War.
A bill signed by President Lincoln back in 1863 authorized a temporary Arizona territorial government to be set up. That same year, the man Lincoln chose as the first secretary of the territory, former businessman and journalist Richard McCormick, designed a seal. Leading Arizonans who came later felt strongly that his handiwork - which bore a striking resemblance to the label on cans of Pioneer Baking Powder - could be improved upon. And so several of them, whether gifted in graphic design or not, tried their hand at capturing the essence of Arizona.
Revisions were frequent. The miner on the original seal (and on the cans of baking powder) stood in front of a wheelbarrow with a pick and short-handled spade with two mountains in the background. He ended up being modeled on the 1880 photograph of a real person, Bisbee prospector George Warren (a Massachusetts native who looked the part but who, as it happened, wasn’t much of a miner).
Flora and fauna on the seal went through many metamorphoses as well. Some of these, truth be told, were artistically suspect. In 1895, writes my son, Secretary Charles Bruce “added simple shading lines to the mountains, deer, and cactus (although the shading on the cactus was strangely on the wrong side).” In the version of the seal adopted in 1899 by Secretary Charles Akers, John writes, “the deer reportedly appeared to have stomach cramps and the nearby cactus now had a suspicious dent.”
Today’s seal, devised by Phoenix newspaper artist E. E. Motter, was chosen by a special committee of Arizona’s constitutional convention. The committee chairman, E. E. Ellinwood of Cochise County, was bound and determined, as he said, to “get away from cactus, Gila monsters, and rattlesnakes” and show the many productive industries springing up in this brand new state. Thus does today’s seal depict not just mining and nature, but also a quartz mill, irrigated fields and orchards, cattle grazing, and a storage reservoir and dam.
Arizona progressed and so did its official symbol; but don’t assume the earlier versions are gone. In fact they are preserved for those who know where to look. The seal of Gila County is actually the McCormick seal. The seal of Mohave County is a version of the territorial seal, one of those sporting a deer and pine trees but no miner.
We may or may not keep on tinkering with our seal from here on out; nonetheless, we are still building Arizona. The motto chosen by old McCormick 141 years ago - “God Enriches” - has been the one constant. I share the belief of Arizonans then and now, that in connecting our state with such an idea, McCormick was on to something.
Learn more with the help of Google.
Keywords: Arizona state seal, state seal of Arizona, U.S. Senator Jon Kyl, “Ditat Deus”, Our Strange and Wonderful Seal, state seals, the story of the Arizona State seal, seal, seals, Arizona,
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