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July 2, 2014

Minnesota Territorial Seal, 1849

Filed under: Our Favorite Things — Lori Williamson @ 10:05 am

This is the official iron stamp of the Minnesota territorial seal showing a farmer plowing, a tree stump and ax, and an American Indian on horseback with lance in hand riding toward a setting sun. The motto above the design reads “Quo sursum velo videre”; this is a misprint of the intended Latin phrase “Quae sursum volo videre” (“I wish to see what is beyond”). Encircling the seal is “THE GREAT SEAL OF MINNESOTA. 1849.” The manufacturer’s trademark “D. O. HARE.W.C.” is stamped on the face of the seal and also on the rim.

The seal design (adopted in 1849) was from a sketch by Col. J. J. Albert and redesigned by Capt. Seth Eastman, as seen in this watercolor by Eastman.

Two other designs were considered by a special legislative committee for a new Great Seal of Minnesota upon achieving statehood in 1858.  However, it fell to Governor Sibley to have the state seal engraved, and he decided to stick with the original territorial seal (for which he was largely responsible) with minor modifications. Sibley got rid of the misspelled Latin and added “L’etoile du Nord” (“The North Star”); the direction of the American Indian and Farmer are reversed on the state seal; and it reads “The Great Seal of the State of Minnesota, 1858.”

In 1981, the original engraved state seal from 1858 was part of a Minnesota Statehood display in the Minnesota State Capitol. When the exhibit was deinstalled in 1984, the original 1858 seal was misplaced. The Society continues its efforts to find the seal, in hopes of restoring it to its place alongside the engraved territorial seal in the MNHS Collection.

Come see the Minnesota Territorial Seal and much more in our new Library Lobby display Icons of Minnesota, on view during Library open hours now through August 30, 2014!

We are fortunate to have so many great objects telling the early history of Minnesota in the Collections. To learn more, visit:

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