Oregon Native Son and Historical Magazine
Vol. 1 May, 1899 No. 1

"Oregon Without A Seal Of State"

The caption to this article may be looked upon as one not worthy of belief; still, investigation in the premises will convince doubters that the statement is true.

Oregon has had three kinds of government from 1843 to the present time: provisional, territorial and state. During the life of each a seal was used, and under the last two forms acts were passed descriptive of the official seal. It will be the purpose of this article to briefly outline the evolution of the seal and its descriptions. In doing so, dates cannot be given at all times, as documentary evidence of action is lacking; evidence of use, however, will substantiate assertions made.

There is no record obtainable showing that the provisional government ever prescribed the form of or adopted an official seal by any act of its legislature. Those who trust to memory, and others writing upon the subject, state that Hamilton Campbell made in 1846 what is known as the "salmon seal" [No. 1], which was used by Governor Abernethy as an official seal until it was superseded by a territorial one. This seal contained two objects, wheat and salmon, which have since made famous the word above them. Before its use began, it is said that Colonel Joe Meek, the sheriff of the commonwealth, made the service of official documents impressive by accompanying their delivery with words something like "d-, d-dashes!" Be this true or false, the older pioneers will admit that it is not an unlikely statement, for a recall to mind of many incidents in the colonel's career will be evidence that such was at times just his style of expression.

On August 14, 1848, the act creating Oregon a territory was passed, and the author of the bill therefor, Judge J. Quinn Thornton, who was in Washington in the interests of the provisional government, had a territorial seal made [No. 2], which he sent to Governor Lane in 1849, but he declined to accept it. In 1850, Mr. Thornton tendered it to Governor Gaines, and it was by him adopted and afterwards used as the seal of the territory. The territorial legislature did not, however, consider the matter until January 18, 1854, when by act it was made the seal of the territory. Its description is as follows: "In the center, a shield, two compartments. Lower compartment - in the foreground, a plow; in the distance mountains. In the upper compartment - a ship under full sail. The crest, a beaver. The sinister supporter - an Indian with bow and arrows, and a mantle of skins over his shoulder. The dexter supporter, an eagle, with wings displayed. The motto - alis volat propriis - "I fly with my own wings". Field of the lower compartment, argent; of the upper blue."

The seal was made and was in use for several years before this description became a law, and no doubt its impression was before those who framed the act. But a glance at No. 2, which is a good facsimile of the seal adopted as stated, does not show a dividing line on the shield which makes two compartments therein, nor does the description specify in what manner the division is to be made. The perspective would indicate as much, though, and it is presumed that the division was left to the sense of imagination. It was directed that it "be deposited and recorded in the office of the secretary, to remain a public record," but, so far as can be ascertained, this was never done. In the description no provision is made for a legend; the seal bears - "Seal of the Territory of Oregon." Subsequently an attempt at facsimile making of the territorial seal was made [No. 3], for imprint upon matter printed 'by authority." If the reader will notice, this attempt falls far short of near approach in the reproduction of the original design, and that the plow is left out altogether. A study of the territorial seal will show progressive ideas as well as an inclination to retrograde. The motto is a sentiment most true, for Oregon has flown so far by her own wings to prominence noticeable, and can wing her way to heights which only the great can reach, if her people will give heed to the upbuilding of the many and varied industries which can be conducted with profit within its borders. No objection can be made to the beaver, as it commemorates our earliest home industry, the coining of beaver money; nor to the ship, a prospective of the forest of masts that come to our harbors for articles of export; nor to the mountains, as the beauties of the snow-capped sentinels on every hand are unsurpassed for grandeur in the world. But the warrior, pictured as if he had on a pair of gum boots, a creature so much in evidence for treachery, cruelty and murder, to say the least, could be improved upon by substitution of more fitting object. Leave the eagle as it is, put the sheaves of wheat where the redskin stands, and paint a royal chinook over the plow, and the seal would be a more appropriate one for a state seal than our present one.

By 1857 the husbandman among the pioneers had been crowded out in the management of affairs of state by an influx of politicians, and the mistakes in seal-making were much greater than during territorial infancy. The prophetic vision of the real builders of Oregon was largely disregarded, and supplanted by party creeds and desire to boast over departing force of other power, and the seal of state is an index of the ideas of the newer element.

In 1856 congress passed an enabling act, by virtue of which a constitutional convention was held in 1857. This convention adopted a seal of state to be as follows:

"An escutcheon, supported by thirty-three stars, and divided by an ordinary, with the inscription, 'The Union'. In chief, - mountains, - an elk with branching antlers, a wagon, the Pacific ocean, on which a British man-of-war departing, an American steamer arriving. The second, - quartering with a sheaf, plow, and pick-axe. Crest, - the American eagle. Legend, - State of Oregon."

It was further provided by the laws that "The secretary shall be required to procure the seal described in the preceding section, and draw his warrant on the treasurer therefor."

The act of 1856, the convention of 1857, and the election and inauguration of state officials in 1858, sadly mixed affairs, for Oregon was not admitted to statehood until February 14, 1859, and until June 2 of the latter year the territorial seal was used.

At this time a seal was received which has since been used as the seal of the state. In this pretended seal will be found the faults enumerated in illustration No. 8. Before the receipt of this seal, and almost immediately following the convention of 1857, a facsimile of the seal to be was procured [No. 4]. It was enclosed in a shield outline, has 36 stars instead of 33, an extra sheaf and a rake thrown in, as well as a date, 1857. Soon after this a second [No. 5] was obtained. It shows 35 stars, together with the extras of its predecessor. About the same time two others, one [No. 6], and the other twice its size, were secured. These show 38 stars and retain the extras of former ones.

After the state was admitted, some one discovered a mistake in the facsimiles in hand, and ordered two other facsimiles, with the date, 1859, on them. One of them [No. 7] has the faults of No. 5, the other is the same as No. 6, except the change in date. These did not supplant former ones, only an addition to the collection.

Some years elapsed and one of our state printers was turning the pages of Webster's dictionary, and found therein half-tone engravings of the impressions of the seals of the various states, Oregon's being among them. It did not look familiar to him, and he went to the office of the secretary of state, got an impression of the supposed seal of state, found such different from his facsimiles in hand, and ordered a new one [No. 8] made. In this the eagle looks in the opposite direction; has "Seal of the" prefixed to the legend, "State of Oregon"; 32 stars instead of 33; a setting sun which almost crowds out the entering steamer and the date, 1859. Make the prefix read "The seal of the," and it is a fair copy of the seal in the office of the secretary. This facsimile did not do away with the older ones, for today all of them are being used as the state seal on documents printed 'by authority."

Any one holding a commission as a notary, etc., will find the 38-star 1857 facsimile displayed in the head lines, and when compared with the impression below, will find that they are not alike. The supreme court seal shows the escutcheon and objects therein of No. 8, but is supported by only 31 stars, 14 on one side and 17 on the other. The seal of the adjutant-general has 10 stars on one side and 11 on the other, 21 in all; the wagon and elk are left out, and the setting sun is extra conspicuous. The seals used by other officials have not been used by other officials have not been seen, but it is more than likely that their make-up will swell the list of carelessness in the execution of the seal of state as it should be.

On the title page of what is commonly termed "Deady's Code" can be seen another facsimile. It is the same in form as No. 6, except as to date, which is left off, and as to the territorial motto which appears over it. Compare this facsimile with the description of the state seal, found on page 496 of such book, and note differences.

On the east and west wings of the state capitol, equally faulty facsimiles are placed, and the stone which Oregon contributed toward the building of the monument erected at the national capitol, in memory of Washington, is not as it should be, in commemoration of a man 'who never told a lie." On this slab is found an emblem purporting to be a facsimile of our seal of state. It has in the upper compartment the extra setting sun of No. 8, and in the lower the extra sheaf and rake of No. 6, and the escutcheon is supported by only 30 stars. The next time an Oregonian tells the story of the 'hatchet' he ought to be struck with one.

In Bancroft's history of Oregon can be found an imprint of what is said to be a facsimile of our state seal. The author might well be ashamed of it, not only because of the work of execution, but for the mistakes. It has the extra to the legend; not enough stars, and the objects within the escutcheon are a mixture of all the faults found in the facsimiles heretofore described. It has been said that such history contains many inaccuracies. This is one. The charter plates, which the Grand Cabin issues to subordinate Cabins, have in the display heading the 38-star 1857 facsimile of the larger size, and may be so used because it is a part of our pioneer history. Our great daily adopted in its infancy a part of the facsimile of the 1857 seal, and on all the bronze-lock attachments on the doors in its grand building it can be found. These fixtures were made in the East, and it was a cold day at the time of casting, for summer's sheaf is wanting, and snow shovel takes the place of pick-axe.

In the last facsimile [No. 9] will be found all that the law provides for the seal of state. Compare it with No. 8, which is a fair copy of the one in the office of the secretary of state, and draw your own conclusions.

The act which describes the seal says that it 'shall be,' etc., and the instructions to the secretary, in relation to the securing of a state seal, are just as mandatory. A something else does not, cannot carry out such mandate. Article V, section 18, of the constitution says: "All commissions shall issue in the name of the state, shall be signed by the governor, sealed with the seal of the state, and attested by the secretary of state."

We have no state seal and never had one, only a pretended one. What are you going to do about it? We would respectfully suggest that a state seal be secured which will meet all requirements of the law in relation thereto. It would not be amiss if a new act was passed providing that the state seal should have objects thereon indicative of the days of the "prairie schooner," coupled with the pioneer's vision of what Oregon is and can become; and that all past efforts, together with facsimiles shown, be turned over to keepers of historical relics and placed in the curio department. F.H.S.

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