Under the gaze of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, a miner works near the Sacramento
River. A grizzly bear rests at her feet and ships ply the river. The Sierra Nevada mountains rise
in the background. Wildlife, agriculture, natural beauty, commerce, and opportunity are all represented
on California's Great Seal.
The state motto, Eureka, sits over the mountains. A greek word that
means "I have found it," Eureka refers the discovery of gold in California. The miner, working with
a pick is another reference to the gold that was found in California. At the time the seal was designed,
people were coming from all over the world looking to "strike it rich" in the gold fields. A pan and a
rocker are also depicted on the seal near the miner. The pan was used to separate the gold from the dirt;
just add water. The rocker is a larger and more sophisticated "pan." It allowed miners to process
more dirt and sand, faster.
Virtually all of the products coming in and out of California were carried
over water routes at the time the seal was designed. Mining supplies, letters from home, luxuries, household
items and gold were all carried on ships. From the eastern United States, ships sailed south around Cape Horn
and north to California. The ships, on a representation of the Sacremento River, represent
the commercial greatness of California.
A sheaf of grain in the foreground represents California's agricultural wealth.
In fact, many who came looking for gold, found farming more profitable. Today, California is an agricultural
giant among the states.
At the feet of Minerva, stands the California Grizzly Bear. A symbol of strenghth
and independence, the Grizzly Bear is the Official State Animal and is the prominent feature on the California
State Flag. Grizzly Bears were, at one time, common in the state but the
mass movement of people into California during the gold rush strained their habitat and caused their numbers
to decline sharply. Today there are no Grizzly Bears in California.
The seal was designed by Major R. S. Garnett of the U.S. Army, and adopted
at the Constitutional Convention of 1849 before California became a state in June 1850. At the time of the
seal's adoption, thirty states comprised the United States. Near the upper edge of the seal are 31 stars,
anticipating California's admission. The original 1849 design is depicted to the right.
In 1937 minor changes were made to the seal.