Discover the Illinois State Seal: History, Symbolisim, and Meaning

Written by Justin Zipprich
Updated: July 28, 2023
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Key Points

  • The Illinois state seal features a flying bald eagle holding a banner with the words ‘State Sovereignty, National Union’ and a shield with thirteen stars and stripes representing the first thirteen states of the union.
  • The seal’s design dates back to the seal of the Northwest Territory in 1788, making it a symbol of Illinois’ historical roots.
  • Illinois law designates the Secretary of State as the official guardian of the seal, but official changes must also be authorized by the General Assembly in the state.
  • Illinois has a variety of official state symbols, including the white-tailed deer, white oak, and cardinal, showcasing the state’s natural beauty and wildlife.
  • The square dance and pumpkin pie are also official state symbols, highlighting Illinois’ cultural traditions and agricultural heritage.

Every state in the country has its own special seal, and Illinois is no exception. The state seal signifies what the founders of the state cared so much about when they settled the area all those many years ago. Today, we will tell you about the awesome Illinois state seal, including what it looks like, what it stands for, and what it means to the people today.

Description of the Illinois State Seal

The Illinois state seal as we know it today was authorized in 1867, and it features a flying bald eagle that is holding a banner with its beak. The banner says “State Sovereignty, National Union.” The eagle also has a shield in its talons that is red, white, and blue. The shield has thirteen stars and thirteen stripes that represent the first thirteen states of the union. 

There is also wording around the outer circle of the seal. It says the words “Seal of the State of Illinois” and the date Aug. 26, 1818. That is the date when the first Illinois constitution was signed in Kaskaskia.

History of the Illinois State Seal

Illinois state seal

The Illinois state seal features an eagle, a shield, and important dates.


This basic design has lasted the test of time. It was originally conceived in the year 1818, when the state of Illinois first gained statehood. The Illinois state seal is actually what was originally the seal of the Northwest Territory way back in 1788.

In December of 1818, the very first First General Assembly of the state made the decision to procure a permanent State Seal. They wanted to base it on the Great Seal of the United States. However, they wanted to make a change and create the banner with the words “State Sovereignty, National Union,” which would be in the eagle’s mouth. Another difference was that they made the eagle’s wings a bit smaller. Also, a field of stars around the eagle’s head was removed.

In 1868, the seal was officially adopted.

A Proposed Change Is Turned Down

In 1867, the Secretary of the State of the time, Sharon Tyndale, decided that she wanted to make some changes to the seal. Illinois law dictates that the Secretary of State Is the official guardian of the seal, but official changes must also be authorized by the General Assembly in the state.

So, she approached Senator Allen Fuller and presented the idea of changing the seal. The senator went along and presented it to the General Assembly. Her idea was to change the wording on the banner from “State Sovereignty, National Union” to “National Union, State Sovereignty.” 

All of this was happening during the height of the Civil War when issues of state’s rights were still a hotbed issue. Because of this, the General Assembly disagreed about the changes and voted that the seal should remain unchanged. However, Sharon Tyndale did sneak one change into the seal. It was to make the word “Sovereignty” appear upside down on the seal. It remains that way until this day. 

Other Official State Symbols of Illinois

white tailed deer

Along with the Illinois state seal, we have the Illinois state animal, which is the white-tailed deer.

©Gary Gello/

The Illinois state seal is only one of many amazing symbols adopted by the state of Illinois. Here are some other interesting symbols:

  • State Tree – It was voted to be the White Oak by schoolchildren way back in 1908. It became law that same year.
  • State Flower – The children also voted that the violet should be the state flower, and it became law.
  • State Bird – School children chose the cardinal to be the state bird, and it was designated in 1929.
  • State Mineral – A bill stating that Fluorite, a glass-like mineral, would be the state mineral was passed in 1965. Illinois is the largest producer of Fluorite in the U.S.
  • State Insect – In 1974, a third-grade class chose the black monarch butterfly to be the state insect, and it became law.
  • State Dance – The square dance became the official state dance in 1990. The dance has been around since 1651.
  • State Vegetable – It was just recently, in 2015, that school children chose sweet corn as the state vegetable.
  • State Reptile – The painted turtle was selected to be the reptile of choice, and it was written into law in 2005.
  • State Pie – Pumpkin pie was made official in 2015. Studies show that 85% of pumpkin consumed in America comes from Illinois.


So there you have the short history of the Illinois state seal and all it stands for. The seal is still used to this day, and it means a great deal to the people of Illinois. If you’re ever in the area, stop by a government building, and you can see it for yourself!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Comet Design/

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About the Author

Justin Zipprich is a writer at A-Z Animals, where his primary focus is travel, state facts, pets, and mammals. Justin has been writing and editing animal content for over 7 years, though he holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Instructional Technology from Western Illinois University, which he earned in 2005. As a resident of Texas, he loves discovering local animals and spending time with his wife and two kids.

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