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

Pennsylvania state seal
© iStock.com/Milos Subasic

Written by Justin Zipprich

Updated: July 28, 2023

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Ever since it was one of the first 13 colonies, the state of Pennsylvania has been very important to our country, and it continues to be so until this day. Part of that amazing history is the Pennsylvania state seal. While there’s a relatively short history associated with this iconic emblem, it is still a magnificent piece of US history. Its two sides are vivid and creative, and they show the pride that the state has in its people. Let’s dive into the details of this famous seal and learn some other amazing facts.

What Does the Pennsylvania State Seal Look Like?

Like many other state seals, the Pennsylvania state seal has two faces, and they are equally as important and impressive. 

Front of the Pennsylvania State Seal

The front of the seal is used most often and it is typically referred to as the official state seal. The reverse image is still used from time to time. However, it’s utilized less frequently for official business and rarely to authenticate documents.

On the front of the seal, you’ll see many of the elements that are also found on the Pennsylvania coat of arms, with some notable exceptions. In the middle, there’s a large shield that shows three images:

  • A sailing ship that signifies the transportation of commerce that’s sent all over the world.
  • A clay-red plow that shows off the state’s rich natural resources.
  • Three sheaves of wheat that suggest fertile fields and the fact that Pennsylvania has a wealth of human action and thought.

On the left side of the shield, there’s a large stalk of Indian corn. On the right, there’s an olive branch that signifies prosperity and peace. At the top of the shield sits an eagle standing proud. Around the coin is an inner circle that has a small scroll and then the wording “Seal of the State of Pennsylvania.”

Back of the Pennsylvania State Seal

On the back of the seal, there’s a scene that signifies the idea of liberty vs. tyranny. It’s depicted by a woman who stands on a pedestal. In her left hand, she holds a wand that has a liberty cap on top. That is the French symbol of liberty. In her right hand, she holds a long sword. There’s also a lion sitting on the pedestal by her feet. The lion represents tyranny, so it’s as if she is trampling upon tyranny. The outer circle on the back of the seal reads, “Both Can’t Survive.”

History of the Pennsylvania State Seal

The background of the Pennsylvania state seal is relatively short and sweet. The previous seals of the state existed back in 1777. Back when the area was still a province of England, and they featured William Penn and his descendants. 

In 1791, they made the seal you see today. Then, the General Assembly of Pennsylvania gave it their legal recognition, and it was designated as the official state seal. They said it was a “symbol of authenticity which verifies that proclamation, commissions and other papers of state are legal and official.” 

Other State Symbols

Mountain Laurel Blooming in the Appalachian Spring

Other Pennsylvania symbols include the state flower: the Mountain Laurel.

©rck_953/Shutterstock.com

The Pennsylvania state seal is just one of the amazing symbols of this amazing state. Let’s look at some of the other symbols that make this area great.

Pennsylvania Coat of Arms

Perhaps the other most important symbol is the Coat of Arms. It features on many important state documents. It features the same shield that is seen on the seal, but alongside it are two horses. Underneath there is a banner that says “Virtue, Liberty, and Independence.”

Other symbols include:

State Animal – The whitetail deer became the PA state animal when Act 416 passed in 1959. The existence of deer and the food they provide was essential for early settlers.

State Game Bird – In 1931, Act 234 officially designated the ruffed grouse to be Pennsylvania’s state game bird.

State Dog – Act 178, passed on August 17, 1965, proclaimed that the great dane would be the state dog. The act praises the breed’s size, beauty, strength, intelligence, and courage. 

State Fish – The brook trout is one of the most common fish in PA. They made it the state fish back in 1970.

Flower – On May 5, 1933, Act 107 made it official that the gorgeous Mountain Laurel would be the official state flower.

State Tree – The Hemlock tree has always been important to the people of Pennsylvania ever since it protected the original settlers. Today, it protects the wildlife in the forests of the state. That’s why it was designated as the state tree.

Conclusion

This concludes the brief but powerful history of the Pennsylvania state seal and what it stands for today. If you ever find yourself in the area, visit a Pennsylvania courthouse, and you’ll see the seal in all its amazing glory. 


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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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