THE SEAL OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA
by Daniel Cogné
Associate Member of the Académie internationale d'héraldique
The Seal of the State of Pennsylvania
Among the American seals preserved in the National Archives of Canada (MG 23, D 1, Series 1, Vol. 10, p. 145A. Photo C105914), we find this superb impression of the seal of Pennsylvania affixed to a legal document issued in Philadelphia on 15 October 1785.
A rococo shield displays the arms of the State: Per fess Argent and Azure, on a fess Or a plough proper between in chief an ancient ship under full sail proper and in base three garbs in fess Or.
Navigation and agriculture were the principal sources of wealth for Pennsylvania in the 18th century. Thus, it is not surprising to find the symbols of these human activities in these arms, used as early as 1777. The main charges are taken from the seals of three counties of Pennsylvania. The ancient ship can be seen on the seal of Philadelphia in 1683, and the plough on that of Chester county. A sheaf of wheat was probably depicted on the seal of Bucks county, although no precise description has been preserved.
The arms of Pennsylvania were altered many times in the 19th century and officially adopted on 17 March 1875. This 18thcentury coat of arms is of great importance in the evolution of corporate and municipal heraldry throughout North America. The combination of the heraldic clichés shown here became very popular with the public institutions in the 19th century.
(Reference: Heraldry in Canada/L'héraldique au Canada, Vol. XXIII, December 1989)