This beautifully composed and illustrated presentation rendition of the Great Seal of the State of California, adopted on September 29, 1849 by the convention that framed the Constitution of the State of California, was given to Mr. O.H. Singler of 828 First Street, Benicia, on April 19, 1930 by the then U.S. Secretary of State “with his compliments” (upon what occasion is unknown).
The original 1849 seal was designed at a cost of $1,000, and incorporated a number of symbols and literary references that the designer and author, Major R.S. Garnett, describes thus:
“Around the bend of the ring are represented thirty-one stars, being the number of states of which the union will consist upon the admission of California. The foreground figure represents the Goddess Minerva having sprung full-grown from the brain of Jupiter. She is introduced as a type of political birth of the state of California, without having gone through the probation of a territory. At her feet crouches a grizzly bear, feeding upon the clusters from a grapevine, emblematic of the country’s peculiar characteristics. The sheaf of wheat and bunch of grapes were adopted as emblems of the Agricultural and Horticultural interests of the State. A miner is engaged with his rocker and bowl at his side illustrating the golden wealth of the Sacramento, upon whose waters is seen shipping typical of commercial greatness; and the snow-clad peaks of the Sierra Nevada make up the background, while above is the Greek motto, “Eureka” (I have found it) applying either to the principle involved in the admission of the State or the success of the miner at work.”
As someone who enjoys Greek history and Roman mythology, I am delighted by such a visually compelling design and the erudite expression of the many qualities and characteristics of our state as recognized and expressed by Major Garnett. Were the seal to be redesigned today, the miner’s bowl and rocker might better be replaced with an image of a silicon chip, and the grizzly bear has long since disappeared from the state (although still alive and well in Alaska and other states, plus Canada), but is otherwise as appropriately executed now as it was back in 1849. California is still a golden state indeed, now ranked as the sixth largest economy in the world!