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You have probably seen the official seal of West Virginia many times on official documents and proclamations. Have you ever noticed the symbolism it portrays? One of the first acts of the legislature, when West Virginia became a state, was to commission an official state seal.

 

Designed by Joseph H. Diss Debar, a former French artist living in Doddridge County, it was adopted in September of 1863, and has never been changed. Soon after West Virginia gained statehood, the state’s first Legislature adopted the design for its official seal.

The front of the seal is called the obverse side. In the center is a boulder with ivy, signifying strength, steadfastness and stability. Etched in the stone is the date of West Virginia’s entrance into the Union, June 20, 1863. The design captures the true importance of West Virginia’s natural resources and the resolve of its people. Two rifles lie crossed in front of the boulder, and are draped with the Liberty Cap, signifying the state’s willingness to defend itself in the name of Liberty. On one side of the boulder is a representation of Agriculture, as a farmer stands with his ax and plow before a cornstalk. On the other side, Industry is symbolized by a miner shouldering his pickax, and behind him an anvil and sledge hammer. These images are surrounded by the words, “State of West Virginia,” and the state’s motto, “Montani Semper Liberi,” or “Mountaineers Always Free.” The whole scene shows the principal pursuits and resources of the state.


The reverse side of the Great Seal is called the Governor’s Seal. It is encircled by a wreath of laurel and oak leaves, signifying valor and strength. Fruits and grains, the state’s principal crops, are interwoven. The central theme is a landscape. On a distant mountain, a train passes over the B&O Railroad viaduct in Preston County, one of the great engineering feats of its day. A log frame house graces the cultivated slope on the other side of the mountain. Near the center of the landscape is a factory, and a river runs through with boats on it. Nearby are a shed and derrick, representing the production of salt and petroleum. The foreground shows a meadow where sheep and cattle are grazing. Above this landscape, the sun comes from behind clouds, indicating that former obstacles are disappearing, and in the rays of the sun is the motto, “Libertas e Fidelitate,” or “Liberty from Loyalty.”

On two sides of a small 2½” circle, you will find the history, the hopes, and the ideals of the 35th state . . . the great Seal of West Virginia.

Information is from “West Virginia . . . That’s The Story,” compiled by Pleasants County Library Board in 1995; also, www.wvsos.com/execrecords/wvseal.htm.

 

This Week's Editorial:

By Helen Morris:

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