Moment of Indiana History

Indiana State Seal

The Indiana State Seal has a convoluted history. With the creation of the Northwest Territory in 1787, the seal depicted a coiled snake in the foreground, boats in the mid-ground, a rising sun, a tree being chopped into logs, and a fruit bearing apple tree.

When the Indiana Territory was created in 1800 no mention was made of a seal, yet a new unofficial seal soon appeared that showed a setting sun in the background, a buffalo in the foreground, and a man cutting down a tree. In 1816, the new state constitution called for the creation of a State Seal and a bill was passed, but it contained no description, so numerous unofficial versions came into use. In an attempt to end the confusion, a Senate Bill in 1895 declared that Indiana ‘s State Seal would depict within a circle, a woodsman felling a tree, a setting sun to the right, a buffalo fleeing through a plain to the left, and at the top, the motto “Loyalty.” However, that bill was never passed.

The twentieth-century brought more debate. In 1905, Eminent Indiana historian Jacob P. Dunn argued that there was no location in Indiana that would furnish a setting sun over mountains as depicted in the seal, so the sun must be rising to indicate Indiana ‘s location west of the Allegheny Mountains. Finally, in 1963, Indiana ‘s State Seal and description was officially adopted, showing a woodsman felling a tree, a buffalo fleeing from the forest, and the sun setting over the mountains. However, the issue of a whether the sun should be described as setting or rising is still a matter of debate.

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