The Story of the Great Seal


The story of the Great Seal design is very interesting.  The row of wooded hills certainly indicate the Green Mountains; the wavy lines at the top and the bottom of the seal are sky and water.  The sheaves of grain and the cow represented agriculture.  Mr. Henry Steele Wardner also talked about the design of the Great Seal in his book, The Birthplace of Vermont: A History of Windsor to 1781.  Steele suggested that the four sheaves stood for the four Vermont counties (really four shires) in 1777.  The cow stood on the eastern or more peaceable side of Vermont, while the spearhead on the western side (pointed from New York) represented the danger to Vermont from the State of New York.  The Vermont motto on the original seal, "Freedom and Unity," may have been suggested by the desire that Vermonters should be free and united, or more likely, that the individual states should be free, but united.


The most dominant feature of the seal is the central pine.  The pine tree was very important and of great value in colonial New England.  They were tall, straight trees often saved to be used as masts for the ships of the Royal Navy and later for Vermont's own sailing ships.


The Vermont seal tree shows fourteen distinct branches and none is a leader.  (The leader is the branch that points upwards at the top of a tree.)  This is a very interesting fact.  The national flag in 1777 focused on the number "thirteen" which, of course, stood for the original thirteen states.  Vermont felt so strongly about becoming the fourteenth state that the coins were marked "Quarta Decima Stella," or "fourteenth star."  Ira Allen probably picked the New England Pine and made it a pine with fourteen equal branches on purpose.  This represented Vermont as a member of the Union with no one state being dominant or a "leader."


The State Seal Pine was probably a great white pine tree that grew near Governor Thomas Chittenden's first Vermont home in Arlington.  The tree was toppled by high winds in 1978 and replaced with a new white pine sapling by Governor Richard Snelling in 1979.