The Seal

The arms

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The first Europeans to visit Oregon were Spanish explorers led by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, who sighted southern Oregon off the Pacific coast in 1543. Francis Drake made his way to Nehalem Bay in 1579 . and claimed the land between 38–48° NL as a Symbolic Sovereign Act for England. Exploration was retaken routinely in 1774, starting with the expedition of the frigate Santiago by Juan José Pérez Hernández and the coast of Oregon became a valuable trading route to Asia. In 1778, British captain James Cook also explored the coas

French Canadian and métis trappers and missionaries arrived in the eastern part of the state in the late 18th and early 19th  and some stayed permanently. 

The Lewis and Clark Expedition travelled through northern Oregon also in search of the Northwest Passage. They built their winter fort in 1805–06 at Fort Clatsop, near the mouth of the Columbia River, staying at the encampment from December until March.

British explorer David Thompson also conducted overland exploration. In 1811, stopping on the way, at the junction of the Snake River, he posted a claim to the region for Great Britain and the North West Company. Upon returning to Montreal, he publicized the abundance of fur-bearing animals in the area.

Also in 1811, John Jacob Astor financed the establishment of Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River as a western outpost to his Pacific Fur Company (1810-’13); this was the first permanent European settlement in Oregon.

In the War of 1812, the British gained control of all Pacific Fur Company posts. The Treaty of 1818 established joint British and American occupancy of the region west of the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. By the 1820s and 1830s, the Hudson's Bay Company dominated the Pacific Northwest from its Columbia District headquarters at Fort Vancouver (built in 1825 by the district's chief factor, John McLoughlin, across the Columbia from present-day Portland).


After the death of  the expert trapper and entrepreneur Ewing Young In 1841, a meeting followed his funeral, at which a probate government was proposed. Doctor Ira Babcock was elected supreme judge and chaired two meetings in 1842 at Champoeg, These meetings were precursors to an all-citizen meeting in 1843, which instituted a provisional government.  This government was the first acting public government of the Oregon Country before annexation by the government of the United States. It was succeeded by a Second Executive Committee, itself succeeded by George Abernethy, who was the first and only Governor of Oregon under the provisional government.

Also in 1841, the governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, reversed the Hudson's Bay Company's long-standing policy of discouraging settlement because it interfered with the lucrative fur trade. He directed that some 200 Red River Colony settlers be relocated to HBC farms near Fort Vancouver,  in an attempt to hold Columbia District.

Starting in 1842–43, it seemed that Britain and the United States would go to war for a third time in 75 years, but the border was defined peacefully in 1846 by the Oregon Treaty. The border between the United States and British North America was set at the 49th parallel. The Oregon Territory was officially organized on 13 August  1848.

The territory's request for statehood was delayed several times, as members of Congress argued whether the territory should be admitted as a “free” or “slave” state. Eventually politicians from the south agreed to allow Oregon to enter as a “free” state, in exchange for opening slavery to the southwest United States.

Oregon was admitted to the Union on 14 February 1859. Founded as a refuge from disputes over slavery, Oregon had a “whites only” clause in its original state Constitution. At the outbreak of the American Civil War, regular U.S. troops were withdrawn and sent east. Volunteer cavalry recruited in California were sent north to Oregon to keep peace and protect the populace.


In  1775 werd de westkust van noord amerika voor spanje  in bezit genomen door Bruno Heceta en Juan Francisco Bodega y Quadra. In 1811 werd er de eerste handelspost gesticht door de Amerikanen. In 1819 gaf Spanje zijn aanspraken op het gebied op en kwam het onder gezamelijk beheer van de V.S. en Groot Brittannië. De Britse onderdanen vielen onder de jurisdictie van de Hudson Bay Company, de Amerikaanse onder een “Regelement”.

In 1846 werd bij verdrag het gebied ten noorden van 49° N.B. met de naam Brits Columbia Engels. Het zuiden, tot Californië, werd Amerikaans. In 1848 werd dit het Oregon Territory. Op 14 februari 1859 werd Oregon als de 33e staat tot de Unie toegelaten.

Een zegel met een wapen werd aangenomen op 24 februari 1903. Het is een kustlandschap met een ondergaande zon. Op het land staan een eland en een wagen. Op zee vertrekt een Brits oorlogsschip en komt een Amerikaans schip aan. Van deze voorstelling gescheiden door een lint met de woorden the union staan in de schildvoet een korenschhof, een ploeg en een houweel. Op de schildrand staat de Amerikaanse adelaar met borstschild op een pijlbundel. Het schild is omgeven door driëndertig vijfpuntige sterren. Het zegel heeft als randschrift: state of oregon 1859. (S. Z.)




The Seal


1. The Seal of the Provisional Government of Oregon

Seal used by the Provisional Government, 1846


The seal for Oregon of the Provisional Government that ran from 1843 to 1849, was the Salmon Seal, featuring three sheaves of grain and a single salmon. T

he salmon was at the bottom, with Oregon along the top. The salmon was designed to symbolize the fishing industry and the grain to represent agriculture. Designed to be neutral concerning the Oregon Question and whether the U.S. or Britain would ultimately control the region, the seal was used until the Oregon Territory was created and the territorial government arrived in 1849.


2 The Seal of Oregon Territory

With the arrival of Governor Joseph Lane (in office 03.03.1849–18.06.1850) the territorial government took control of the region. and a seal was adopted. It showed a landscape of mountains and a lake   with a rising sun. There is a ploughman and a standing indian on the foreground  This seal was apparently only used for a short time.

The Great Seal of Oregon Territory, 1849-‘50

Illustration for The Illustrated London News, 23 February 1850. [1]


During the term of office of Kintzing Prichette (18.06.1850–18.08.1850) the government adopted a new seal featuring a motto and a variety of motifs. In the center was a sailing vessel used to represent commerce, and above that was a beaver to symbolize the fur trade that was prominent in Oregon's early recorded history. On the left of the ship was a Native American and on the right an eagle. Above the beaver on a banner was the Latin motto, ALIS VOLAT PROPRIIS, translated as "She flies with her own wings" Along the perimeter were five stars at the bottom and Seal of the Territory of Oregon on the top

The Great Seal of Oregon Territory. 1850-1857


The beaver-crest was borrowed from the beaver in the arms of the North West Company. A beaver  was also on the token of that company.

These tokens were struck in 1820, during the reign of George III (whose portrait is on the obverse) in Birmingham, England, by John Walker & Co. for canadian and american markets. Their value is “One Made Beaver.” All but one known specimen are holed, and all have been found in the region of the Lower Columbia River and Umpqua River valleys in Oregon


3. The Seal of the State of Oregon

In 1857, the Oregon Constitutional Convention was held in the capital of Salem where the delegates drafted a constitution to prepare for statehood and adopted a new seal to be used once statehood was achieved. The convention appointed Benjamin F. Burch, LaFayette Grover, and James K. Kelly to design a new seal. A proposal for a seal from Harvey Gordon was used with the addition of an elk added by the committee. Usage began after Oregon became the 33rd state on 14 February 1859.  Later the number of stars was increased according to the number of states of the Union but reduced to 33 in 1903 by the Oregon Legislative Assembly.


Seal of the State of Oregon 1858-‘59

The arms surrounded by 32 stars, an elk added

Minnesota 32nd state

The seal of Oregon 1876

The crest reversed, the arms surrounded by 38 stars. (Colorado 38th, 1876)  The legend changed into STATE OF OREGON .

Seal of Oregon 1876

The date 1857 replaced by 1859

Seal of the State of Oregon, 1889

The crest reversed, the shield surrounded by 42 stars

 (Washington, 42nd, 1889)


The ultimate design of the Seal of Oregon was approved by legislative action on 24 February 1903. The number of States being 45 after the admission of Utah in 1896, it was abandoned to adapt the number of stars to the number of states of the Union.



Black & white version

Coloured version


The arms and crest restyled and surrounded by 33 stars  (Oregon 33rd, 1859)


The legislative action of 1903 reads:


ORS 186.020 Description of state seal.

The description of the seal of the State of Oregon shall be an escutcheon, supported by 33 stars, and divided by an ordinary, with the inscription, "The Union." In chief mountains, an elk with branching antlers, a wagon, the Pacific Ocean, on which there are a British man-of-war departing and an American steamer arriving. The second quartering with a sheaf, plow and a pickax. Crest The American eagle. Legend – State of Oregon, 1859 [2]


The authority to manage use of the Oregon State Seal is granted to the Secretary of State by the Oregon State Constitution, Article VI, Section 3, which reads:


Article VI Section 3. Seal of state.

There shall be a seal of State, kept by the Secretary of State for official purposes, which shall be called “The seal of the State of Oregon”.

Use of the Oregon State Seal is restricted by statute. Oregon Revised Statute 186.023 reads as follows:


ORS 186.023, governs use of the Oregon State Seal:

(1) Except as authorized by the Secretary of State, no person shall knowingly use any device, or possess any device capable of such use, to emboss upon a document the seal of the State of Oregon described in ORS 186.020. (2) No person shall use any reproduction of the seal of the State of Oregon: (a) In any manner falsely implying official endorsement or sponsorship by the State of Oregon or any of its agencies of any product, business, service or other activity; or (b) In any manner that subjects or exposes the seal of the State of Oregon to ridicule, debasement or infamy.

Questions about the appropriate use of the state seal should be directed to the office of the Secretary of State. Any complaints of misuse of the state seal should also be directed to that office. Civil penalties up to $500, per occurrence, will be assessed for violations of ORS 186.023 pursuant to ORS 186.025.

Violations are prosecuted by the Oregon Department of Justice.


The official description was several times repeated by the  Governor of Oregon.


The Arms


Achievement of the Territory of Oregon


Hand-painted Patriotic Banner

with the achievement of the Territory of Oregon and great folk qualities, 1861-1876  [3]


The achievement is the coloured version of the achievement on the seal of the Territory:


Arms: A fess Gules, in chief a seascape with a ship sailing to the dexter, in base a landscape [with mountains in the distance an a plough on the foreground],  all proper.

Crest: A beaver passant

Supporters: An Indian armed with a bow on the dexter and the America eagle sejant on the sinister.

Motto: ALIS VOLAT PROPRIIS in black lettering on a red escroll.


* On the upper part of the banner, here cut off, are 26 or 27 white stars (4 or 5 invisible) the number of stars of the American flag from 1837-45 or 1845-46.


The arms of the State of Oregon  were:


Arms: An escroll per fess in scribed THE UNION, in chief  sea-shore with a mountain on the mainland, therein an elk and a wagon, In the sea a man-of-war departing and a steamer arriving, and a rising sun at the horizon. In base Azure, a sheaf of wheat, a plough and a pick-axe Or.

Crest: The american bald eagle with olive branch and a bundle of three arrows

The shield surrounded by 32 golden five-pointed stars


These arms are taken from the seal of 1857 [4]


Ć See illustration in tyhe head of this article



These arms are taken from the seal of 1876.[5]








Oregon Army National Guard






That for regiments and separate battalions of the Oregon Army National Guard: From a wreath of colors, a demi-disc Gules charged with the setting sun with twelve light rays Or (the shoulder sleeve insignia of the 41st Division), behind a beaver sejant Proper.


The setting sun alludes to the Northwest, the station of the 41st Division, of which the majority of Oregon troops are a part.  The beaver superimposed upon the face of the setting sun alludes to the State itself.


The crest for color bearing organizations of the State of Oregon was approved on 24 May 1924.  It was amended to change the description on 26 September 1925.


Distinctive Unit Insignia


Heraldry Image - Distinctive Unit Insignia


Heraldry Image - Distinctive Unit Insignia




A gold color metal and enamel device 1 3/16 inches (3.02 cm) in height consisting of a gold demi-sun with small pointed rays and issuant therefrom upwards, fanwise, seventeen scarlet rays their ends squared off and the one at center charged with a gold five-pointed star within an annulet just above the head of a brown beaver seated erect in front of the sun and rays, holding between his forepaws a gold semicircular scroll curving across his shoulder and inscribed in blue letters "EMPIRE BUILDERS," the scroll ends crossing in base beneath the sun and beaver, his tail slightly overlapping.  The insignia will be manufactured in pairs.


The beaver, a native animal depicted on the State's flag as well as on the Oregon Army National Guard crest, alludes to Oregon's nickname of "The Beaver State."  The demi-sun refers to Oregon's location on the nation's western horizon, and the extended scarlet rays denote courage and hardiness as well as the ideals and ambitions of the pioneers who struggled to settle there.  The encircled star above the beaver refers to the city of Salem, which is the State's capital.  The words of the motto, "Empire Builders," are taken from the first phrase of the State song.


A distinctive unit insignia was approved for the noncolor and nonstandard bearing units of the Oregon National Guard on 15 March 1929.  That insignia was cancelled and a new design approved for the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment and noncolor bearing units of the Oregon Army National Guard on 19 November 1970.  The insignia was redesignated effective 1 October 1982, for Headquarters, State Area Command, Oregon Army National Guard.  It was redesignated effective 1 October 2003, for the Oregon Army National Guard Element, Joint Force Headquarters and amended to update the description.


Shoulder Sleeve Insignia




On a blue shield with a 1/8 inch (.32 cm) blue border, 3 inches (7.62 cm) in height and 2 5/8 inches (6.67 cm) in width, consisting of a yellow demi-sun superimposed by the black silhouette of two diagonally crossed bayonets and at base a white wavy bar, all below a white stylized profile of Mount Hood.


The colors blue and yellow/gold are adapted from the State Flag of Oregon; gold is emblematic of honor and high achievement, blue denotes loyalty and devotion.  The demi-sun symbolizes the West Coast and the setting sun.  The Pacific Ocean and the mighty Columbia River are represented by blue and the wavy bar.  The bayonets emphasize the Oregon Army National Guard's combat readiness.  The Mount Hood profile is one of the Oregon's most recognizable landmarks.


The shoulder sleeve insignia was originally approved for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Oregon National Guard on 23 January 1950.  It was redesignated with description amended for Headquarters, State Area Command, Oregon Army National Guard on 30 December 1983.  A new design was approved on 26 September 1990.  The insignia was amended to revise the symbolism of the design on 10 December 1991.  The insignia was amended to correct the width of the insignia and the color of the crossed bayonets on 3 January 2002.  It was redesignated effective 1 October 2003, for the Oregon Army National Guard Element, Joint Force Headquarters. (TIOH Dwg. No. A-1-783)




By the 16th century, Oregon was home to many tribes, including the Chinook, Coquille (Ko-Kwell), Bannock, Chasta, Kalapuya, Klamath, Klickitat, Molalla, Nez Perce, Takelma, Killamuk, Neah-kah-nie, Umatilla, and Umpqua

Settlement of Europeans increased with the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850 and the forced relocation of the native population to Indian reservations in Oregon.


Clatsop/Nehalem Confederated Tribes



o Clatsop

o Nehalem (Tillamook)


Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon




o Chasta

o Kalapuya

o Molalla

o Rogue River

o Umpqua


Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians

o Alsea

o Cheteo

o Coquille

o Coos

o Joshua

o Mackanotni

o Shastacosta

o Siuslaw

o Takelma Six

o Tillamook

o Tutuini


Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation



o Cayuse

o Umatilla

o Walla Walla (Waluulapam)


Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation


o Warm Springs

o Wasco

o Cascades

o Wishram

o Paiutes



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 © Hubert de Vries 2017-11-08




[1] http://www.lookandlearn.com/history-images/U321171/The-Great-Seal-of-Oregon-Territory?img=1&search=Oregon+Territory&bool=phrase

[2] General laws of Oregon, 1903: State of Oregon, the General Laws and joint resolution and Memorials, Enacted and Adopted by the Twenty-second Regular  Session of the Legislative Assembly, 1903. Begun ton the Twelfth Day of January and Ended on the Twentieth Day of Fenruary 1903. Salem, 1903.

[3] http://www.jeffbridgman.com/inventory/index.php?page=out&id=2697

[4] Mitchell, Henry:  The State Arms of the Union, Boston: L. Prang & Co.(1876) 

[5] Connell, A.J.: Arms of the States and Territories of the American Union. Washington D.C. 1876