North Carolina has had a seal for use on official documents since the days of the Lords Proprietors. Shortly after they were issued their charter in 1663, the Lords Proprietors adopted a seal which featured the coats-of-arms of the eight Lords on one side and was used on all official papers for Carolina. .

About 1665, the government of Albemarle was organized and it adopted, with some modifications, the 1663 seal. It was first used for the government of the county of Albemarle, and then became the seal of the Province of North Carolina. This seal was used from 1665 to 1730.

When North Carolina was purchased by the Crown in 1729, the king ordered that a new seal be prepared. This seal of the Province of North Carolina was used from 1730 to 1767. At a council held in New Bern in 1767, Governor Tryon introduced a new seal to be used in sealing all patents and grants of lands and all public instruments passed in the king's name for service within the province.

In 1776, an ordinance was passed by the Provincial Congress at Halifax appointing three commissioners to procure a Great Seal for the State of North Carolina, but no record of a report being made by them was found. In 1778, a bill was introduced in the general assembly held in New Bern that "William Tisdale, Esq., be appointed to cut and engrave a Seal, under the Direction of his Excellency the Governor, for the use of the State…"

When the government of the State of North Carolina was organized, the constitution adopted at Halifax in 1776 provided, "That there shall be a Seal of this State; which shall be called the Great Seal of the State of North Carolina, be affixed to all grants and commissions."

In 1792, the general assembly meeting again in New Bern authorized that a new seal "be prepared with only one side…" This was a major change, since all other seals had been two-sided. Other major changes were made in 1835, 1893, and 1971. The most recent alteration was made in 1983 when the April 12, 1776 was added at the bottom to commemorate the Halifax Resolves.

The current seal features two women, Plenty and Liberty. Liberty is the lady on the left holding a scroll in her right hand. On the scroll is written the word "Constitution". In her left hand, Liberty holds a pole with the cap of liberty on top of it. Plenty sits on the right with three heads of wheat in her right hand. From her left hand to her feet in a cornucopia, or horn of plenty, containing fruits and vegetables. There is a three-masted ship on a body of water in the background and mountains running left to right in the middle of the seal.

The date April 12, 1776 is inscribed just below the women. This is the date of the Halifax Resolves, the document which gave North Carolina's delegates to the Continental Congress the authority to vote for independence. Within the inner circle above the heads of the women is the date May 20, 1775. This is thought to be the date of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. Around the upper perimeter of the seal is the inscription, "The Great Seal of the State of North Carolina." The state motto, "Esse Quam Videri," which is Latin meaning "To be rather than to seem", is at the bottom of the seal in this outer circle.


North Carolina State Seal


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