Charleston, W.Va. – On September 26, 1863 lawmakers in the newly formed State of West Virginia adopted the State Seal designed by Joseph H. Diss Debar of Doddridge County.
In the 150 years since, the state seal has never been changed.
Section 2-7 of the West Virginia Constitution, titled “Montani Semper Liberi – State Seal” reads: “The present seal of the state, with its motto, "Montani Semper Liberi," shall be the great seal of the state of West Virginia, and shall be kept by the secretary of state, to be used by him officially, as directed by law.”
The front of the State Seal, which shows a coal miner and farmer representing industry and agriculture, a rock engraved with the date of statehood, and two rifles crossed beneath the Cap of Liberty, has become a symbol of West Virginia’s rich history and of its bright future.
“West Virginia has come so far in the past 150 years, and yet here is something that our founding fathers would recognize,” Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant said. “This is a direct link to our founding in Wheeling and to people like Francis Pierpont, Arthur Boreman, Waitman Willey, and John Carlile.”
The Secretary of State’s Office has a life-sized state seal, which encourages citizens to step inside and become a part of it. During events like the State Fair, hundreds of people take pictures of family and friends inside the state seal.
According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, the seal was designed and adopted with two sides, but only the front or obverse is in common use.
The reverse is encircled by a wreath of laurel and oak leaves. A wooded mountain is on the left and a slope with a log farmhouse on the right. On the side of the mountain is a representation of the Tray Run Viaduct, as an engineering feat of the time, and a train about to pass over the viaduct. A factory, fronted by a river with boats, a derrick and a shed, and a meadow with sheep and cattle grazing indicate the leading characteristics and products of the state. Above, the sun emerges from the clouds, and the rays of the sun contain the Latin phrase ‘‘Libertas E Fidelitate,’’ which means ‘‘Freedom and Loyalty.’’
The reverse of the state seal is also the governor’s official seal.