January 29, 1861
Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution of the State of Kansas provides that "there shall be kept by the governor, and used by him officially, and which shall be the great seal of Kansas. All commissions shall be issued in the name of the state of Kansas; and shall be signed by the governor, countersigned by the Secretary of State, and sealed with the great seal."
The First Session of the Kansas Legislature in 1861 provided for the creation of the Great Seal, described as follows:
"The East is represented by a rising sun, in the right hand corner of the seal; to the left of it, Commerce is represented by a river and a steamboat; in the foreground, agriculture is represented as the basis of the future prosperity of the state, by a settler's cabin and a man plowing with a pair of horses; beyond this is a train of ox-wagons, going west; in the background is seen a herd of buffalo, retreating, pursued by two indians on horseback; around the top is the motto: 'Ad astra per aspera,' beneath a cluster of thirty-four stars. The circle is surrounded by the words: Great Seal of the State of Kansas. January 29, 1861."
Look at different images that make up the seal and learn their meanings.
The farmer is in the seal to represent agriculture as the basis for the economy and prosperity of the State. Kansas is a leading agriculture state, as close to 50 million acres of Kansas land are devoted to farming. The leading crops in Kansas are wheat, grain sorghums, forage sorghums, sorghum silage, corn, soybeans, sugar beets, oats, alfalfa hay, barley, alfalfa seed, wild hay, lespedeza seed, dehydrated alfalfa, cattle, sheep, and hogs. Kansas grows close to 20 percent of all the wheat produced in the United States. It would take a train stretching from western Kansas to the Atlantic Ocean to contain all the wheat grown in Kansas in a single year.
The cabin belongs to the farmer showing Kansas as a good place to settle. While life was a struggle for the early plains settlers because of scarce resources, crop failures and periodic droughts, their survival led the way for a successful agricultural future. Immigrants from Russia introduced "Turkey Red" wheat in 1874, marking the beginning of Kansas' dominance of the wheat industry.
The Ox Wagons
Wagon trains moving west played an important part in the settling of Kansas. Several trails were opened by explorers in the 1800s to make Kansas more accessible to settlers traveling west. In 1821, William Becknell, a Missouri trader, risked his life by traveling westward to create the Sante Fe Trail. The Oregon Trail crossed the northeastern section of Kansas and provided a passageway for the immigrants settling in Kansas.
The River and The Steamboat
The water was painted into the Seal after the Constitutional Convention of 1859 so a steamboat could be added to represent commerce. The steamboat symbolizes the important role Kansas plays as a center of trade. During the early years, wagon trains and cattle drives were the most important part of trade.
The buffalo played a key role in the history of the State. As the railroads were built, companies killed the animals to feed the crews and greatly reduced their number. Buffalo Bill Cody was one of the buffalo hunters for the railroad. Because the buffalo became nearly extinct, it is now a protected animal. The Indian hunters also represent the heritage of the state. For them, the buffalo was a source of food, clothing, and shelter.
The design for the state seal was started when Kansas was a territory and stretched into the Rocky Mountains. Perhaps the mountain-like hills on the seal were inspired by the Rocky Mountains. There are also many rolling hills in Kansas. The University of Kansas in Lawrence is built on one such hill, Mount Oread.
The East is represented by the rising sun in the right-hand corner of the seal. Settlers traveled from the East into Kansas in hopes of striking it rich by mining for gold. These Easterners didn't find much gold, but they did encounter several tribes of Native Americans. Today, four recognized tribes maintain reservations in Kansas-the Prairie Band Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Iowa and Sac and Fox.
There are 34 stars on the seal to signify Kansas becoming the 34th state of the Union. Kansas entered the Union on January 29, 1861, after a long period of exploration and settlement. The Kansas settlers had a battle over slavery just before joining the Union.
The Motto - AD ASTRA PER ASPERA
Ad astra per aspera – To the stars through difficulties. This motto refers not only to the pioneering spirit of the early settlers, but also the difficult times Kansas went through before becoming a state. The anti-slavery forces and slavery proponents waged battles in the electoral process as well as on the battle field. Kansas earned the nickname "Bloody Kansas" because of the war regarding slavery, much of which was fought on Kansas' soil.
The date Kansas became the 34th state.