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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Great seal of the state of North Carolina

Seal, State

The design of North Carolina's state seal, officially called the Great Seal of the State of North Carolina, was standardized by the General Assembly in 1971 and modified in 1983 after many variations. The official seal is a circle 2¼ inches in diameter that features the robe-covered figures of "Liberty" and "Plenty" in its center. Liberty is standing and holding a capped pole in her left hand, and in her right hand is a scroll on which is written the word "Constitution." Plenty is seated with her right arm extended, holding three heads of grain in her right hand and the end of an overflowing cornucopia in her left hand. In the background are depictions of mountains and a three-masted ship floating on the ocean. The dates "May 20, 1775" (the date of the so-called Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence) and "April 12, 1776" (the date of the Halifax Resolves) appear at the top and bottom, respectively, of the center part of the seal. Around the outside border of the seal are the phrases "The Great Seal of the State of North Carolina" and Esse Quam Videri, the state motto, meaning "to be rather than to seem."

Photograph of Gov. Kerr Scott passing the Great Seal of NC to Gov. William Umstead, January 1953.  Item H.1966.109.14 from the North Carolina Museum of History. Used courtesy of the Department of Cultural Resources.


J. Bryan Grimes, The History of the Great Seal of the State of North Carolina (rev. ed., 1974).

Additional information:

Grimes, J. Bryan. 1909. Great seal of the state of North Carolina: 1666-1909. North Carolina Historical Commission. Online at:,398289.

"State seal and motto." North Carolina General Assembly. Online at:

Image credit:

"State seal and motto." North Carolina General Assembly. Online at (accessed September 25, 2014).

"Photograph [Gov. Scott passing the Great Seal of NC to Gov. Umstead]," Accession #: H.1966.109.14. 1953. North Carolina Museum of History. (accessed September 25, 2014).




Hi, Ellamarie.

You can find more information at

Thank you.

Mike Millner, NC Government & Heritage Library


what does the seal mean i don't understand.



Thank you for your question. Within the entry, you'll find a detailed description of the symbolic meaning of the images that appear in the seal. In the comment below, you will also find a comment about the ship. There is additional information at,398289.

Thank you.

Mike Millner, NC Government & Heritage Library


Does the ship within the seal mean something?


Hi Mandy,

Thanks for visiting this entry.   That's a great question!

The ships are most likely a reference to commerce.  You can learn more about the history of the symbols in the state seal from a publication published by the NC Historical Commission in 1909.  The pamphlet traces the history of the creation of the seal and there are a number of references to the ship. You can read it online at:,398289.

I hope this helps!

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library



wow if you look at it the seal is pretty cool.




What is required to obtain permission to use the NC State seal on a membership card?


Hi Maynard,

Thanks for visiting NCpedia and that is an excellent question!

We're going to look into this and will be back in touch shortly with some more information.

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library


everthing they said

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