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Official Alabama State Coat of Arms


The 1817 Great Seal of Alabama,

originally designed by Governor William Wyatt Bibb for the Alabama Territory and in use until 1868. [1]


This image of the “original state seal”, with a map of the state nailed to a tree, was actually not the seal, but a design that was used as a de facto “coat of arms.”  It was referred to as the “arms of the state” or the “arms of Alabama.” This emblem was published under that designation as early as the 1840s.

Alabama coat of arms, 1876  [2]


After the Civil War a new seal was designed and adopted, showing the American Eagle standing on the shield of the United States with the stars of the Union added in the chief. The motto was changed into HERE WE REST. This seal was heraldized into a coat of arms in the seventies of the 19th century but never became the official coat of arms of the  state.


The bill to legalize a state coat of arms was introduced in the Alabama legislature of 1939 by James Simpson, Jefferson County, and was passed without a dissenting vote by both houses. The coat of arms consists of a shield on which appears the emblems of the five governments that have held sovereignty over Alabama. The flags of Spain, France, Great Britian, the Confederacy are bound by the flag and shield of the United States. This shield is supported on either side by bald eagles (Haliætus leucocephalus - Accipitridæ), symbolic of courage. The crest is a model of the ship, the Baldine, that Iberville and Bienville sailed from France to settle a colony near present day Mobile (1699). The motto beneath the shield is “Audemus jura nostra defendere” (We dare to defend our right). Beneath the motto is the state name.

The original design of the Alabama coat of arms was made in 1923 by B. J. Tieman, New York, an authority on heraldry, at the request of Marie Bankhead Owen, Director of the Department of Archives and History. A few years later Naomi Rabb Winston, Washington, DC, painted the completed design in oil. Mrs. Owen selected the motto which was put into Latin by Professor W.B. Saffold, of the University of Alabama. It was through the influence of Juliet Perry Dixon, wife of  Governor Dixon, that official action was taken by the legislature.

The act to adopt an official Coat-of-Arms for the State of Alabama was approved March 14, 1939, Act no. 140.[3]


Æ See illustration in the head of this essay


The Alabama Great Seal


In 1817, when William Wyatt Bibb was appointed Governor of the brand new Alabama territory, Bibb realized he needed an official seal for his commissions and other state papers. With permission of President James Monroe and a law adopted by Congress, the territorial governor was authorized to select a design for a seal. Governor Bibb believed the best seal would be a map of the territory showing its rivers. The first legislative assembly of 18th of january 1818 accordingly adopted a seal showing the map of the country. with the rivers covering the entire surface of the seal. The legend reads: ALABAMA EXECUTIVE OFFICE. [4]


Original drawing of the territorial seal

 sent by Governor William Wyatt Bibb to Secretray of State John Quincy Adams to be engraved [5]

Impression of the seal

on an 1819 document shortly before Alabama became a state


By 1819, when Alabama became the 22nd  state of the Union, the territorial seal was designated by the first legislature as the state seal.


On 11 January 1861 Alabama left the Union and proclaimed itself a sovereign republic. On the flag from that time there was a picture of Liberty with a sword and a flag charged with one star and the word “ALABAMA” below the motto INDEPENDENT NOW AND FOREVER on the obverse. On the reverse there was a  bush of cotton and a rattlesnake menacing with the words NOLI ME TANGERE” (Don’t Touch Me!).[6]



The 1861 flag of Alabama (reconstruction)


Very soon, on 8 February of the same year, the republic was abolished and Alabama joined the Confederation.


After the end of the Civil War a new seal was adopted by resolution of 29 December 1868 showing the American Eagle sitting on the shield of the U.S. (with stars in the chief) and with a ribbon in his beak with the words “HERE WE REST”. This motto was the translation, now discredited, of the indian word “alibamo”. The legend around the seal became “ALABAMA GREAT SEAL ”.



This seal was used for 71 years to authenticate official documents and letterhead.

In 1939, a bill was introduced by the legislature to restore the original seal as the Great Seal of Alabama. When the bill came up it was approved unanimously by the Senate and the House. Governor Frank M. Dixon approved the new law and the Secretary of State had a new Great Seal created. Act no. 20. [7]

Indeed, the seal shows the map of Alabama and its surrounding states and sea. It is surrounded by the legend ALABAMA ééé GREAT SEALééé.



Other Seals



In addition to the great seal of Alabama  there are some seals of other authorities. These are (amongst others) a Seal of State, a seal of the governor’s and the lieutenant governor’s offices and of the senate.

The Seal of State is idenical to the Great Seal but with the legend ééé STATE OF éééALABAMA


The seals of the Offices of the Governor and of the Lieutenant Governor are adopted quite recently and show the full achievement of Alabama in full colour, surrounded by the legend OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR STATE OF ALABAMA and OFFICE OF THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR STATE OF ALABAMA respectively.



Also, the Governor flies his own banner:

“The Governor’s personal flag was designed by Hertley A.Moon at least five years before the present design became official in 1939. It is the same as the State Flag, except for two additions. The law requires that the seal or the coat of arms- in practice the coat of arms is used - be added above the saltire, the State military crest below. This crest shows a cotton boll on a heraldic wreath of the state colors, white and red.” [8]


Governor’s Banner


The seal of the senate of Alabama shows the map of Alabama charged with an open book inscribed with the words LIBERTAS PER LEGE (Freedom through the Law), recharged with a torch. The legend reads: ALABAMA ó STATE SENATE ó.  The date of adoption of this seal has not been communicated yet

Alabama Army National Guard Element, Joint Force Headquarters


The Alabama Armed Forces are organised in the Alabama Army National Guard.

Its insignia are:


Shoulder Sleeve Insignia



Resting on a bar of white and red twists, a sprig of cotton plant, green leaves with white full bursting boll, all on a gray disc 5.72 cm in diameter within a 0.32 cm blue border.


Cotton is a great element of wealth in the State. As the predominant original settlement within the State was of English origin, the twists of the wreath are white and red.


The shoulder sleeve insignia was originally approved for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Alabama Army National Guard on 15 December 1948.  The insignia was redesignated for Headquarters, State Area Command, Alabama Army National Guard on 15 August 1985. It was redesignated retroactive to 1 October 2003, for the Alabama Army National Guard Element, Joint Force Headquarters and amended to update the description and add a symbolism.  (TIOH Dwg. No. A-1-474)


Distinctive Unit Insignia



A Silver color metal and enamel device 2.54 cm in height overall consisting of a shield blazoned: Per chevron reversed debased Gules and Argent, in chief the crest for the National Guard of the State of Alabama Proper. Attached below the shield is a Silver scroll inscribed “POPULI VOLUNTATI SUBSUMUS” in Red letters.


Cotton is a great element of wealth in the State.  As the predominant original settlement within the State was of English origin, the twists of the wreath are white and red.  The motto translates to “To the Will of the People We Subordinate Ourselves.”



The distinctive unit insignia was originally approved for the State Staff Corps and Departments, Alabama National Guard on 16 November 1928. It was redesignated for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment and other noncolor bearing units of the Alabama Army National Guard on 6 June 1969.  The insignia was redesignated with the description amended effective 30 December 1983, for Headquarters, State Area Command, Alabama Army National Guard. It was redesignated retroactive to 1 October 2003, for the Alabama Army National Guard Element, Joint Force Headquarters and amended to update the description and add a symbolism.





That for regiments or separate battalions of the Alabama Army National Guard: From a wreath of colors, a slip of cotton plant with full bursting boll, Proper (The wreath colors will be the first named metal and non-metal colors in the shield of the organization’s coat of arms).


Cotton is a great element of wealth in the State.


The crest for color bearing organizations of the State of Alabama was approved on 10 April 1923. It was amended to correct the blazon and symbolism on 26 November 2007.



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© Hubert de Vries 2012-09-07. Updated 2019-07-26



[1] Flags, Seals, and Coat of Arms of Alabama" (1941) Visual Education Project. Birmingham: Works Projects Administration of Alabama

[2] State Arms of the Union. L. Prang & Co. Boston 1876.

[3] Acts of Alabama, March 14, 1939. Alabama State Emblems, Alabama Department of Archives and History, n.d.. Image provided by Robert Sears. From:


[4] In a letter from Joseph  Mcmillan, 26.07.2019

[5] The photograph of the Bibb drawing is from the U.S. National Archives and was published in the University of Alabama’s “Alabama Heritage” magazine in 2014.  https://www.alabamaheritage.com/issue-114-fall-2014.html

In his February 16, 1818, letter to Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, Gov. William Wyatt Bibb enclosed this small ink and watercolor drawing (much enlarged here) on paper. It was used by Moritz Furst to create the invisible map of Alabama featured on the first official seal of Alabama. (National Archives and Records Administration)

[6] Smith, Whitney: The Flag Book of the United States. Pp. 99-102, Pl. XI   See also: Zieber, Eugene: Heraldry in America. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1895. P. 112.

[7] Act 1868-133, Acts of Alabama, December 29, 1868. Act 39-20, Acts of Alabama, April 15, 1939 Alabama State Emblems, Alabama Department of Archives and History, nd.  Graphic provided by Information Services Division, Ala. Dept. of  Finance

[8] Smith, Whitney, op. cit., p. 102.

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