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The Seal

The Arms

Armed forces

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French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet explored the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers in 1673. As a result of their exploration, the Pays de Illinois - sometimes referred to as la Haute-Louisiane - became a vast region of Nouvelle France. In 1763 it passed to the British.The area was ceded to the new United States in 1783 and became part of the Northwest Territory.


The Illinois-Wabash Company was an early claimant to much of Illinois. An early western outpost of the United States, Fort Dearborn, was established in 1803 (at the site of present-day Chicago), and the creation of the Illinois Territory followed on February 3, 1809.

On 3 December 1818, Illinois became the 21st U.S. state. Early U.S. expansion began in the south part of the state and quickly spread northward, driving out the native residents. [1] In 1832, some Indians returned from Iowa but were driven out in the Black Hawk War, fought by militia.

Illinois is known as the “Land of Lincoln” because it is here that the 16th President spent his formative years. Chicago gained prominence as a lake and canal port after 1848, and as a rail hub soon afterward. By 1857, Chicago was the state's dominant metropolis.




Until 1763 the heraldic devices of Nouvelle France were valid in Illinois and later the emblems of the Province of Quebec. These were succeeded by the heraldic devices of the United States and the Northwest Territory.


The Seal


Territorial Seal

Illinois was part of the US territory northwest of the Ohio River until 1809, when it became the Territory of Illinois. The governor and judges decided to create a territorial seal. They chose a design based closely on the earliest seal of the United States. There are only a few impressions of this seal still existing, and the image is fuzzy.[2]


 Seal of  the Territory of Illinois, 1809


Seal: American eagle without motto, clouds and a constellation of 15 stars.

Legend: «« ILLINOIS ............ IR.......A...... «« MDCCCIX


First State Seal

In 1818, Illinois was admitted to the Union. The next year the First General Assembly enacted a law that stated the Secretary of State had the duty to create a seal to be agreed upon by the Governor and Supreme Court Justices.

“The Great Seal of State was provided for by the act of February 19th, 1819. Under this acte the first governor of the state, Shadrrach Bond, and the first justices of the Supreme Court, procured a permanent state seal. Who designed the signet is not now known. [3]

The eagle on the seal of 1819


The parts of the seal's design are:

1.the arms: Paly Argent and Gules of 13 pieces and a chief Azure representing the states, and the chief that represents the Congress and unity of the states. The colors are white (purity, innocence); red (valor and hardiness); and blue (vigilance, perseverance, justice).

2.Constellation of stars, (sometimes 13 stars) representing a new state taking its place among others. In some seals the stars are bursting out of the clouds.

3.American eagle, with scroll inscribed STATE SOVEREIGNTY NATIONAL UNION

4.Olive branch and arrows, representing war and peace, which are powers of Congress


The Second Seal

The seal of 1818 was used until 1839, when it was recut by the then current Secretary of State.


State of Illinois, second seal, 1839


The second seal resembled in style the seal of the Masi Treaty, which was struck in 1825. Note the eagle has been reversed and its wings are pointed skyward. The constellation is gone, but three stars are now on the chief. There are only three arrows left in the eagle’s talons. The number of stripes on the escutcheon are not thirteen. This number symbol has disappeared.


Seal of 1868

The second seal was used until the general assembly met in 1867, when by an act approved March 7 of that year, the secretary of state was ‘authorized and required to renew the great seal of state, and to procure it as nearly as practicable of the size, form and intend of the seal now in use, and conforming with the original design, as follows: “American eagle on a boulder in prairie – the sun rising in distant horizon,” and scroll in eagle’s beak, in which shalle be inscribed the words: “State Sovereighnty,” ”National Union,” to corrrespond with the original seal of state in every particular.”


State of Illinois, seal of 1868


“The old state seal had borne the motto: ‘State Sovereignty and National Union,’ Inspried by the strong national spirit then prevailing, and informed in every effort by zeal to emphasize the late ascendency of the federal government, the majority wing of the legislature sought to transpose the old motto that the future generations of Illinois might read the sentiment of the state to be ‘Naional Union and State Sovereignty.’ But the determined opposition which the bill provoked in the Democratic party forced the assembly to cling to the ancient seal, and the bill was finally amended to read after  the manner already quoted. The sentiment was left as it was when first expressed by the first governor and his venerable associates. But even with the sanction of a legislative enactment, the old seal was immutable. It was not reproduced with exactness. The Secretary of State, resorting to a clever expedient, in executing the provisions of the act, so altered the poise of the eagle on that boulder in the prairie, that the federal end of his pennant was flaunted uppermost, and upon the present seal, the motto of the commonwealth must be read inversely to be read aright.”[4]


Coloured version as on the flag adopted 1970


The Arms


Derived from the seal are the coat of arms. These consist  merely of the image on the seal without its legend, placed on a shield or a background of arbitrary shape. Early representations of the arms are from 1876 and the end of the 19th century but they can hardly be seen in public.


Ć See illustration in the head of this article





From: Arms of the States and Territories of the American Union. By A.J. Connell, 1876

As on paper money, 1882






Coat of arms

(Shoulder Sleeve Insignia)


Illinois Army National Guard






That for the regiments and separate battalions of the Illinois Army National Guard:  From a wreath of colors, upon a grassy field the blockhouse of old Fort Dearborn Proper.



The Fort Dearborn Blockhouse represents one of the earliest and most famous of the military establishments of the United States in the Northwest Territory.  While not the first place in Illinois to have an American garrison, it was in reality the first permanent fort established.



The crest was approved for color bearing organizations of the State of Illinois on 5 February 1923.  The crest was amended to change the wording of the approval on 14 August 1924.

Distinctive Unit Insignia



A gold color metal and enamel device 3.02 cm in height overall consisting of a green sprig of oak, consisting of two leaves and an acorn surmounting in base the gray blockhouse of old Fort Dearborn (that from the Illinois Army National Guard crest) and all above a red scroll, the ends terminating at opposite sides of the fort inscribed "WE ACCOMMODATE" in gold letters.



The sprig of oak, symbolic of valor, bravery and courage, together with the blockhouse of Fort Dearborn, one of the earliest and most famous of the military establishments of the United States in the Northwest territory, allude to the attributes and home area of the organization.  The oak further refers to the state tree of Illinois.



The distinctive unit insignia was originally approved for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment and noncolor bearing units of the Illinois Army National Guard on 3 May 1971.  It was redesignated and amended to revise the description and symbolism for Headquarters, State Area Command, Illinois Army National Guard effective 30 December 1983.  The insignia was redesignated effective 1 October 2003, for the Illinois Army National Guard Element, Joint Force Headquarters and amended to update the description.


Shoulder Sleeve Insignia




On a blue shield 8.89 cm in height and 6.35 cm in width, a yellow silhouetted head of Abraham Lincoln.



The shoulder sleeve insignia was originally approved for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Illinois National Guard on 16 February 1949.  It was redesignated with description amended for the Headquarters, State Area Command, Illinois Army National Guard on 30 December 1983.  The insignia was redesignated effective 1 October 2003 for the Illinois Army National Guard Element, Joint Force Headquarters and amended to update the description.  (TIOH Dwg. No. A-1-481)



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 © Hubert de Vries 2017-02-13




[1] For the history of the native peoples of Illinois Ć http://www.tolatsga.org/ill.html

[2] http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibits/symbols/seal.html

[3] Zieber, Eugene: Heraldry in America. Published by the Department of Heraldry of the Bailey, Banks and Biddle Company. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1895. Pp. 128-129

[4] Ibid. p. 129

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