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Indigenous peoples inhabited Missouri for thousands of years before European exploration and settlement. In 1682 the region was taken into possession for king Louis XIV by René Robert Cavalier. In 1764 French from New Orleans founded St. Louis. From 1764 to 1803, European control of the area west of the Mississippi to the northernmost part of the Missouri River basin, called Louisiana, was assumed by the Spanish as part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, due to Treaty of Fontainebleau (in order to have Spain join with France in the war against England). They arrived in St. Louis in September 1767.

Napoleon Bonaparte had gained Louisiana for French ownership from Spain in 1800 under the Treaty of San Ildefonso. But, as the treaty was kept secret, Louisiana remained nominally under Spanish control until a transfer of power to France on 30 November 1803, just three weeks before the cession to the United States by the Louisiana Purchase. Missouri became a part of Upper Louisiana in March 1804.

In 1812 it became a Territory which was admitted by the Missouri Compromise as the 24th state of the United States on 10 August 1821. Its temporary capital was in St. Charles. In 1826 the capital was shifted to its current, permanent location of Jefferson City, also on the Missouri.

After the secession of Southern states began in 1861, the Missouri legislature called for the election of a special convention on secession. The convention voted decisively to remain within the Union but somewhat later the state sided with the Confederates. After winning victories at the battle of Wilson's Creek and the siege of Lexington, Missouri and suffering losses elsewhere, the Confederate forces had to retreat to Arkansas and later Marshall, Texas, in the face of a largely reinforced Union Army.

Though regular Confederate troops staged some large-scale raids into Missouri, the fighting in the state for the next three years consisted chiefly of guerrilla warfare until the end of the Civil War.




In the time of the Territory (1812-’21) Missouri was more or less represented by an emblem which contained some elements of the emblem of former French Louisiana. The French Virgin was replaced by the bust of Cicero (?) with a crown of laurel  but the display of commodities and ships on the roads was as before.


Emblem on a 5 dollar note from the Bank of Missouri, 1818


The achievement and seal of Missouri were designed by Judge Robert William Wells, congressman.

The description as prescribed by an “Act approved January 11th, 1822,”  reads as follows:


“The device for an armorial achievement for the state of Missouri shall be as follows, to wit: Arms, parted per pale; on the dexter side, gules, the white or grizzly bear of Missouri, passant guardant, proper, on a chief engrailed azure, a crescent argent; on the sinister side, argent, the arms of the United States, the whole within a band inscribed with the words, ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’ For the crest, over a helmet full faced, grated with six bars, or, a cloud proper, from which ascends a star argent, and above it a constellation of twenty-three smaller stars, aregent, on an azure field, surrounded by a cloud proper. Supporters on each side, a white or grizzly bear of Missouri, rampant, guardant proper, standing on a scroll inscribed with the motto ‘Salus populi suprema lex esto,’ and under the scroll the numerical letters MDCCCXX.  And the great seal of the state shall be so engraved as to present by its impression the device of the armorial achievement foresaid, surrounded by a scroll inscribed with the words, ‘THE GREAT SEAL OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI,’ in Roman capitals, which seal shall be in a circular form and not more than two and a half inches in diameter.” [1]


That is:


Arms: Per pale, the dexter per fess: the dexter chief Azure, a crwcent Argent, the dexter base Gules, a grizzly bear proper; the sinister Argent, the achievement of the United States proper.

Crest: On a helmet guardant Or 24 five-pointed stars Or, the 24th larger than the other ones.

Supporters: Two grizzly bears proper

Motto: 1. On a strap around the shield: UNITED WE STAND DIVIDED WE FALL; 2. On a ribbon in base: SALUS POPULI SUPREMA LEX ESTO (The wellbeing of the people is the supreme law)


In the achievement

The crescent symbolizes the newness of statehood and the potential for growth

The grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis - Ursidæ) symbolizes strength and bravery

The achievement of the United States the loyalty to the union.

The helmet symbolizes sovereignty and the crest the twenty-four states of the Union of which Missouri was the 24th

The motto Salus populi suprema lex esto (translated as :"Let the good of the people be the supreme law" or "The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law") is from Cicero's De Legibus (Book III, part 3, § 8), as Ollis salus populi suprema lex esto.


At some time the achievement was usually displayed free in the field but nowadays it is often seen as a part of the seal. [2]


Æ See illustration in the head of this essay showing a version of 1876.


Seal, original black and white version

Seal, a coloured version


In 1869 the seal, which had come into the hands of Thomas Reynolds, (governor 1840-’44) during the civil war, was returned to the new Missouri government. In a letter of governor Joseph W. McClurg dated 27 May 1869 Thomas Reynolds is extensively thanked for the consignment.


Letter of Joseph McClurg to Thomas Reynolds 27.05.1869


Armed Forces


The Missouri Volunteer Militia (MVM) was the informal state militia that could be called up by the governor for emergencies or annual drill "in accordance with the Missouri State Statutes of 1854."

During the 1861 secession crisis, the MVM force was surprised and captured by unofficial Unionist "Home Guard" militia led by U.S. Army regulars. This caused the Missouri legislature to pass the "Military Bill" proposed by Governor Jackson, which gave the governor near-dictatorial control over the militia, and reorganized it into the Missouri State Guard.


Flag of the Missouri Volunteer Militia (1858-1861).

Captured by Federal forces under the command of Captain Nathaniel Lyon in 1861.


The Missouri State Guard (MSG) was a state militia organized in the state of Missouri during the early days of the American Civil War. While not initially a formal part of the Confederate States Army, the State Guard fought alongside Confederate troops and, at times, under regular Confederate officers.


The Missouri State Guard did not have an official flag until MSG General Sterling Price ordered on June 5, 1861,

"III. Each regiment will adopt the State flag, made of blue merino, 6 by 5 feet, with the Missouri coat-of-arms in gold gilt on each side. Each mounted company will have a guidon, the flag of which will be of white merino, 3 by 2½ feet, with the letters M.S.G. in gilt on each side."


Interestingly, a number of Missouri (Federal) volunteer regiments were issued a flag of an almost identical pattern: a blue flag, with the Missouri state arms in gold. This is an example of the long-running struggle between Missouri's (post-June 17, 1861) Unionist government in Jefferson City and Claiborne Fox Jackson's (and later Thomas C. Reynolds') secessionist government-in-exile for control of symbols of Missouri governmental legitimacy.


Missouri State Army Command





That for regiments and separate battalions of the Missouri Army National Guard:  From a wreath of colors, a grizzly bear rampant Proper.


The grizzly bear is native in Missouri and has been a portion of the Sate Seal since 1822.


The crest for color bearing organizations of the State of Missouri was approved on 19 June 1922.

Shoulder Sleeve Insignia



On a red shield 6.35 cm in width and 7.62 cm in height, a black bear standing erect on a wreath of six twists alternating yellow and blue.


The grizzly bear is native in Missouri and has been a portion of the State Seal since 1822.  The territory was originally a part of the Louisiana Purchase and the twists of the wreath are accordingly yellow and blue.


The shoulder sleeve insignia was originally approved for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Missouri National Guard on 30 September 1949.  It was redesignated on 30 December 1983, for Headquarters, State Area Command, Missouri Army National Guard.  (TIOH Dwg. No. A-1-486). [3]


Distinctive Unit Insignia





A gold color metal and enamel device 2.86 cm in height overall consisting of a gold grizzly bear standing erect, hind paws coinciding with the lower edge of a concave blue scroll lined blue, terminating at the waist of the bear and inscribed on the left "PROTECTORS," and on the right, "OF PEACE," in gold letters, all with red in the areas enclosed by the conjoining scroll.  The insignia is worn in pairs.


The grizzly bear is native to Missouri and has been a portion of the State Seal since 1822.  The blue and gold refer to the Missouri Army National Guard crest denoting the State as originally being part of the Louisiana Purchase.  The red, symbolic of courage, reflects the attributes of the grizzly bear.


The distinctive unit insignia was originally approved for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment and noncolor bearing units of the Missouri Army National Guard on 20 July 1971.  It was redesignated effective 30 December 1983, for Headquarters, State Area Command, Missouri Army National Guard.




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© Hubert de Vries 2014-08-23


[1] Laws of Missouri, vol. ii. p. 721.

[2] Lit.: Smith, Whitney: The Flag Book of the United States. 1976.  Zieber, Eugene: Heraldry in America. Published by the Department of Heraldry of the Bailey, Banks and Biddle Company. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1895. Wikipedia.

[3] Retrieved from Pentagon heraldic site

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