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North Carolina

South Carolina



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South Carolina


The east of America between 31° and 36° north latitude was colonized during the reign of Charles II of England (1660-’85). After King Charles II it received the name Carolina. Soon a great difference arose between the north and the south. For that reason the province was partioned in 1729 in North Carolina and South Carolina. In 1776 both colonies signed the act of independence. South-Carolina ratified the constitution in 1788 and North-Carolina in 1789.






After 1730 a new seal came into use. This represented a scene of the king and a personification of South Carolina on the obverse and the royal achievement on the reverse. No print of this seal could be found but there is a representation on the mace of state of South Carolina, made in 1756.


Panel 1

Panel 2

The Provicial seal on the mace of 1756

The royal achievement on the mace of 1756


The obverse of the seal as represented on the mace consists of  a scene of George II in his coronation robes, crowned and holding the orb and sceptre, being curtsied to by a female personification of South Carolina her right hand forwards, her left hand backwards. The barefoot gowned personification wears a turreted civic crown symbolizing Charles Town (Charleston). Beneath the duo the provincial motto is situated: PROPIUS RES ASPICE NOSTRAS or ‘Look more closely on our affairs’.


The seal of George III (1776-1820) for South Carolina


Obverse: The King standing pointing at a personification of South Carolina kneeling, both hand forwards..

Reverse: The royal achievement of Great Britain surrounded by the name and titles of King George III.




The Seal


The General Assembly of the Provincial Congress of South Carolina authorized the designing and making of the Great Seal of South Carolina on April 2 1776. This first seal of state was an imitation of the former seals for the province of South Carolina, the scene with the king and the personification of South Carolina replaced by a representation of the personification of South Carolina only. The royal achievement was replaced by a new coat of arms combining several new local  symbols.


“The device for the armorial achievement and reverse of the Great Seal of the State of South Carolina was as follows:

“ARMS. A Palmetto-tree growingh on the sea-shore erect; at its base a torn-up oak-tree,its branches lopped off, prostrate: both proper.

“Just below the branches of the Palmetto, two shields pendent; one of them on the dexter side is inscribed March26, the other on the sinister side July4. Twelve spears proper, and bound crosswise to the stem of the Palmetto, their points raised; the band uniting them together bearing the inscription QUIS SEPARABIT. Under the prostrate oak is inscribed MELIOREM LAPSO LOCAVIT, below which appears in large figures 1776; the the summit of the exergue are the words SOUTH CAROLINA, and at the bottom of the same ANIMIS OPIBUSQUE PARATI.

“REVERSE. A woman walking on the Sea-shore over swords and daggers; she holds in her dexter hand a laurel branch, and in her sinister the folds of her robe; she looks towards the sun just rising above the sea, all proper; on the upper part is the sky azure.

“At the summit of the exergue are the words DUM SPIRO SPERO; and within the field below the figure is inscribed the word SPES. The seal is in the form of a circle, four inches in diameter; and four-tenths of an inch thick.


“It was not designed until after the fort (Moultrie) at Sullivan’s Island had defeated the British fleet, as all its devices will prove. The fort was constructed of the stems of the palmetto-trees (corypha palmetto) which grow abundantly on our sea islands, - which grew on Sullivan’s Island at the time the fort was made, when the battle was fought, and which grow there at this day.

“The Arms were designed by William Henry Drayton, and the original executed by him with a pen, bearing great similitude to what is represented on the seal, is in the possession of his son. It, however, contains more devices, but this is easily reconciled by supposing all he had designed was not deemed by the President and Privy Council necessary for the Great Seal. The explanation of this side of the seal is the following: The Palmetto-tree on the seashore represents the fort on Sullivan’s Island, the shields bearing March 28 and July 4 allude to the Constitution of South Carolina, which was made by the Continental Congress on the last of them.

“The sun rising in great brilliancy above the sea indicates thatthe 28th of Jun was a fine day, it also bespeaks good fortune.” [1]


In early 1777 George Smithson engraved this coin silver matrix or die, designed by William Henry Drayton and Arthur Middleton. Drayton wrote that like the obverse, the reverse, which depicts the figure of the Latin goddess Spes (Hope) walking on the seashore, referred to the heroic victory at the palmetto log fort on Sullivan’s Island.  The silver die carries the state motto: DUM SPIRO SPERO (While I breathe, I hope). It was used to make large pendant wax seals. [2] 


A second small state seal engraved in 1812 is missing in the state archives. It was used in the Charleston office of the secretary of state. A third small state seal was created in 1823 at the request of Governor John L. Wilson and was used in the Columbia office. It was probably engraved by Charleston’s Charles Simons. [3] “An Act concerning the Seal of the State.’ which enacts ‘that hereafter there shall be two copies of the small seal of the state, one to be kept in the office of the Secretary of State in Charleston and the other in the office of the Secretary of State in Columbia, and that the copy of the seal of the state usually called the small seal which has been procured by his Excellency John L. Wilson, Governor and Commander in chief in and over the State of South Carolina, shall be deposited in the office of the Secretary of State at Columbia and hereafter used in the said office as the seal of the State, any law, usage or custom to the contrary notwithstanding.’ [4]

This third seal represented, on a disc with palm-leaves and branches of laurel in saltire, both the arms and the reverse in alliance.

Die of the third small seal, 1823

Representing the device of South Carolina


South Carolina State Seal 1861-‘65


The South Carolina Constitution of 1895 says that “the seal of the State now in use shall be used by the Governor officially, and shall be called “The Great Seal of the State of South Carolina’” [5] At this occasion the description of the arms and the reverse of 1776 was not changed. In comparison with the seal of 1823 the representations of the arms and reverse in what we may call the device of South Carolina were changed in that the inscription MELIOREM LAPSA LOCAVIT 1776 was added in base of the arms On the reverse the word SPES was inscribed in base instead of on the bordure surrounding the secene with the lady. Also, the two branches supporting both the arms and the reverse were replaced by branches of olive and laurel.


The Arms             


In the arms the motto MELIOREM LAPSO LOCAVIT (A better one for the one felled) soon came to be neglected and later the date 1776 was also omitted. During the Civil War the ribbon inscribed QUIS SEPARABIT and the dates on the shields also disappeared. After 1895 motto, date and ribbon with inscription were restored.

The arms of South Carolina

On Thomas Doolittle’s “A display of the United states of America”, 1787


Civil War 1861-‘65

Arms, 1861-‘65


Patriotic badges were advertised in the Vicksburg Evening Citizen in the spring of 1861. Editor James Swords produced the badges with the state seal of each Southern state in the center. Shown is the version with the palmetto tree, representing South Carolina


Button of the South Carolina troops


Vignette of a Palmetto tree

Union Bank of South Carolina - South Carolina 1860's


The arms at the end of the 19th beginning 20th century


Present seal of the Governor of South Carolina


The Device


South Carolina has an armorial device consisting of an alliance of the two sides of the first seal of state adopted 1776.

South Carolina armorial device after 1812



Device of South Carolina after 1895


Nowadays the device is often represented in color but, as the drawing of both the arms and the reverse is quite inaccurate on some points, the result is disappointing most of the time. [6]


Æ See illustration in the head of this article


The Achievement


Very soon after the adoption of the seal with the arms and the ‘reverse” an achievement appeared. This was noticed by Eugene Zieber who wrote:

“The seal as above described contains the arms of the state. There has, however, been used for many years at the head of advertisements of proclamations, official papers, and the like, a representation, which represents two sides of the seal, which Liberty on one side with a crown in her hand, a Continental soldier on the other side, and Fame going from Liberty to te soldier. How and when this was adopted has not been ascertained.” [7]


Achievement of South Carolina


This early achievement of South Carolina appeared on March 28, 1785 in the nameplate of the State Gazette of South Carolina, a Charleston newspaper. The paper was published by Ann Timothy, the state's printer. The arms replaced the royal achievement which was in the head of the former South Carolina Gazette  [8]


Achievement of South Carolina

Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Rail Road ( Certificate #1) - Charleston, South Carolina 1838


Achievement of South Carolina

South Carolina Railroad Company £300 Bond - South Carolina, 1866


Achievement of South Carolina

South Carolina 20$ revenue note


Achievement of South Carolina

Charleston Coastwise Transportation Co. - South Carolina 1875



Achievement of South Carolina

From: Mitchell, Henry:The State Arms of the Union. Boston, 1876





The Mace

Mace of the House of Representatives

Courtesy of the Clerk’s office, S.C. House of Representatives


The 122 cm long, 4,9 kg mace was crafted in 1756 by Magdalen Filene of London, believed to be the widow of the great Huguenot goldsmith, Edward Filene. The head of the mace holds four panels:

·         The first depicts the opposite site of the provincial seal. This consisted of a seated George II, bedecked in his coronation robes, crowned holding the orb and sceptre being curtsied to by a female personification of South Carolina. The barefoot gowned personification wears a turreted civic crown symbolizing Charles Town (Charleston). Beneath the duo the provincial motto is situated: PROPIUS RES ASPICE NOSTRAS or ‘Look more closely on our affairs’.

  • The second panel displays the coat of arms of George II which made up one side of the seal of the Province of South Carolina.
  • The third panel shows an allegory of agriculture, exhibited by the farmer at his plow, with a house and church spire in the background.
  • The fourth and final panel is an allegory of commerce, depicting a woman sitting on a wharf holding in her right hand a ship and in her left a coin-purse. Surrounding the seated woman are bales, chests, and an anchor, while a tower, church spire, and town buildings can be seen in the background.


The four panels described above


The mace was commissioned for 90 guineas on March 8, 1756 at the same time as robes for the Speaker and a gown for the Clerk were requested. During the Revolution, loyal Carolinians tried to raise money for the Tory side by attempting to sell the mace to the House of Assembly of the Bahamas. Apparently, the sale was approved, but never completed. The mace then disappeared until 1819 when the Hon. Langdon Cheves, a South Carolinian, discovered it in the Philadelphia vaults of the Bank of the United States (of which he was President), and was promptly returned to the Palmetto State. The last time the mace disappeared was when it was stolen on February 3, 1971. It was recovered within a fortnight and returned to the State House in Columbia where it remains today.


The mace currently used by the lower house of the General Assembly of South Carolina is an example of pre-revolutionary legislative regalia. In 1880 the tradition of the Speaker's procession was restored and since that year every legislative day has begun with the mace being borne by the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House, followed by the Speaker. When the Speaker reaches his chair in the House chamber, he exchanges bows with the Sergeant-at-Arms, who then places the mace upon its holster before the rostrum, exchanges bows with the Speaker once more, and thence the legislative day is called to commence. Whenever the House and Senate meet in joint session, the Mace is carried at the head of the procession.


When the House is invited by the Senate to ratify passed legislation, the Sergeant-at-Arms bears the mace before the Speaker and the Clerk of the House in a solemn procession through the corridors of the State House, across the rotunda to the Senate chamber. There, it is put in a holding place just below the Sword of State, symbol of authority in the Senate and interesting in its own right, while the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, and the Clerks of both houses sign the acts. [9]


The Sword of State


The Sword of State (SC)


The Sword of State was secured and used by the Lords Proprietors' Executive Council until that body passed out of existence with the overthrow of the government of the Lords Proprietors in South Carolina in December of 1719.

Thereafter it was used by His Majesty's Executive Council for South Carolina, at least until June 23, 1722, when Arthur Middleton, President of the Executive Council, and Acting Governor, informed the Commons House of Assembly that it was “no way proper to be used by any of His Majesty's Governor” and suggested that the House give it to the “Corporation of Charles City (Charles Town) and Port, to be carried before the Mayor.”[10]


The current Sword of State was presented on February 20, 1951 as a personal gift to South Carolina from Lord Halifax, sometime Ambassador of Her Britannic Majesty to these United States. The original Sword of State, having been made in 1704, predated the Mace, but sadly disappeared mysteriously in 1941. A cavalry sword dating from 1800 was made available by the Charleston Museum as a replacement for the 1704 Sword of State and functioned in this capacity until the gift of Lord Halifax was presented. The Sword of State features on the seal of the Senate, while the Mace denotes the seal of the House of Representatives.


This sword rests in the customary rack on the Senate rostrum in front of the President's chair during the daily sessions and is carried by the Sergeant-at-Arms on all State occasions. [11]


South Carolina Army National Guard Element, Joint Force Headquarters





That for regiments and separate battalions of the South Carolina Army National Guard: From a wreath of colors, upon a mount Vert a palmetto tree Proper charged with a crescent Argent.



South Carolina is known as the Palmetto State. "The flag…has always been the state flag…a palmetto tree…and a white crescent." On September 13, 1775, Colonel Moultrie received an order from the Council of Safety for taking Fort Johnson on James Island, South Carolina. His troops carried a blue flag with silver crescent in the dexter corner. The troops were clothed in blue and wore silver crescents in the front of their caps. "This was the first American Flag displayed in the South." It was this flag which was shot from the bastion of Fort Sullivan and which Sergeant Jasper fastened to a sponge staff and replaced June 28, 1776. ("The Flag of the United States and other National Flags," by Admiral Preble, pages 209, 210 and 628).



The crest for color bearing organizations of the State of South Carolina was approved on 31 December 1923.


Distinctive Unit Insignia



A gold color metal and enamel device 1 3/16 inches (3.02 cm) in height overall consisting of a blue obovate shaped background, the lower sides concave, bearing a gold palmetto, the trunk in back of a white eight-pointed star (one point up) with small gold center ("pierced" center), and in front of a white crescent (tips up), the inner (upper) edge touching the three middle points of the star on either side and terminating at the upper two points, all above a blue scroll, inscribed "PALMETTO MINUTEMAN" in gold letters, circumscribing the outer (lower) edge of the crescent, and the two outer portions (ends) of gold, each with one undulating fold tapering upwards and outwards and merging with the upper periphery of the background.



South Carolina is known as the Palmetto State and the palmetto, the official State tree, appears on the obverse of the State seal adopted 2 April 1776.  A flag consisting of a white crescent (in the upper corner of the hoist) on a blue field was first displayed at Fort Johnson on James Island, South Carolina, shortly after it was taken and garrisoned 13 September 1775, by the two South Carolina Regiments formed at the outbreak of the American Revolution, the blue uniform of the troops and their silver crescent cap badges suggesting the design of the flag to Colonel William Moultrie, the garrison Commander.  On 28 January 1861, the blue flag with its white crescent was modified by the addition of a white palmetto in the center, and has been since then the official flag of the State of South Carolina.  A palmetto tree in its natural colors with a silver (white) crescent superimposed on the fronds was authorized 31 December 1923, as the official crest of the South Carolina National Guard; and the shoulder sleeve insignia authorized 19 March 1952 is similar in pattern to the State flag.  The eight points of the “star” or spur rowel refer to South Carolina being the eighth of the original thirteen colonies to ratify the Constitution.  A spur rowel in itself is symbolic of readiness, speed and determination in pressing onward despite all obstacles.  A spur rowel also alludes to “winning one’s spurs” - the performance of duty and the accomplishment of some action which brings honor.



The distinctive unit insignia was originally approved for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment and noncolor bearing units of the South Carolina Army National Guard on 28 May 1971.  The insignia was redesignated effective 1 October 1982, for Headquarters, State Area Command, South Carolina Army National Guard.  It was redesignated effective 1 October 2003, for the South Carolina Army National Guard Element, Joint Force Headquarters and amended to update the description


Shoulder Sleeve Insignia



On a blue shield with a 1/8 inch (.32 cm) white border, 2 7/16 inches (6.19 cm) in width and 3 inches (7.62 cm) in height overall, a palmetto tree on a mound and in upper left corner a crescent, both white.


The coat of arms is adapted from the crest of the South Carolina Army National Guard.


The shoulder sleeve insignia was originally approved for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, South Carolina National Guard on 19 March 1952.  It was redesignated on 30 December 1983, for Headquarters, State Area Command, South Carolina Army National Guard.  The insignia was redesignated effective 1 October 2003, for the South Carolina Army National Guard Element, Joint Force Headquarters and amended to update the description and add a symbolism. (TIOH Dwg. No. A-1-177)


Catawba Indian Nation


Catawba Indian Nation / Catawba Tribe of South Carolina


Seal of the Catawba Indian Nation


A pale orange pot centered on the circular seal represents Catawba pottery. On it is an image of Chief Haigler (†1763), first chief of the Catawba Nation, in burnt orange. Behind the pot runs the Catawba River in blue and the lands of the Catawba in green. Ringing the central device is an orange band with “Great Seal of the Catawba Indian Nation” in black. Beyond this is a yellow serrated “sunburst” ring, backed by a burnt-orange field. The entire seal is ringed by a narrow black band.

When used as a flag, the seal is on a burnt-orange field recalling terra-cotta pottery. The Catawba people thus bring the symbol of their past - the pottery - into the newest symbol of their sovereignty - the flag.

Obverse and reverse of the Flag of the Catawba Rangers [12]


A historic flag associated with the Catawba is the banner of the "Catawba Rangers", who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Of blue silk with a light blue silk fringe, it had two scrolls - the upper bearing "OUR BATTLE CRY", the lower bearing "LIBERTY OR DEATH", both in gold lettering. Between the scrolls were an old-style gun, two crossed swords, and a red star in the center flanked by gold letters 'S' on one side, 'C' on the other. Below this was a wreath held together by a hand pointing upward to the star. On the reverse, the top scroll bore "CATAWBA RANGERS" and the center bore a Palmetto Palm, symbol of South Carolina, with a snake stretched, ready to strike from the grass beneath. A ring of red stars and gold "beads" circled the central emblem (Confederate Veteran, 170, undated excerpt). [13]



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© Hubert de Vries 2016-02-22



[1] Zieber, Eugene: Heraldry in America. Published by the Department of Heraldry of the Bailey, Banks and Biddle Company. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1895. pp. 181-182

[2] Retired Matrices of the State Seal, Records of the Secretary of State. ARCHIVARIA: An Assortment of Interesting Items from the South Carolina State Archives

[3] Ibid.

[4] Zieber, Eugene: op. cit. pp. 181-182

[5] Shankle, Georg Earlie: State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and other Symbols. The H.W. Wilson Comp.. New York, 1951.

[6] Code of Laws of South Carolina 1902, in Two Vol’s State Constitution of 1895 (The State Company, State Printers, Columbia, South Carolina, 1902) Article IV, section 18, vol. 2, p. 70. Handbook of South Carolina, Resource, Insitutions and Industries of the State. 2nd Edition, 1908. E.J. Watson, Commisioner. The State dept. of Agriculture, Commerce and Immigration (The State Company, Columbia, South Carolina, 1908) pp. 38 & 40.

[7] Zieber op.loc.

[8]  http://www/scstatehouse.net/studentpage/stseal.htm

[9] http://www.andrewcusack.com/2005/the-mace-of-the-palmetto-state/

[10] http://www.carolana.com/Carolina/Governors/amiddleton.html

[11] Andrew Cussack op.cit

[12] http://www.state.sc.us/dio/docs/04%20Catawba%20Rangers%20reverse.jpg

[13] © Donald Healy 2008. Iinformation provided by Peter Orenski, 27 December 2007 http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/xa-cataw.html

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