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The Achievement

The Seal

Armed Forces

Indian Nations

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The United States acquired Wisconsin in the Treaty of Paris (1783)Massachusetts claimed the territory east of the Mississippi River between the present-day Wisconsin-Illinois border and present-day La Crosse, WisconsinVirginia claimed the territory north of La Crosse to Lake Superior and all of present-day Minnesota east of the Mississippi River. Shortly afterward, in 1787, the Americans made Wisconsin part of the new Northwest Territory. Later, in 1800, Wisconsin became part of Indiana Territory. Despite the fact that Wisconsin belonged to the United States at this time, the British continued to control the local fur trade and maintain military alliances with Wisconsin Indians.

By the mid-1840s, the population of Wisconsin Territory had exceeded 150,000, more than twice the number of people required for Wisconsin to become a state. In 1846, the territorial legislature voted to apply for statehood. That fall, 124 delegates debated the state constitution. The document produced by this convention was considered extremely progressive for its time. It banned commercial banking, granted married women the right to own property, and left the question of African-American suffrage to a popular vote. Most Wisconsinites considered the first constitution to be too radical, however, and voted it down in an April 1847 referendum.

In December 1847, a second constitutional convention was called. This convention resulted in a new, more moderate state constitution that Wisconsinites approved in a March 1848 referendum, enabling Wisconsin to become the 30th state on May 29, 1848. Wisconsin was the last state entirely east of the Mississippi River (and by extension the last state formed entirely from territory assigned to the U.S. in the 1783 Treaty of Paris) to be admitted to the Union.




The Achievement


The first achievement of Wisconsin was described on 6th of November 1851 as a part of the description of the seal. It was:


Arms: Quarterly in saltire, [Argent], in chief a plow, on the dexter an arm handling a hammer, on the sinister an anchor and in base a pick and shovel in saltire, all proper. In fess point an escutcheon per fess, the chief Azure 13 five-pointed stars Or, the base paly of thirteen pieces Gules and Argent, supported by branches of laurel proper and ensigned with a ribbon inscribed E PLURIBUS UNUM

Crest: on a wreath Or and Azure a badger proper.


Supporters: On the dexer a sailorman and on the sinister a miner dressed in the outfit of their profession, standing on two cornucopia Or with flowers of the season and pieces of pig lead.


A second achievement was adopted together with the new seal of 1881. It is:


Arms: Quarterly, [Or], in the first a plow, on the second a pick and shovel in saltire, in the third an arm handling a hammer, and in the fourth and anchor per pale, all proper. In fess point an escutcheon per fess, the chief Azure, the base paly of thirteen pieces Gules and Argent, surrounded by a strap inscribed E PLURIBUS UNUM

Crest: on a wreath Argent and Azure a badger proper.


Supporters: On the dexer a sailorman and on the sinister a yeoman dressed in their usual outfit, an resting a cornucopia Or with flowers of the season on the dexter and a pyramid of pig lead. on the sinister.


Æ See illustration in the head of this article


The present achievement and seal  were adopted by an act of the legislature approved on 1 April 1881.

The law reads:


“Section 1. arms of the state of Wisconsin is hereby declared to be as follows, viz:

ARMS. Or, quartered, the quarters bearing respectively a plow, a crossed shovel and pick, an arm and held hammer, and an anchor, all proper; the base of shield resting upon a horn of plenty and pyramid of pig lead, all proper; over all, on fesse point, the arms and motto of the United States, viz:. Arms, palewise of thirteen pieces argent and gules; a chief azure; motto (on garter surrounding in escutcheon), E pluribus unum.’

CREST: A badger, passant, proper

SUPPORTERS.  Dexter, a sailor holdong a coil of rope, proper; sinister, a yeoman resting on a pick, proper.

MOTTO. Over crest, ‘Forward.’

“ Section 2. The great seal of the state shall consist of a metallic disc, two and three-eighths inches in diameter, containing, within an ornamental border, the following devices and legend, viz.: The coat of arms of the state, as in this act descibed; above the arms, in a line parallel with the border, the words, ‘Great Seal of the State of Wisconsin;’ in the exergue, in a curved line, thirteen stars.

“Section 3. As the present great seal of the state has become so worn as to be incapable of making a fair impression, the governor is hereby authorized and directed to procure a new great seal, as hereinabove described, to be engraved in the best manner, with a suitable press for taking impressions therefrom; and thereafter to cause the great seal now in the keeping of the secetary of state to be defaced by filing two marks at right angles across the face of the same. The great seal now kept by the secretary of state shall continue to be used until the fourth day of July 1881, and thereafter the new seal, herein provided for, shal be used as the great seal of the state.”[1]


Seals of Wisconsin [2]


There have been five Great seals of the Territory and State of Wisconsin. The first designed to be ´emblematic of the mineral resources of Wisconsin,” was devised by Hon. John S. Horner, the first Secretary of the Territory, in consultation with Hon. Henry Dodge, the first Territorial Governor of Wisconsin. On the 28th of October, 1836, the Territorial House of Representatives, on motion of Mr. James P. Cox, of Iowa County, voted to adopts this seal. The Territorial Council, on tyhe second of November, adopted the report of the Committee on Territorial Affairs that ‘its devices are not such as the seal of the Territory ought to be, but as a mattar of expediency it had better be adopted by the Council for the present.’ Official documents show this seal to habe been in use as late as March 11, 1839.

“ The second Great Seal was designed and engraved in pursuiance of a resolution offered in the House of Representatives 18 November 1837, authorizing the secretary of the Territory to procure a sel ‘ indicating the various and peculiar resources of the territory of Wisconsin.’  This resolution was concurred in by the Council 21 November 1837, and 14 Decembe 1838, a committee reported on the new seal to the effect that, ‘ while it represents the pursuits of the citizens of the different parts of the Territory, mineral. agricultural and commercial, it at the same time, by its symbols and expressive motto, “ Civilitar Successit Barbarum.,” holds up to view in a strong light the progress of civilization and the continual regress of ignorance and barbarism. The seal shows an originality of design creditable to the artist; the more so as he is a native of our country and self taught in his art.’  March 11, 1839, Governor Dodge approved a resolution adopting the seal. this seal consyinued in use as late as 1 October 1849, over a year after the territory became a State, the Legislature having passed a joint esolution 21 June 1848, adopting the seal of the Territory as the seal of the State until another could be prepared.

“The third seal was the same in design as the second Territorial seal, the word ‘Territory’ being changed to ‘State.’ This was first used 1st of March 1850, and continued in use as late as 6th of November 1851. The fourth seal was described 31st of December 1851, in the office of the Secretary of State, as follows: ‘ The scroll surmouning the upper part of the seal reads “Great Seal of the State of Wisconsin,” followed below by thirteen stars for the original States of the Union. The shield is quartered, the quarters bearing, respective;y: a plough for agriculture, an arms and held hammer for manufacture, a crossed shovel and pick for mining, and an anchor for navigation, representing the industrial pursuits of the people of the State. The arms and motto of the United States are borne on the shield, in token of the allegiance of the State to the Union. The base point of the shield rests upon the hron of plent and a pyramid of lead ore. The supporters are a yeaman resting on a pick, representing labor by land, and a sailor holding a coil of rope, representing labor by water. The crest is a badger, the popular designation of the State, surmounting a scroll bearing the verbnacular motto “Forward.”’

“This seal was procured by Governor Dewey, first Governor of the State in his second term. The motto was suggested by the motto of New York, ‘Excelsior,’ and presenterd itself successiverly in the words ‘Upward,’ ‘Onward,’ and ‘Forard,’ the latter being chosen as the best word to express the progressive character of the young and growing State. The badger was places as the crest in com;iance with the popular sobriquet for Wisconsin people, the term having grown out of the custom of early miners to live in ‘dug-outs,’ suggestive of the badger’s burrowing in the gorund. The first three seal are not in theState Department, and their whereabouts is unknown.

In 1881 the old seal became so worn that a perfect imression could not be taken from it, and a new seal was ordered, which has since been in use.” [3]


Preceding Territories


The seal of the Northwest Territory was indeed significant and symbolic. Water transportation was represented by a wide placid winding river with two ships. A clearing felled with the woodsman’s axe representing lumbering and the conquering of the wilderness, but against the defiance of the serpent entwined around a felled log, probably simulating the wild and savage state yielding to the onward march of progress and civilization. The fruit tree (probably an apple tree) represents horticulture being introduced by the western pioneer agriculturist incidental to the trend of exploration and development. The Latin motto “meliorem lapsa locavit” translated is “he has planted a better than the fallen”. Æ Nortwest Territory

Great Seal of Michigan Territory when it included the area we call Wisconsin Æ Michigan.


Wisconsin Territory


Great Seal of Wisconsin Territory, adopted 28.10.1836


Wisconsin Territory was erected April 20, 1836, and adopted a great seal of which the chief features were an arm holding a pick and an irregular pile of lead ore, designed by Hon. John S. Horner, first Secretary of the Territory.


Great Seal of Wisconsin Territory, adopted 11.03.1839


Second territorial seal approved 11 March1839, engraved by William Wagner of York, Pa., was in use as late as 1 October 1849, or until the first state seal could be engraved and made ready for use


State of Wisconsin



On June 21, 1848, following the admission of Wisconsin to the Union, May 29, 1848, Edward H. Rudd was employed to engrave the first great seal of the state which was practically a reproduction of the second territorial seal described as follows: "In the foreground is a farmer, plowing: in the center, on a landscape, are a sheaf of wheat, a pyramid of pig metal, and a Indian erect: on the left side is a steamboat afloat; on the right a yacht under sail; in the upper distance, to the right, a flouring mill; in the upper center, the old capitol; above these objects, the motto "civilitas successit barbarum" or "Civilization has taken the place of barbarism".



The first great seal of the state was not pleasing to Governor Nelson Dewey. He therefore took steps, in 1851 to have a more satisfactory seal provided. It is said that on going to New York he carried with him a design, prepared, at his request, by Chancellor John H. Lathrop, of the University of Wisconsin, with the intention of having it engraved, and that upon chancing to meet, in Wall Street, Edward G. Ryan, afterwards chief justice of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, the Governor showed him the proposed design. Mr. Ryan, did not approve to this design and it was abandoned. The two then sat down together on the steps of one of the banks in Wall Street and there worked out the present coat of arms and the Great Seal of the State.


The Present Seal of Wisconsin



The seal of Wisconsin since 1881 and its present coloured version


The present great seal consists of a metallic disc 61,9 mm in diameter. Around the upper edge of the seal appear the words "GREAT SEAL OF THE STATE OF WISCONSIN" while around the lower edge appear thirteen stars representing the original states of the Union. The coat of arms of Wisconsin occupies the center and completes the Great Seal. (see the law in the previous section).


Wisconsin Army National Guard






That for regiments and separate battalions of the Wisconsin Army National Guard:  From a wreath of colors, a badger couchant Proper.



Wisconsin is known as the Badger State.  The badger appears on the State seal and flag.



The crest for color bearing organizations of the State of Wisconsin was approved on 8 September 1922


Distinctive Unit Insignia




A Gold color metal and enamel device 2.70 cm in height overall:  On a hexagon, one point up, divided per pale Or and Azure the coat of arms of the State of Wisconsin, as now in use, of Gold.



The sailor and yeoman jointly represent labor on water and land.  The quartered shield contains a plow for agriculture, pick and shovel for mining, arm and hammer for manufacturing and an anchor for navigation.  Centered on the shield is a small United States coat of arms to symbolize Wisconsin’s loyalty to the Union.  At the base, a cornucopia, or horn of plenty, stands for prosperity and abundance, while a pyramid of 13 lead ingots represents mineral wealth and the 13 original states.  The badger is the state animal and “Forward” is the state motto.



The distinctive unit insignia was originally approved for State Staff Corps and Departments, noncolor and nonstandard bearing units, Wisconsin National Guard on 13 August 1929.  It was redesignated for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment and noncolor bearing units of the Wisconsin Army National Guard on 31 December 1970.  The insignia was redesignated effective 1 October 1982, for Headquarters, State Area Command, Wisconsin Army National Guard.  It was redesignated for the Wisconsin Army National Guard Element, Joint Force Headquarters and amended to update the description and add a symbolism effective 1 October 2003


Shoulder Sleeve Insignia




On a red shield, 6.03 cm in width and 6.35 cm in height, a badger's face, black with white markings and red tongue.



The red of the background is one of the National colors.  The badger is from the crest of the State Seal of Wisconsin and alludes to the State nickname "The Badger State."



The shoulder sleeve insignia was originally approved for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Wisconsin National Guard on 2 December 1952.  It was redesignated for Headquarters, State Area Command, Wisconsin Army National Guard on 30 December 1983.  The insignia was amended to correct the wording of the description and symbolism on 7 August 1986.  It was redesignated for the Wisconsin Army National Guard Element, Joint Force Headquarters and amended to update the description effective 1 October 2003. (TIOH Dwg. No)


Indian Nations of Wisconsin


Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians of the Bad River Reservation, Wisconsin



Forest County Potawatomi Community, Wisconsin



Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin



Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of the Lac du Flambeau Reservation of Wisconsin



Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin



Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin



Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin



St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin




Sokaogon Chippewa Community, Wisconsin



Stockbridge Munsee Community, Wisconsin


Mohican Nation

The Mahican (also Mohican) are an Eastern Algonquian Native American tribe, originally settled in the Hudson River Valley (around Albany, New York) and western New England. After 1680, due to conflicts with the Mohawk, many moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Since the 1830s, most descendants of the Mahican are located in Shawano County, Wisconsin, where they formed the federally recognized Stockbridge-Munsee Community with the Lenape people and have a 8,900 ha reservation.


The Mahican were living in and around the Mahicannituck (as they called the Hudson River), along the Mohawk River and Hoosic River at the time of their first contact with Europeans after 1609, during the settlement of New Netherland. The Mahican referred to themselves collectively as the Muhhekunneuw, (people of the great river). The Mahican territory was bounded on the northwest by Lake Champlain and Lake George and on the northeast by the Pocomtuc Confederacy, Pennacook Confederacy (also known as Merrimack or Pawtucket) and the Connecticut River Valley, which was inhabited by the Sokoki of the Western Abenaki. The original Mahican homeland was the Hudson River Valley from the Catskill Mountains north to the southern end of Lake Champlain. Bounded by the Schoharie River in the west, it extended east to the crest of the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts from northwest Connecticut north to the Green Mountains in southern Vermont.




Arms on flag


Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin (also in Minnesota)

(formerly the Wisconsin Winnebago Tribe)



Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Minnesota



Fond du Lac Band (also in Wisconsin)




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 © Hubert de Vries 2017-04-24




[1] Laws of Wisconsin, 1881: The Laws of Wisconsin passed at the Annual Session of the Legislature of 1881, together with Joint Resolutions, publishe by authority (David Atwood, State Printer, Madison, Wisconsin, 1881) chap 280, sec. 2 ans 3, p. 353. In: Shankle, Georg Earlie: State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and other Symbols. The H.W. Wilson Comp.. New York, 1951

[2] The information on this section was taken from: The Flag of the United States and of Wisconsin by Harrison Summers Kerrick, published in 1931 by The White Book House of Chicago Illinois.

[3] Zieber, Eugene: Heraldry in America. Published by the Department of Heraldry of the Bailey, Banks and Biddle Company. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1895. Pp.194-195

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