Skip to main content
Idaho Harvester home, Baby Joe Vandal logo
Special Collections and Archives, University of Idaho Library home
Featured Image

Happy Idaho Day!

To celebrate the creation of the Idaho Territory by President Lincoln on March 4th, 1863, we found the original sketch of the Idaho seal designed and adopted by the Territorial Governor Caleb Lyon.

Idaho Territory seal
Idaho Territory seal

According to this letter of authorization by Governor Lyon, the shield is ”A view of the Shoshone River with the mountains of Owyhee at the left and distant view of the mountains of Pannack or Bannock on the right with a new moon in the sky and a steamer on the River.” The supporters are “Liberty with her sword at the right and Peace with her Palm branch on the left.” And the crest is “An Elk’s head to the neck with fall antlers.”

Idaho Territory seal correspondence
Idaho Territory seal correspondence

Lyon served as governor from 1864 to 1866 and appears to have been exceedingly unpopular. In 1942, when a rare book collector was trying to find a buyer for this sketch he wrote a letter to the editor of the Idaho Statesman. In response, Statesman Pioneer Editor Cedric G. D’Eusun relayed that Lyon is “known to most Idahoans as a fraud, a fake, and a deep-dyed carpetbagger.” He mentions that the Statesman which was founded in 1864 has been Lyon’s most consistent critic, and “When Caleb, ‘a barnacle on the lightship of progress’, adjourned himself under embarrassing circumstances between two days he took with him considerable funds which were never properly accounted for.”

Despite the controversial governor, the state seal of Idaho today is remarkably similar to this original sketch. Have a very happy Idaho Day and enjoy this slightly scandalous seal post.


MG 5634

Have Feedback on this post or the site?

Send us your thoughts!