A Tale of Two Seals

Have you ever looked closely at the official seal of San Joaquin County? Did you even know that the County has one?

The Museum holds a replica (pictured at left) that sits on a wall in the library’s reading room. It measures about two feet in diameter. Folklore claims that our copy was once part of an exhibit at the California State Fair.

Last week, a patron asked me if I knew anything about the history of the seal. No, I had to admit, I did not. By chance, Ed Wittmayer, an invaluable retiree who works in the library, happened across a newspaper clipping from September 1962 that helped fill me in.

It seems that the County’s supervisors held a contest in 1962 inviting submissions for a new seal. The winner was June Sand, a high school student from Ripon, who received a savings bond of fifty dollars as a reward. According to the newspaper, the seal was “designed to symbolize the county’s balanced resources of industry, agriculture, water, and transportation.” It became the official seal of the County on January 1, 1963.

So what did it replace? The supervisor’s minutes tell us that another seal, dating from 1888, already existed. And there in the records sits an example: a dazzling gold circle dominated by a sheaf of grain with stubble at its base.

Figuring out what happened doesn’t involve rocket science. The County had changed dramatically over the course of seventy-five years. From its agrarian origins, in which cultivation of wheat dominated the economy, the County had grown more diverse not only in the crops it raised but also in its modes of transportation, its population, and the industries it hosted. By adopting a new seal, the supervisors officially recognized the realities that surrounded them.

Understanding the complexities of history can be difficult at times. But sometimes windows into the past—like these two official seals—open up and make the task a little easier.

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