The Great Seal

Louisiana State Seal
One of the prescribed duties of the Secretary of State's Office is keeper of the Great Seal of Louisiana. The secretary of state must attest and imprint with the seal all official state documents such as laws passed by the Legislature, executive orders, proclamations of the governor and commissions.

From terriotorial days, the pelican and her nest of young have figured in Louisiana's official emblem. The territorial Gov. William C.C. Claiborne is thought to have first suggested the pelican for the seal. As early as 1804 there was such a seal in use which depicted a pelican feeding her young.

In 1812, it was decreed that a seal be devised "as the governor may direct" but made no mention of using a pelican. A 1902 report of the secretary of state noted that there was no enactment actually providing for a seal until 1864. As a result of this lack of description, versions of the seal included scales of justice, stars and as many as a dozen young in the nest, which is impossible in reality since a pelican rarely has more than three eggs in its nest at one time.

During the Civil War years, the governor of the confederate portion of the state and the governor of the federal portion each had his own emblem. The seals differed in the direction the pelican turned its head and how many chicks were in the nest.

In 1902, to establish uniformity in the seals, Gov. William Henry Wright Heard directed the secretary of state to use a seal of this description: "A Pelican, with its head turned to the left, in a nest with three young; the Pelican, following the tradition in act of tearing its breast to feed its young; around the edge of the seal to be inscribed 'State of Louisiana.' Over the head of the Pelican to be inscribed 'Union, Justice,' & under the Pelican to be inscribed 'Confidence.'" That is the seal that represents the State of Louisiana today.