History of the State Seal

A short time before Washington became a state in 1889, a committee brought an elaborate design for a state seal to Olympia jeweller Charles Talcott and asked him to complete it in time for the meeting of the first Legislature in November of that year.

The design submitted by the committee was a very complicated sketch depicting the port of Tacoma, vast wheat fields, grazing sheep and Mount Rainier. Talcott argued that the design was too complicated and would be quickly outmoded by the growth of the state. Something simple, he suggested, would be timeless. He picked up an ink bottle and drew a circle around its base. Next he placed a silver dollar in the circle and drew an inner circle. Between these circles, he lettered the words "The Seal of the State of Washington, 1889." In the center he pasted a postage stamp bearing a picture of George Washington. The design was quickly accepted by the Legislature.


But making the die from the picture of George Washington on a postage stamp was no easy task. Under magnification, the picture was poorly detailed and would have been unsatisfactory when enlarged. George Talcott was given the job of finding a suitable picture and cutting the die. After reviewing a number of pictures, he finally found what he was looking for – a color drawing of George Washington on a packing box of "Dr. D. Jayne's Cure for Coughs & Colds." Grant Talcott did the lettering and George cut the die.

Over the years, more than two dozen variations of the Talcott design were used. In 1967, Seattle graphic designer Richard Nelms was commissioned to create a new insignia. He selected a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, which was accepted and made the official State Seal by the Legislature.

By law, the Secretary of State is the custodian of the Great Seal, which is attached to official documents and certificates issued by the state. The original die and press for the State Seal – now more than 100 years old – is still used by the Secretary of State to impress the seal on official state documents.