The famous “Eye of God” on the pyramid top within a triangle, still stands. Below the triangle is a Roman fasces bearing upon a thin tying band of red, white, and blue the words “Union and Constitution”.
by Jerry Kopel
The keepers of the 225-year-old Great Seal of the United States recently told Rocky Mountain News readers what were myths and what were truths about the seal, such as “the seal using several Freemasonry symbols was a myth.”
Well, Colorado has its own Great Seal which dates back to 1876, when we became a state, and an almost identical prior seal dated in 1861 when Colorado officially became a separate territory.
And Colorado’s Great Seal has a real mystery. At the bottom of the territorial seal, there are no stars around the date 1861 and no mention of any stars in the statute passed Nov. 6, 1861 describing the territorial seal in the very first territorial legislative session.
In our state constitution adopted in 1876 by the voters, the legislature was told the territorial seal continued to be the seal until the legislature acted to create a Great Seal. That happened March 15, 1877 and the description of the Great Seal really didn’t change much from the territorial seal.
There was “1876” where “1861” once appeared. The Latin phrase “Sigillum Territorii Coloradenesis” (meaning “seal of the territory of Colorado”) was changed to the English words “State of Colorado”.
The territorial and state motto remained the same “Nil Sine Numine” meaning either “Nothing Without Providence” or “Nothing Without Deity”. The famous “Eye of God” on the pyramid top within a triangle, still stands.
Below the triangle is a Roman fasces bearing upon a thin tying band of red, white, and blue the words “Union and Constitution”. The Roman fasces during the Roman Empire consisted of a bundle of wooden rods with an axe head hanging down from the bottom of the bundle. Ours more resembles a spear entering on the left of the bundle of rods and an axe head coming out on the right.
Below the fasces is a Heraldic shield that is as up-to-date as if it had been created in 2008 instead of 1861. At the top of the shield are three snow-capped mountains, even higher than clouds. It is an excellent reminder to tourists of why they visit Colorado.
Below the clouds, separated by a thin yellow line, are a pickaxe and sledgehammer of a miner. They lie partly on golden ground and partly on brown soil.
Mining gold, silver, and coal offered the potential to make the territory and young state rich – – just as mining oil, gas, and oil shale, if equitably taxed, could greatly benefit Colorado’s state budget.
Today, at the bottom are six gold stars, three on each side of the gold letters “1876″. But our state statute doesn’t mention the six stars.
A research analyst at the State Historical Society found for me a Denver Post article written in 1958 describing a group of young students being shown a copy of the seal at the state museum and asking what the six stars stood for.
No one knew what the stars stood for, or where the stars came from, even after that newspaper did weeks of research. And the stars are still there in 2008, but never ever described in the state statute which lays out the Great Seal.
Well, the Denver Post failed. Perhaps the Rocky Mountain News can solve the mystery.