TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida finally has an accurate state seal. The new state seal has no towering mountains, coffee plantations, nor other things not associated with the state.
After at least five earlier editions of a state seal since statehood in 1845 fell short, Florida adopted a new one Tuesday that eliminates all suggestions of mountains, Plains Indians, coffee plantations and other misplaced symbols.
Instead, the new seal emphasizes the sun, pays notice to the unique apparel of the Seminole Indians and, for the first time, depicts the state's official tree, the sabal palm.
Secretary of State George Firestone, keeper of the seal, unveiled the new verson for Gov. Bob Graham and the Cabinet. The state Division of Corporations immediately began using it.
Firestone also disclosed that the new seal was cast in part from silver droplets recovered at the site near the current Capitol of the Spanish mission of San Juan de Aspalaga, which burned in 1704.
'I am pleased to have the opportunity to offer all Floridians an accurate symbol of our state's rich and colorful heritage,' Firestone said. 'This revised seal truly comes from deep without our history.'
Working in secrecy, historians at the Museum of Florida History spent more than a year researching historical records in hopes of eliminating the remaining flaws in the seal.
Mandated by the state Constitution to be the size of 'an American silver dollar,' the seal is embossed on most official state documents. Firestone said state agencies will continue to use stationary and forms with the old seal until supplies run out.
The accuracy of Florida's seal has been challenged almost since it was first ordered by Gov. William D. Moseley in 1846 to replace Florida's territorial seal.
One unconfirmed account has it that the state ended up with a seal actually designed by a Yankee engraver for a Western state but never picked up. Whether this tale is true or not, the early versions of the seal had a decidedly Western flavor.
Through the years, Florida's seal has depicted:
-A range of looming mountains while the state is essentially flat;
-An Indian maiden wearing a warrior's head-dress of eagle feathers and a dress common to the Plains even though feather head-dresses were unknown in Florida.
-A bag of coffee, never a significant Florida crop;
-A ship that appeared of dubious seaworthiness;
-And, at one point, the shorelne of Cuba.
Some of the errors disappeared as revisions were made over the years, including a substitution of orange groves for the mountains. Still, flaws remained. The rays of the sun were so thin they were often lost in reproduction. And a cocoa palm was depicted instead of the official sabal palm.