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Home / Official Seal of USDA

Official Seal of USDA

By an Act of Congress, approved August 8, 1894, the Secretary of Agriculture was authorized and directed to procure a proper seal to be known as the Official Seal of the Department of Agriculture. By an order dated June 21, 1895, Honorable J. Sterling Morton, at that time Secretary of Agriculture, proclaimed the adoption of an Official Seal for the Department of Agriculture in the following terms:

ORDERED, That the Official Seal of the Department of Agriculture shall be (as described in Heraldic terms), two and three-eighths inches in diameter (azure), a shock of corn (or), upon a base (vert) an American plough proper. All within a double annulet (argent), outer roped, inner beaded, charged with the inscription: UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, and at base, a scroll bearing the legend: '1862. AGRICULTURE IS THE FOUNDATION OF MANUFACTURE AND COMMERCE. 1889.' (or), A diapered background of 44 stars (argent) for the States of the Union.
(Click here for full screen image of seal.)

Seal of the United States
Department of Agriculture

Records indicate that the design for the Official Seal of the Department of Agriculture was drawn by A. H. Baldwin, an artist in the employ of the Department, and submitted for criticism to Bailey, Banks, and Biddle, of Philadelphia, Pa. Secretary Morton showed a great amount of interest in the design of the Official Seal, even to the point of holding several conferences with Department officials and commercial concerns.

A green or gold seal and a green ribbon are used on many documents with the impression of the seal. There are no official requirements for the use of green; however, it is deemed to be appropriate for use by this Department.

The dates on the scroll represent the year the Department was founded by act of Congress (1862), and the year the Department was made an Executive Office headed by a Secretary of cabinet rank (1889). The 44 stars represent the states in the Union in 1889.

An early, unofficial version of the seal depicted a shock of wheat along with a plow, however, the wheat was replaced by corn in the final rendition. See "Seals of the Executive Departments," by Isabel L. Smith, in Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine, 56 (Nov. 1922), pp. 648-656.

Since 1996, the use of the Seal has been relegated for use on legal materials, in the Office of the Secretary, and for other functions as may be determined. The Seal is used in the USDA History Collection Web site with permission of the Department.

The USDA Symbol, which combines the Department's initials with a depiction of a landscape, representing the soil, has been created and approved for all other uses. For more information about the use of the Seal or the USDA Symbol, contact the Design Center in the USDA Office of Communications.

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