penn state mark

About penn state


The Penn State Seal

The first mention of an official seal for Penn State is contained in the minutes of the Board of Trustees for September 12, 1855, when it was "Resolved that the President of the Board be instructed to procure a Seal with proper devices." This was a little less than seven months after the signing of the charter of The Farmers' High School.

Not until the Trustees' minutes of October 24, 1861, does further mention of the seal appear, when it was "Resolved that the device presented by Dr. Pugh for the seal of the Institution be and the same is hereby adopted and that he be instructed to procure the same to be made."

The Farmers' High School

February 22, 1855

The Farmers High School seal

In this first known seal, the emblems symbolic of literature and the sciences are as prominently displayed as are symbols of agriculture. This would be compatible with the view held by President Pugh and the early Trustees -- that from the beginning, the academic program was to be conducted on a collegiate level. Encircling the symbols is the inscription "Farmers High School" and beneath them, the abbreviations "INS. SEP. 1855" which are somewhat enigmatic, since they presumably do not refer to the date of signing of the charter, which took place on February 22, 1855.

Agricultural College of Pennsylvania

May 6, 1862

The Agricultural College of Pennsylvania seal

The second known seal is a die made shortly after securing the land grant and after renaming the institution the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania in 1862. It contains numerous small figures suggestive of many areas of learning -- a compass, test tubes, microscope, anvil, and half wreathed at the base, stalks of corn.

The Pennsylvania State College

January 26, 1874

The Pennsylvania State College seal

An important feature of later seals is the reproduction of the Commonwealth's coat of arms. The first record indicating adoption of this coat of arms as part of the Penn State seal comes in the minutes of the Trustee Executive Committee of January 17, 1874. The minutes explain that "the change of the name of the institution from 'Agricultural College of Pennsylvania' to 'Pennsylvania State College,' for which application has been made to the Court of Centre County, which it is believed will be authorized on the 26th inst. requiring a change of the College Seal, it was resolved that here after the seal shall be the State Coat of Arms surrounded by the words 'Pennsylvania State College, 1859.' "

On July 29, 1874, the Board confirmed the above statements and "the seal adopted by the Executive Committee is hereby adopted as the legal seal of the corporation."

The Pennsylvania State University

November 14, 1953

The old Pennsylvania State University seal

The Commonwealth's official coat of arms was undergoing a confusing series of changes in the late 1800s, and Penn State's seal was thus reproduced with slight variations from time to time. On June 17, 1903, the Trustees voted to procure a new seal in order to show the charter date, 1855, instead of 1859, the year students were first admitted. Apparently immediate action was not taken, but the die for the new seal was adopted in time for the semi-centennial in 1905. Although the cornstalk and olive branch are missing from this die, it follows other coat of arms requirements faithfully.

In the late 1930s, a new die was purchased, the only noticeable difference between the two being the size, and the fact that the eagle is somewhat more prominent, with outspread wings.

The current Penn State seal

Effective November 14, 1953, the Centre County Court approved the Trustee's request to change the name of the institution to The Pennsylvania State University. The seal was subsequently changed to reflect the new name. The University seal has undergone only slight modification since then. However, it is rarely used in an official context. As a symbol of authority, it still appears on contracts, agreements, diplomas, scrolls, proclamations, and the like.

Adapted from Abbie Cromer, "The College Seal," in The College, December 1952.