Utah Centennial Studies


Symbols of Utah Packet B


The State Symbols of Utah

Utah State CapitalBy Linda Thatcher - a librarian at the Utah State Historical Society
Reprinted from Beehive History 12
1986 Utah State Historical Society

Whether it's a flag, a seal, a coat of arms, a mascot, or a company logo, it's a symbol. Symbols are everywhere.

The use of symbols is universal. Cloth woven with a certain arrangement of colors and lines becomes a tartan representing a Scottish clan. A white flag with a red circle in the center stands for Japan. A cougar symbolizes the athletic teams of Brigham Young University. A Russian wolfhound or borzoi is the trademark of book publisher Alfred A. Knopf. Symbols are everywhere, and the state of Utah has its share. how they came into official use is probably not known by most Utahans, but each one has an interesting history.

State SealUtah State Seal

The official state seal was adopted on April 3, 1896, when Gov. Heber M. Wells signed "An Act Describing and Providing for the Great Seal of the State of Utah" (see Constitution of Utah V11:20). The state seal was, according to the most accurate accounts, designed by Harry Emmett Edwards in 1896. Born in Ottawa, Canada, around 1862, he lived in Chicago for three years before moving to Utah in about 1893. In Utah he worked as a bartender for the Hogle Brothers and later became associated with the Onyx Bank. According to his sister-in-law, he had no formal art training but was a member of the National Society of Artists. He joined the Argenta Chapter of the Masonic Lodge on November 3, 1897, where he listed his occupation as "artist." He left Utah in about 1898 for the Klondike where he accumulated a fortune but lost it all in a fire in the Yukon. He died January 24, 1930, it is believed, in San Diego, California.

According to the Utah Code (1953 67-2-9 which has since been repealed),

"The great seal of the state of Utah shall be two and one-half inches in diameter, and of the following device: The center a shield and perched thereon an American eagle with outstretching wings; the top of the shield pierced by six arrows crosswise; under the arrows the motto "Industry"; beneath the motto a beehive, on either side growing sego lilies; below the beehive the figures "1847"; and on each side of the shield an American flag; encircling all, near the outer edge of the seal, beginning at the lower left-hand portion, the words "The Great Seal of the State of Utah," with the figures "1896" at the base.

State FlowerUtah State Flower

The sego lily (Calochortus nuttallii) was made the official state flower of Utah on March 18, 1911, when Senate Bill 225 was signed into law by Gov. William Spry (Utah Code 63-13-6). The bill was introduced by William N. Williams, according to Heart Throbs of the West (2:226), after a census was taken of the state's schoolchildren as to their preference for a state flower. The sego lily grows six to eight inches high on open grass and sage rangelands in the Great Basin during the summer months. This member of the mariposa family typifies the lilies, with sepals, petals and stamens in the combinations of three with ivory-colored petals which may be tinted from yellow to pink. A horizontal bar of darker color crosses the base of each petal within the flower cup.

The flower is important to Utah not only for its beauty but because the bulbs were eaten by the early Mormon settlers during their first winter in the valley when food was scarce. The bulb, which is walnut-sized, was also eaten by the Indians before the Mormon settlers turned to it for sustenance and serves today as food for rodents and other animals.

State FlagUtah State Flag

The Utah state flag, as we know it today, was made the official flag of Utah when Gov. William Spry signed House Joint Resolution 1 in 1913 (Utah Code 63-13-5).

The original state flag was presented to Gov. Heber M. Wells in 1903 by the Utah State Society Daughters of the Revolution. According to the organization's minutes, Governor Wells asked the group to make the first state flag. The flag was made of Utah silk and embroidered by Agnes Teudt Fernelius. Each member of the USSDR contributed one dollar to help pay for it.

On October 16, 1903, it was reported at their meeting "that a mistake had been made in drawing the seal of our state on the flag which had been presented to the Governor of Utah in May last. The matter was then discussed at length after which a print of the state seal was examined to see where corrections should be made." It was found that "the flag made by Our Society which had been presented to and accepted by the Governor and his staff was in reality on the Governor's regimental flag. A state flag would in compliance with an act of the State legislature have to be made under direction of or by approval of said legislature."

They then took the flag to H.L.A. Culmer, an artist, "and had him correctly draw according to the proper perspective as nearly as possible to design of the State Seal on the before mentioned flag after which it had been taken to M.I. to be embroidered and further that it would be completed for inspection at the March meeting."

The governor wrote to them, "It will be my pleasure to display this flag upon every important occasion where the Governor's flag may be required, both at the World's Fair in St. Louis in celebration of the Louisiana Purchase and elsewhere during my incumbency."

This flag was used until 1913. In 1912 a second flag was commissioned by the Sons and Daughters of Utah Pioneers to be presented to the battleship Utah. It was made by and eastern man. When it arrived it was found to have a gold circle around the design. Through the efforts of Wells Cannon the new flag was adopted by the Utah State Legislature. According to the Utah Code (63-13-5):

The state flag of Utah shall be a flag of blue field, fringed, with gold borders, with the following device worked in natural colors on the center of the blue field: The center a shield: above the shield and thereon an American eagle with outstretched wings; the top of the shield pierced with six arrows arranged crosswise; upon the shield under the arrows the word "industry," and below the word "Industry" on the center of the shield, a beehive; on each side of the beehive, growing sego lilies; below the beehive and near the bottom of the shield, the word "Utah," and below the word "Utah" and on the bottom of the shield, the figures "1847"; with the appearance of being back of the shield there shall be two American flags on flagstaffs placed crosswise with the flags so draped that they will project beyond each side of the shield, the heads of the flagstaffs appearing in front of the eagle's wings and the bottom of each staff appearing over the face of the draped flag below the shield and flags and upon the blue field, the figures "1896"; around the entire design, a narrow circle of gold.

State TreeUtah State Tree

The blue spruce (Picea pungens) was chosen by the Utah State Legislature on February 20, 1933, to be the state tree (Utah Code 63-13-7). Adoption of the blue spruce as Utah's official tree was made in record time after the bill, sponsored by the Utah Federation of Women's Clubs, had be introduced with the urgent request that it be passed before the Colorado legislature could pass a similar bill making the blue spruce that stat's official tree. Although the blue spruce is not plentiful in Utah, it is found in the Wasatch and Uinta mountains at elevations between 6,000 to 11,000 feet. It can be transplanted successfully and is widely used as an ornamental tree. Its foliage is generally silvery blue in color and has the ability to withstand temperature extremes and drought.

The blue spruce is not a large tree, ranging from eighty to one hundred feet in height and one to two feet in diameter. Under optimum conditions, a blue spruce may reach a maximum of one hundred fifty feet in height and four feet in diameter. The wood is of little commercial value, as it is brittle and knotty. The chief use of blue spruce is for ornamental landscaping of homes, schools, and public buildings.

State Song

"Utah, This is the Place" by Sam & Gary Francis

In 2003 the Utah State Legislature voted to change the state song from "Utah, We Love Thee" to "Utah, This is the Place." State Representative, Dana Love, R-Syracuse, sponsored the bill at the request of the Cook Elementary School class in Syracuse. These students felt that "Utah, We Love Thee" wasn't very much fun to sing.

In 1996, Sam and Gary Francis wrote "Utah, This Is The Place" for Utah´s centennial celebration. The song is growing in popularity each year, especially with fourth grade students who perform it as part of their study of Utah history.

Utah, This the Place

Utah! People working together
Utah! What a great place to be.
Blessed from Heaven above.
It's the land that we love.
This is the place!

Utah! With its mountains and valleys.
Utah! With its canyons and streams.
You can go anywhere.
But there's none that compare.
This is the place!

It was Brigham Young who led the pioneers across the plains.
They suffered with the trials they had to face.
With faith they kept on going till they reached the Great Salt Lake
Here they heard the words..."THIS IS THE PLACE!"

Utah! With its focus on family,
Utah! Helps each child to succeed.
People care how they live.
Each has so much to give.
This is the place!

Utah! Getting bigger and better.
Utah! Always leading the way.
New technology's here...
Growing faster each year.
This is the place!

There is beauty in the snow-capped mountains, in the lakes and streams.
There are valleys filled with farms and orchards too.
The spirit of its people shows in everything they do.
Utah is the place where dreams come true.

Utah! With its pioneer spirit.
Utah! What a great legacy!
Blessed from Heaven above.
It's the land that we love.
This is the place!

Utah! Utah! Utah!

State Hymn

"Utah We Love Thee" by Evan Stephens

"Utah We Love Thee" was Utah's state song until 2003 when the State Legislature voted to change the state song to "Utah, This is the Place" and make "Utah We Love Thee" the state hymn. This song originally became the official Utah song on February 24, 1937, when Senate Bill 38 was signed by Gov. Henry H. Blood (Utah Cod 63-13-8).

"Utah We Love Thee" was written 1895 by Evan Stephens to be sung at the inauguration exercises when Utah became a state on January 4, 1896. Stephens was born June 29, 1854, in Pencader, South Wales, and emigrated to Utah with his parents in 1866. A prominent local musician, he served as chairman of the music committee for the statehood program.

Utah, We Love Thee

Land of the mountains high, Utah, we love thee,
Land of the sunny sky, Utah, we love thee!
Far in the glorious West, Throned on the mountain's crest,
In robes of statehood dressed, Utah, we love thee!

Columbia's newest star, Utah, we love thee,
Thy luster shines afar, Utah, we love thee!
Bright in our banner's blue, Among her sisters true,
She proudly comes to view, Utah, we love thee!

Land of the Pioneers, Utah, we love thee,
Grow with the coming years, Utah, we love thee!
With wealth and peace in store, To fame and glory soar,
God guarded evermore, Utah, we love thee!

State BirdUtah State Bird

The California gull (Larus californicus) became the official state bird on February 14, 1955, when House Bill 51 was signed into law by Gov. J Bracken Lee (Utah Code 63-13-9). The bill was introduced by Richard C. Howe a member of the House of Representatives.

The gull was first protected under Utah law because it is an insectivorous bird (feeds on insects). It was protected along with the owl, hawk, lark, whippoorwill, thrush, swallow, snowbird, and any other insectivorous or song birds. The California gull was chosen as the state bird because it was credited with saving the pioneer's crops from complete destruction in the summer of 1848.

Chiefly found in the interior regions, the California gull breeds on inland lakes from Canada south to Mono Lake, California, Great Salt Lake, and Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming. It winters along the Pacific Coast and inland in Utah, Oregon, and California. The mature California gull measures from twenty to twenty-three inches in length and has greenish yellow feet, a medium gray mantle, and a bill with an orange spot near the tip of the lower mandible. The outer primaries are black, tipped with white, the first two with subterminal white spots.

State Motto

"Industry" officially became the state motto on March 4, 1959, when Gov. George D. Clyde signed House Bill 35 (Utah Code 63-13-11). "Industry" is associated with the symbol of the beehive. The early pioneers had few material resources at their disposal and therefore had to rely on their won "industry" to survive. The word "industry" appears on both the state seal and the state flag.

State Emblem

The beehive (skep) became the official state emblem on March 4, 1959, when Gov. George D. Clyde signed House Bill 34 (Utah Code 63-13-10). The beehive is one of the most enduring Mormon symbols, having been mentioned in the Book of Mormon: "And they did also carry with them deseret, which by interpretation, is a honey bee: and thus they did carry with them swarms of bees..." (Ether 2:3). The word "deseret" is also associated with the beehive symbol.

Utahans relate the beehive symbol to industry and the pioneer virtues of thrift and perseverance. The beehive or skep was chosen as the emblem for the provisional State of Deseret in 1848 and was maintained on the seal of the State of Utah when Utah became a state in 1896. Utah is nicknamed the "Beehive State."

State Gem

The topaz became the official state gem for Utah on February 4, 1969, when Gov. Calvin L. Rampton signed House Bill 6 into law (Utah Code 63-13-7.1). The sparkling little crystals are found in the gray rhyolite cliffs of Topaz Mountain in the Thomas Mountain Range in Juab County where they were formed thousands of years ago. Golden or light brown in color, the topaz crystals occur in pockets in the rocks and usually turn colorless after exposure to sunlight. Utah topazes have little commercial value but are sought after by gem and rock collectors as specimens.

State Animal

The elk (Cervus canadensis) was made the official state animal on February 1, 1971, when Gov. Calvin L. Rampton signed Senate Bill 18 (Utah Code 63-13-7.2). The elk is a hoofed mammal with antlers that are shed each year. the bull elk averages six feet in height, nine feet in length, and may weigh as much as 750 pounds. the females are smaller than the males and lack antlers. The elk once roamed widely but today primarily mountain dwellers during the summers; they winter in the valleys, eating grass, leaves, and twigs. In summer the elk are a light brown with darker head and limbs, a buff colored rump, short hair, and a slight mane. In winter they are a grayish brown color with dark head and limbs, buff colored rump, and a darker and longer mane. The calf is primarily brown with light spots until early fall.

State Fish

The Bonneville Cutthroat Trout is Utah's state fish. They received their name from the patch of color on their throat. They are usually found in lakes and eat small flies and other insects.

The Utah legislature voted in 1997 to replace the Rainbow Trout as the state fish because, unlike Rainbow Trout, the Cutthroat Trout is native to Utah. [Senate Bill 236]. This fish was also important to the Native Americans and the Mormon pioneers as a source of food.

State Insect

The honey bee (Apis mellifera) was mad the official insect for Utah when Gov. Scott M. Matheson signed Senate Bill 216 (Utah Cod 63-13-11.5). The bill was introduced by Sen. Fred W. Finlinson because of the lobbying effort of the fifth grade class of Ridgecrest Elementary School in Salt Lake County as part of a class study project on the insect and on how state government works.

The honey bee is significant in Utah history, as Utah was first called by its Mormon settlers "The Provisional state of Deseret," a name derived from the Book of Mormon word meaning honey bee. When Utah became a territory in 1850, the Mormons were unsuccessful in their attempt to have the name "Deseret" retained.