In 1985, Secretary of State George Firestone presented the revised The Great Seal of Florida State to the Governor and the Cabinet. The previous State Seal of Florida had several errors which were corrected in the 1985 Seal. This revised Seal has a Seminole Indian woman rather than a Western Plains Indian, the steamboat is more accurate, and the cocoa palm has been changed to a sabal palm as the Legislature prescribed in 1970.
The elements and basic design instructions for Florida State Seal were established by the Legislature in 1868. Early that year, Florida’s newly adopted State Constitution had directed that: “The Legislature shall, at the first session, adopt a seal for the state, and such seal shall be the size of an American silver dollar but said seal shall not again be changed after its adoption by the Legislature.”
So the Legislature, acting quickly upon the mandate, passed and sent to Governor Harrison Reed a Joint Resolution on August 6, 1868 specifying “That a Seal of the size of the American silver dollar, having in the center thereof a view of the sun’s rays over a high land in the distance, a cocoa tree, a steamboat on water, and an Indian female scattering flowers in the foreground, encircled by the words, ‘Great Seal of the State of Florida: In God We Trust’, be and the same is hereby adopted as the Great Seal of the State of Florida.”
“In God, We Trust” was adopted as the official state motto in the 2006 Florida Legislative Session. Florida’s present Constitution, (Art. II, Sec. 4), continues to require the seal to be prescribed by law. In 1970, more than 100 years after the first specifications were drawn, the Florida Legislature made one change in the official description (CH. 15.03), changing “cocoa tree” in the former language to “Sabal palmetto palm.”
The sabal palmetto palm had been designated as State Tree in 1953. The Florida Secretary of State is the official custodian of the seal. Use or display of the seal must be for an official purpose and approved by the Florida Department of State. One exception is that other Florida state or local agencies can use or display the seal for official business if approved by the head of their agency. Illegal use of the seal in Florida is a second-degree misdemeanor.