The Great Seal of the State of Hawaii was designated officially by Act 272 of the 1959 Territorial Legislature and is based on the territorial seal. Modifications to the territorial seal included the use of the words “State of Hawaii” at the top and “1959” within the circle. Provisions for a Seal for the State of Hawaii was enacted by the Territorial Legislator and approved by Governor William F. Quinn on June 8, 1959. The passage of the Admission Act in 1959, admitted to Hawaii as the 50th State of the United States of America on August 21, 1959.
The history of the State Seal of Hawaii is representative of the island group’s transition from a tribal monarchy to a US state under the rule of a democratic government. Based on the royal coat of arms of the Republic of Hawaii, the State Seal of Hawaii retains a similar layout of two figures facing an emblem, but with symbolic changes that represent Hawaii’s new status as a state. A precursor to the current state seal of Hawaii was designed in 1895 by Viggo Jacobsen, although at that time it was used for the Republic of Hawaii, as it was known.
The final design was completed when Hawaii achieved statehood in 1959. Several design elements of the State Seal of Hawaii were retained from the royal coat of arms that served as its inspiration. One feature that remained unchanged was the shield that hovers between the two figures on both the emblem and seal. Divided into four quadrants, two opposing quadrants contain stripes of Hawaii’s state flag and represent the eight major Hawaiian islands.
The remaining quadrants feature a ball and rod shape, or poululu, that was a royal symbol of power. Both the royal coat of arms and the State Seal of Hawaii contain the state motto, “Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono,” which translates as, “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.” Several additions were made to the seal of Hawaii when it became a state. The words “State of Hawaii” were added above the year 1959, for the year Hawaii was made a US state. Finally, a star was added to the center of the shield to symbolize Hawaii as the 50h US state and the 50h star to appear on the US flag.