When Kansas achieved statehood in 1861, a great Seal of Kansas was devised that incorporated the motto “Ad Astra Per Aspera” (To the Stars Through Difficulties), symbolizing the long delay of Kansas’ admission to the Union because of the dispute over whether it was to be a slave state or a free state.
By the time the Seal of Kansas was approved, however, legislators had added the more optimistic emblems of commerce (a river and a steamboat), agricultural prosperity (a man plowing fields), and the advancing American frontier (a rising sun, covered wagons, Indians, and buffalo). The motto appears above a constellation of 34 stars, and the date of statehood, Jan. 29, 1861, is at the bottom edge of the Seal of Kansas.
The design for the Great Seal of Kansas was submitted by John James Ingalls, a state senator from Atchison. Ingalls also proposed the state motto, “Ad Astra per Aspera.” The Great Seal of the State of Kansas was established by a joint resolution adopted by the Kansas Legislature on May 25, 1861.
The resolution states: “The east is represented by a rising sun, in the right-hand corner of the seal; to the left of it, commerce is represented by a river and a steamboat; in the foreground, agriculture is represented as the basis of the future prosperity of the state, by a settler’s cabin and a man plowing with a pair of horses; beyond this is a train of ox-wagons, going west; in the background is seen a herd of buffalo, retreating, pursued by two Indians, on horseback; around the top is the motto, ‘Ad Astra per Aspera,’ and beneath a cluster of thirty-four stars. The circle is surrounded by the words, “Great Seal of the state of Kansas. January 29, 1861.”
The seal Contains:
Landscape with a rising sun (the east)
River and Steamboat (commerce)
Settler’s cabin and a man plowing a field (agriculture) [foreground]
Wagon train heading west (American expansion/pioneer life)
Indians hunting American Bison (the buffalo are fleeing from the Indians)
A cluster of 34 stars (top of the seal) – identifying Kansas as the 34th state to be accepted into the Union of the United States.
State motto “Ad Astra per Aspera” (Latin: “To the Stars through Difficulties”).