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SLOJX City SealCITY SEAL Joseph A. Carotenuti The earliest evidence of a municipal seal dates from 1859 when Ordinance No. 7 was passed by the then called Board of Town Trustees. There is little evidence that any municipal document required a seal before this date. While there had been two previous incorporations of the Town (1856 and 1858), this was the first official notice for a seal. Thus far, the ordinance title is the only clue as to the seal’s existence and no impression of the seal from this era has been found on any document. Following yet another incorporation as a Town ten years later, Ordinance 23 was passed and is preserved on a document from the following year. This may have been in response to yet another legislative incorporation of San Luis Obispo in 1868. The first impression found is dated May 18, 1870 when Dr. W. W. Hays, warden for St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, submitted a request for a church lot in its current location. Most likely a stock impression, this seal depicts a side view of the biblical Solomon noted for his wisdom with Town information around the edge. This may well have been the original seal design. It is highly unlikely the city fathers would have changed the municipal seal from ten year previous as incorporations over various years still were for the “Town” of San Luis Obispo. Furthermore, a new seal would require expenditure from the town’s often precarious “treasury.” Incorporation as a City in 1876 required a new seal. When the newly elected municipal body – now called the Common Council – convened, it was presided over by a Mayor. Quite different from today’s municipal leader, the Mayor could not vote (except to break a tie) but could veto any ordinance degreed by the five councilmen. Given the astonishing absenteeism by the elected officials, a mayor voted quite often and still maintained veto power! The new seal is first preserved on a document dated May 4, 1876. This is the seal used today depicting the personification of justice (holding the scales) and agriculture or bounty holding a sheaf of grain and sickle. The verbiage “Chartered May 1st 1876” (the date of the first meeting of the new city’s elected officials) is not quite correct as the Legislature passed the act creating the city on March 20 receiving the Governor’s signature a few days later. The use of “chartered” has also created its own confusion. While today San Luis Obispo is a Charter City, it became so in 1911 under different state laws conferring certain privileges and responsibilities on a community…and not in 1876. The last “incorporation” in the city’s history (there have been at least six) will be detailed in a future article. While there was official recognition of a Sesquicentennial year of the 1856 legislation creating a town, this year is the Centennial of the Charter City of San Luis Obispo. Not quite another incorporation, the city was designated as being of the “Sixth Class” by the Legislature in 1884. The designation was used for the smallest communities under 3000 population and had specified duties and obligations differing from other “classes” of cities and towns…primarily in taxation powers. An unusual notation in the Minutes in March directs the Clerk “to have the date of the charter erased from the present City Seal” which would then “constitute the Corporate Seal” of the city. Since impressions from both before and after this directive are the same, it is assumed any erasure was not done or once impressed upon a document, a change was written. The heavy, long armed cast iron device has given way to a much smaller device used today although the older one is still used on maps. Evidence points to the original seal (and its lack of sharpness) being duplicated for use on the handier device. Possibly a newly designed seal would be a fitting tribute to a centenary celebration? (NOTE: 1911 Charter: Article VII, Section 45a: Powers of Council: “To provide a corporate seal, with appropriate device, to be affixed to all instruments or writing needing authentication.”) THE CITY SEAL The impression of a seal on any document shows its authenticity. The City Clerk is the custodian of the City Seal. Official City documents, such as Resolutions, Ordinances, Minutes and Agreements are embossed with the seal to attest to their validity. While there may have been an earlier seal, the first impression of a municipal seal is found on a document dated May 18, 1870 when Dr. W.W. Hays submitted a request for a lot for St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church where it stands today. The gold image above depicts a wise biblical Solomon, in side view, with the town information around the edge. This could be the first design and is probably our original seal. The incorporation as a City in 1876 required a new seal. The picture in black and white is the design of that seal and is used as our present City Seal. This seal was first preserved on a document dated May 4, 1876. It shows “Justice” holding a scales and “Agriculture” depicted holding a sheaf of grain and a sickle. When the Common Council convened, it was presided over by a Mayor. Quite different from today’s municipal leader, the Mayor could not vote (except to break a tie) but could veto any ordinance decreed by the five councilmen. Given the astonishing absenteeism by the elected officials, a mayor voted quite often and still maintained veto power! The new seal is first preserved on a document dated May 4, 1876. This is the seal used today depicting the personification of justice (holding the scales) and agriculture or bounty holding a sheaf of grain and sickle. The verbiage “Chartered May 1st 1876” is also the date of the first meeting of the new city’s elected officials. The use of “chartered” has also created its own confusion. While today San Luis Obispo is a Charter City, it became so in 1911 under different state laws conferring certain privileges and responsibilities on a community…and not in 1876. THE CITY SEAL The city clerk is the custodian of the city seal. Official city documents are embossed with the seal of the community. It is a guarantee that what is embossed is what is meant. The City Clerk should carefully check the attestation page of any ordinance or resolution before signing to be certain that a vote has not been recorded incorrectly or any council member's name overlooked or misspelled. Ordinances shall be signed by the Mayor and attested by the City Clerk (GC 36932). Resolutions may be signed by the Mayor and must be attested by the City Clerk. Before birth records were used to verify a human’s lineage, an official seal (with roots dating from the Roman Empire) verified a document’s legitimacy. The earliest evidence of a municipal seal dates from 1859 when Ordinance No 7 was passed by the then called Board of Town Trustees. The ordinance title is the only clue as to the seal’s existence and no impression of the seal from this era has been found on any document. Following yet another incorporation (there will be at least six) ten years later, the council passed a new seal ordinance. The first impression found is dated May 18, 1870 when Dr. W. W. Hays submitted a request for a lot for St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. A prosaic image, this seal depicts the biblical Solomon noted for his wisdom with Town information around the edge. This may well have been the original seal design. It is highly unlikely the city fathers would have changed the municipal seal from ten year previous as incorporations over various years still were for the “Town” of San Luis Obispo. Furthermore, a new seal would require expenditure from the town’s often precarious “treasury.” However, incorporation as a City in 1876 required a new seal. When the Common Council convened, it was presided over by a Mayor. Quite different from today’s municipal leader, the Mayor could not vote (except to break a tie) but could veto any ordinance decreed by the five councilmen. Given the astonishing absenteeism by the elected officials, a mayor voted quite often and still maintained veto power! The new seal is first preserved on a document dated May 4, 1876. This is the seal used today depicting the personification of justice (holding the scales) and agriculture or bounty holding a sheaf of grain and sickle. The verbiage “Chartered May 1st 1876” is also the date of the first meeting of the new city’s elected officials. The use of “chartered” has also created its own confusion. While today San Luis Obispo is a Charter City, it became so in 1911 under different state laws conferring certain privileges and responsibilities on a community…and not in 1876. Basically, a community had greater self-direction than a “general rule” municipality. While there was official recognition of a Sesquicentennial year of the 1856 legislation creating a town, this year is the Centennial of the Charter City of San Luis Obispo. The heavy, long armed cast iron device (still used on maps) has given way to a much smaller device used today. Possibly a newly designed seal would be a fitting tribute to a centenary celebration? Joseph A. Carotenuti City Historian/Archivist (volunteer)