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Arizona State Motto

Ditat Deus Language:Latin
Translation:God Enriches Originator:Richard Cunningham McCormick, 1863

What is a motto?

Merriam-Webster Online defines motto in this way:

State mottoes may be said to reflect the character and beliefs of the citizens of the state, or more accurately, the citizens of the state when they were adopted. State mottoes can help us gain insight into the history of a state.

Adoption of the Arizona State Motto

Back in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed an Organic Act that recognized the Arizona Territory and allowed it to form a territorial government. To take charge of the new Arizona Territory, President Lincoln appointed John Noble Goodwin, of South Berwick, Maine, Governor and he appointed Richard Cunningham McCormick, of New York, Secretary of the Territory.

Richard McCormick was a writer/journalist/editor. When he headed west to assume his new position as Secretary of Arizona Territory with the Goodwin party, he brought his own printing press, a "select historical library" and a design for the Arizona Territorial seal.

His seal depicted a miner in front of a wheelbarrow with a pick and a short-handled spade. Two mountains rose in the background. McCormick's seal also included the motto, Ditat Deus. The seal was not well received by later statesmen. Some compared it to the label on a can of Pioneer Baking Powder. The seal was revised many times over the years, but Ditat Deus was retained as the motto.

Ditat Deus served as the motto of the Arizona Territory from 1863 to 1912 and has served as the motto of the State of Arizona since 1912. It is displayed on the current Great Seal of Arizona.

Mr. McCormick was appointed second Governor of the Arizona Territory by President Andrew Johnson in 1866.

About the Arizona State Motto

According to George Earlie Shankle, Ph.D., in his State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers, and Other Symbols,

"Arizona's motto, Ditat Deus, meaning "God Enriches", is probably an abbreviation of Genesis, Chapter 14, verse 23, of the Latin Vulgate Version of the Bible."

Whether or not McCormick's motto was inspired by the book of Genesis, it does convey a strong religious sentiment.

Arizona Constitution

The following information is excerpted from the Arizona Constitution, Article 22, Section 20.

Additional Information

State Motto List: Complete list of all of the state mottoes.

Early Territorial Secretaries play major role in Government: Article by Shirley Redfearne. Collection of the Sharlot Hall Museum.

'Ditat Deus': Our Strange and Wonderful Seal: Article by U.S. Senator John Kyl.

Sharlot Hall Museum: The Sharlot Hall Museum is the largest museum in the central territory of Arizona, and is dedicated to providing educational adventures in human and natural history.

State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols: A Historical Guide, Third Edition - Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, Greenwood Press, 2002

State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols: A Study based on historical documents giving the origin and significance of the state names, nicknames, mottoes, seals, flowers, birds, songs, and descriptive comments on the capitol buildings and on some of the leading state histories, Revised Edition - George Earlie Shankle, Ph.D., The H.W. Wilson Company, 1938 (Reprint Services Corp. 1971)


Source: "Ditat Deus," Our Strange and Wonderful Seal by U.S. Senator John Kyl, September 15, 2004
Source: Sharlott Hall Museum, (http://www.sharlothall.org), March 4, 2005
Source: Arizona State Legislature, (http://www.azleg.state.az.us/), March 4, 2005
Source: Merriam-Webster Online, (http://www.m-w.com/), March 3, 2005
Source: State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols: A Historical Guide, Third Edition - Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, Greenwood Press, 2002
Source: State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols: Revised Edition (Reprint)- George Earlie Shankle, Ph.D., The H.W. Wilson Company, 1938

 

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