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Idaho State Motto

Esto Perpetua Language:Latin
Translation:It Is Perpetual Adoption:1891

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. [What is a motto? ]

Adoption of the Idaho State Motto

Poppies near Moscow, Idaho
Esto Perpetua, Poppies Near Moscow, Idaho

Like thirty-four other states, Idaho has never adopted an official state motto per se. Instead, the motto Esto Perpetua was accepted as an element of the adopted state seal. The history of the adoption of the Idaho state motto is the history of the adoption of the Great Seal of the State of Idaho.

Briefly, the design of the first Territorial Seal of Idaho is attributed to Silas D. Cochran, a clerk in the office of the Secretary of State. No official record of its adoption has been discovered. Dissatisfaction with the design of the seal caused Territorial Governor Caleb Lyon to present his own design, which was adopted by the Idaho Legislature on January 18, 1866. Years earlier in 1849, Governor Lyons had, as one of the clerks, presented Major Robert S. Garnett's design for The Great Seal of the State of California to the California Constitutional Convention in Monterey.

The Governor's design, though adopted, was never fully accepted and was redrawn several times.

The motto Esto Perpetua was incorporated in the Great Seal of the State of Idaho designed by Emma Edwards Green in 1890/91 and adopted by the first Idaho State Legislature on March 14, 1891.

About the Idaho State Motto

The words, "Esto Perpetua" are traced back to the Venetian theologian and mathematician Pietro Sarpi (1522-1623), also known as Frau Paolo. The day before his death he had dictated three replies to questions on affairs of state, and his last words were "Esto perpetua" reportedly in reference to his beloved Venice and translated as "Mayest thou endure forever!"

The motto, Esto Perpetua was adopted by the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry, a farm organization constituted in Washington, D.C. on December 4, 1867. The words also appear in the closing words of Jefferson Davis' History of the Confederacy (1881). It's thought that the motto's use on the Great Seal of Idaho may have been inspired by one of these sources.

When Emma Edwards Green described the motto on the seal, she translated it as "It is perpetuated" or "It is forever".

James H. Hawley, Editor of the 1920 History of Idaho: The Gem of the Mountains, records:

"Miss Emma Edwards of Boise, now Mrs. Emma Edwards-Greene, who designed the State seal, says that the words Esto Perpetual 'breathe the prayer that the bounty and blessing of this land may forever benefit its people.'"

The Idaho Historical Society bestows the "Esto Perpetua Awards" on individuals or organizations for "for outstanding accomplishments in preserving Idaho's heritage".

The Idaho Statutes

Like many states, Idaho's state motto was adopted as an element of its official seal. The following information is excerpted from the Idaho Statutes, Title 59, Chapter 10, Section 59-1005.

Additional Information

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

People, Pride and Progress: 125 Years of the Grange in America by David H. Howard.
A complete history of the National Grange.

The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry: Web site of the National Grange.

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: Idaho Statutes, (http://www3.state.id.us/idstat/TOC/idstTOC.html), March 13, 2005
Source: Idaho Historical Society, (http://www.idahohistory.net/), March 26, 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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