New Hampshire's first seal, created by the First Provincial Congress in 1775, displayed a bundle of five arrows with an upright fish on one side and a pine tree on the other. The arrows represented the five counties at the time suggesing strength in unity. The fish and pine tree represented the state's major economic resources.
In 1784, when the state's new constitution became effective, the legislature decided to change the seal to keep up with the times. The coastal town of Portsmouth had become a thriving ship building center and the legislature wanted to herald this important industry. So, with a rising sun in the background, the new design would feature a ship on stocks.
However, as time went on, this 1784 design became a victim of artists' whims and fancies. The scene continually changed. People appeared on docks, and barrels of rum materialized. In 1931, the legislature voted to regain control of the seal's design.
Today, the seal is unchanging. The frigate Raleigh, one of the first ships that the Constitutional Congress authorized for the nation's navy, graces the center of the seal. The date on the bottom of the seal now reads 1776, in celebration of the Declaration of Independence. The rum barrels are gone, the sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean, and a wreath of laurel frames the entire scene. Nine stars, throughout the laurel, signify New Hampshire's deciding vote ratifying the Constitution of the United States.
The following information was excerpted from the State of New Hampshire Revised Statutes Online, Title 1, Chapter 3, Section 3:9.
TITLE I THE STATE AND ITS GOVERNMENT
CHAPTER 3: STATE EMBLEMS, FLAG, ETC.
Section 3:9 --The seal of the state shall be 2 inches in diameter, circular, with the following detail and no other: A field crossed by a straight horizon line of the sea, above the center of the field; concentric with the field the rising sun, exposed above the horizon about 1/3 of its diameter; the field encompassed with laurel; across the field for the full width within the laurel a broadside view of the frigate Raleigh, on the stocks; the ship's bow dexter and higher than the stern; the 3 lower masts shown in place, together with the fore, main and mizzen tops, shrouds and mainstays; an ensign staff at the stern flies the United States flag authorized by act of Congress June 14, 1777; a jury staff on the mainmast and another on the foremast each flies a pennant; flags and pennants are streaming to the dexter side; the hull is shown without a rudder; below the ship the field is divided into land and water by a double diagonal line whose highest point is sinister; no detail is shown anywhere on the water, nor any on the land between the water and the stocks except a granite boulder on the dexter side; encircling the field is the inscription, SEAL • OF • THE • STATE • OF • NEW HAMPSHIRE, the words separated by round periods, except between the parts of New Hampshire; at the lowest point of the inscription is the date 1776, flanked on either side by a 5-pointed star, which group separates the beginning and end of the inscription; the whole form and design to be as follows:
Source. RS 11:1. CS 11:1. GS 13:2. GL 14:2. PS 15:6. PL 8:4. 1931, 133:2. RL 13:4.
"History." MANUAL for the GENERAL COURT. Vol. No. 47. Concord: New Hampshire Department of State, 1981. 3-4. Print.
"New Hampshire Almanac: State Seal." . State of New Hampshire, 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 16 Mar. 2011. <http://www.nh.gov/nhinfo/seal.html>.
"TITLE I THE STATE AND ITS GOVERNMENT, CHAPTER 3 STATE EMBLEMS, FLAG, ETC., Section 3:9." . The State of New Hampshire, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 28 May 2014. <http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/I/3/3-9.htm>.
Shearer, Benjamin F. and Barbara S. State Names, Seals, seals and Symbols: A Historical Guide Third Edition, Revised and Expanded. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 3 Sub edition, 2001.
New Hampshire Almanac >State Seal: The New Hampshire Almanac is compiled by the New Hampshire State Library from state statutes and other sources as noted.
State seals: Complete list of official state seals from NETSTATE.COM.
More New Hampshire symbols & emblems: Complete list of official New Hampshire state symbols from NETSTATE.COM.