Published June 1968 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
From the Office of United States Senator Robert C. Byrd 105 Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 Volume VIII - Number 24 June 14, 1968 Byrd's Eye View A Public Service Column By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd WEST VIRGINIA SYMBOLS June 20, 1968, marks the 105th anniversary of the Statehood of West Virginia. And for nearly all that time, a familiar sight to most West Virginians has been the State's Coat-of- Arms upon which is emblazoned the motto “Montani Semper Liberi”--Mountaineers Always Free. This Coat of Arms forms the main portion of the Great Seal of West Virginia as well as of the State Flag of West Virginia. The Seal, which is stamped on all official State papers, was designed not long after West Virginia joined the Union. According to the report of a legislative Committee, made September 23, 1863, the size of the Great Seal was set at 2 ½ inches in diameter. The Less Seal, was to be smaller but similar in design, but of lesser dimensions. The Secretary of State was designated keeper of the Seals. The subjects portrayed on the obverse (front) and reverse sides of the Seal are all symbolic of various aspects of West Virginia life. Some are dated, but most are as timely today as they were 105 years ago. For example, the two men standing on either side of the rock, on which is engraved the date of the State's founding, represent the farmer and the miner. The farmer, whose right hand rests on a plow and whose left hand holds a woodsman's axe, is dressed in a more quaint fashion than we might see today, but with modern styles being what they are, it is hard to tell what might come back into style. In front of the rock rest two rifles which, according to the legislative report on the Seal, are "crossed and surmounted at the place of contact by the Phrygian cap or cap of liberty, indicating that our freedom and liberty were won and will be maintained by the force of arms. On the reverse side of the Seal, which is not as often displayed, but which is actually quite picturesque, is portrayed a cross-section of 1863 West Virginia life. To one side is a wooded mountain, opposite which is a cultivated hillside with a log farmhouse typical of the times. A railroad trestle runs along the mountain side. According to the 1863 report, this is “a representation of the viaduct on the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in Preston County, one of the great engineering triumphs of the age…” Toward the center of this scene is a factory, in front of which runs a river with boats along its banks. Nearby are an oil derrick and a salt drying she—equipment used to extract oil and salt in the 1860's. Cattle and sheep, representative of the state's farm industry, are shown, feeding. All of these are representative of the leading activities and pursuits of West Virginia in 18630 Surprisingly, many of' them are valid symbols in 1968. The State flag of West Virginia, a white banner containing the coat-of-arms of the State bracketed on three Sides by a garland of Rhododendron, the State flower, and surmounted by a ribbon containing the words “State of West Virginia”, also has an interesting history. From the time of the State's founding, until 1904, there was no State flag. However, in that year the Centennial of the Louisiana Purchase was' held in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Commissioners of West Virginias exhibit found it necessary to have a flag if West Virginia's honor among the States was to be upheld. Unfortunately the flag they came up with, while attractive, was found impractical to use inasmuch as the Rhododendron design on one side and the coat-of arms motif on the other tended' to show through and cancel each other out. Therefore, when West Virginia was invited to participate in the Jamestown, Virginia, Exposition in 1907 a new flag was created. This flag similar in design to the first, was found visually satisfactory, though too expensive to mass produce for school and for other necessary uses. However, it was not until 1929 that the present State flag Was designed. because only one plate was needed to stamp this Design on the cloth, low cost reproductions were made possible and this flag has enjoyed Continued favor and widespread use.