Chicago Corporate Seal
The history of Chicago’s seal has been traced back to 1833 when the present city was still a town. The design of the town’s seal was a primitive yet faithful copy of the obverse side of the half-eagle gold coin of the United States money. Col. T. J. V. Owen, United States Commissioner and President of the Town Board, has been credited with being the author of this first authentic signature of the town’s existence. When Chicago was incorporated as a city in 1837, a committee composed of Mayor Ogden and Aldermen Goodhue and Pearsons were appointed to draft a new seal. This committee reported in July, 1837, for enactment as a municipal seal the device which, although the original drawing is lost, is described thus in the ordinance:
“The seal of Chicago shall be represented by a shield (American) with a sheaf of wheat on its center; a ship in full sail on the right; a sleeping infant on the top; an Indian with bow and arrow on the left; and with the motto ‘Urbs in Horto’ at the bottom of the shield, with the inscription ‘City of Chicago-Incorporated, 4th of March, 1837’ around the outside edge of said seal.”
Amendments to the above ordinance were made in June 1854 and February 1893, the first amendment specifying that “over the shield an infant reposes on a sea-shell,” while the latter amplifies this by decreeing a “sleeping infant on top, lying on its back on a shell.”
As a result of the fact that no faithful reproduction of the seal authorized by ordinance was in use in the city’s various departments, a new and corrected design and description of the municipal seal was provided for by ordinance of March 20, 1905, having for its chief recommendation heraldic and historic accuracy.
This is the present seal of the City of Chicago, and it is described the Municipal Code as follows:
1-8-010 Corporate seal authorized - Description. The seal provided and authorized for the city shall be an obverse side with a diameter of two and three eighths inches. The impression of which is a representation of a shield (American) gules, argent and azure (in red, white, and blue); with a sheaf of wheat in fesspoint (center), or (in gold); a ship in full sail on dexter (as right side supporter) proper; on top an infant proper, in a shell argent (in silver); an Indian chief with a bow and arrow proper, on sinister (as left side supporter) standing on promontory, vert (in green); with the motto, “Urbs in Horto,” or, on scroll, gules (in gold on red flowing ribbon) at bottom of the shield; with the inscription, “CITY OF CHICAGO; INCORPORATED 4TH MARCH, 1837,” or (in gold), within an azure (blue) ring around the outer edge of said seal, which seal represented as aforesaid and used with or without colors shall be and is hereby corrected, established, declared to have been, and now to be, the seal of the city. For general use, the plain impression in white containing the figures as given above, as shown herewith, shall be sufficient. (Prior code 2-1)
1-8-100 Private use of seal unlawful. No person shall fraudulently forge, deface, corrupt, or counterfeit the seal of the city, nor shall any person, other than the duly authorized public official, make use of said seal. Any person violating the provision of this section shall be fined not less than $25.00 nor more than $200.00 for each offense. (Prior code 2-10)
The symbolic meaning of the seal is as follows: The shield represents the national spirit of Chicago. The Indian, representing the discoverer of the site of Chicago, is also indicative of the aboriginal contribution which enters into its history. The ship in full sail is emblematic of the approach of civilization and commerce. The sheaf of wheat is typical of activity and plenty, holding the same meaning as the cornucopia. The nude babe in the shell is the ancient and classical symbolism of the pearl, and Chicago, situated at the neck of the lake signifies that it shall be “the gem of the lakes.” The infant, represented in repose, has the additional meaning of contentment, peace and purity. The motto “Urbs in Horto” means “City in a Garden.” “March 4, 1837” in the seal is the date of the incorporation of the city.