1798 Territorial Seal of Mississippi

Accession Number: 1981.33.1 (Museum of Mississippi History Collection)

This official seal from the collection of the Museum of Mississippi History was cast in 1798 when Congress established the territory of Mississippi.  It was made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, then the nation’s capital, and brought to the Mississippi Territory by Judge Daniel Tilton, a New Hampshire lawyer who was commissioned as one of the first judges of the Mississippi Territory on May 17, 1798.

Note the misspelling of Mississippi on the seal. This error caused something of a furor when an image of the seal was used for a 1948 commemorative stamp in honor of the sesquicentennial of the Mississippi Territory. An article in the State-Times says:

Dixie-baiters were pleased to observe that Mississippians couldn’t spell, not even the name of their own state. To the rescue came Dr. William D. McCain of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Dr. McCain determined that the great seal, made in Philadelphia in 1798 by Yankees and brought down the river by Judge Daniel Tilton of New Hampshire, was mispelled [sic] by the United States Department of State — in the educated North!1

The seal appears earlier in the state’s documentary history in 1871 in The Semi-Weekly Clarion newspaper:

We were yesterday shown by Mr. H. F. Hewson, of the Governor’s office the “Territorial seal of Mississippi, 1798.” Mr. H. discovered it in overhauling some old property about the capitol.2

Apparently the territorial seal, obsolete when Mississippi achieved statehood in 1817, had gotten lost in the office clutter!

Artifacts in the collection of the Museum of Mississippi History are available for viewing by appointment only. Please contact Cindy Gardner, Director of Collections or Nan Prince, Asst. Director of Collections by email to schedule an appointment.

1 “Error Found In Old Seal,” State Times, March 27, 1955. Microfilm roll #34201 (MDAH).

2 “Brevities,” page 3, The Semi-Weekly Clarion, June 2, 1871. Microfilm roll #29157 (MDAH).

See also the “Seal-Territorial” subject file (MDAH).