National Geographic : 1946 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine Staff Photographer B. Anthony Stewart Off Goes Secret Diplomatic Mail, under Lock and Leaden Seal In the State Department mail room a courier waits while a clerk with a hand press crimps the seal with the words "Department of State, Washington." Much diplomatic mail goes under seal by regular post. Pigeonholes contain envelopes for such widely separated cities as Berlin (top row) and Tokyo (bottom). deeds and aspirations of our countrymen. Yet to most citizens the meaning, and even the appearance, of more than one or two are little known. Color Compilation of All State Seals The National Geographic Society is pre senting herewith the first complete full-color magazine reproduction of the seals of all States and Territories, the Federal Government and its Departments, with brief "biographies" re cording the history and symbolism of each. In law, "What is a seal?" can be the $64 question. In some States the distinction be tween sealed and unsealed documents has been abolished. Official Government documents gen erally bear a seal. The legal aspects of seals, however, do not concern us here. In common terminology, "What is a seal?" is a simpler question, but it has three answers. First, a seal is any device, or die, bearing a design which can be impressed in relief upon a soft, tenacious substance, such as clay, wax, or even suitable paper. Such an instrument is called a matrix, stamp, or seal press. Second, any impression made by such a de vice is a seal; this is the most common mean ing of the word. Third, a representation of an impression is loosely called a seal. Such representations used as decorative or identifying motifs may be found on objects ranging from stationery to doorknobs, although in many cases these are actually based on the coat of arms rather than on the seal. The design of the seal is frequently, al though not always, considered as the coat of arms of the government or agency, or it may incorporate a part of those arms. Seals are evidence of the authenticity of documents. They are carefully guarded, and in two States-New York and Illinois-the issuance of specimens or sample impressions of the seal is prohibited by law.