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Norfolk's Historic Mace & Seal
1740s, 1845 and current City of Norfolk SealsNorfolk's Historic Seal

Norfolk’s first seal was presented to the borough on June 24, 1740, by the captain of Norfolk’s light infantry Samuel Smith, on the day he became mayor. The Honorable Robert Dinwiddie, Surveyor-General of Customs for the southern colonies, presented a second seal to the Borough Council on July 7, 1741. One survives, although it is unclear which one, as a full description of neither is recorded. The extant seal is English in design, depicting spires, a fortified tower and a ship under construction.


After Norfolk became a city in 1845, the seal was modified. A raised circle around the margin of the seal was added, with the words “City of Norfolk.” The images inside the circle were changed to depict a ship above a plow and three sheaves of wheat. The ship was described as a steamship, but was actually a hybrid concoction having both sails and paddle wheels. The images represent the Port and local agriculture.

In 1912, upon a recommendation by Norfolk citizen Barton Myers, Norfolk Common Council and Board of Alderman appointed a committee to improve on the design of the seal. The committee reported back in March 1913, recommending a full-rigged sailing ship to replace the steamship and new text around the seal’s perimeter. The wheat sheaves and plow were retained. The legend “Et terra et mare divitiae tuae” was added over the ship, and the motto “Crescas” under the wheat. The legend was meant to be translated “Both by land and by sea thy riches (are);” and the motto, “Thou shalt grow.” The outer border of the seal gives the dates when Norfolk was incorporated as a town, borough, and city. The seal of Norfolk remains under the clerk’s care. It is the clerk’s traditional duty to affix the seal to all official city documents.

1740s Borough of Norfolk Seal 1845 City of Norfolk Seal
 The Norfolk Mace  The Norfolk Mace

On April 1, 1754, the same Robert Dinwiddie, now Royal Lt. Governor of Virginia, presented Norfolk with a silver ceremonial mace. Originally maces were weapons made of heavy metals used to protect nobility. Although still a symbol of authority, Norfolk’s mace is completely ceremonial. Over its lengthy history the mace has been hidden, lost and found again.
 Timeline
  • April 1, 1754 - The silver ceremonial mace is presented to the Norfolk Common Council by Royal Lt. Governor Robert Dinwiddie.
  • January 1, 1776 - Norfolk burned on New Year's Day, the mace lay safely buried at Kemps Landing for its protection.
  • 1790 - The mace was returned to Norfolk's Clerk of Court.
  • May 1862 - When Union forces occupied Norfolk, Mayor William Lamb hid the mace under a hearth in his home at 420 Bute Street. Union troops occupied the home, but the mace was never discovered.
  • 1881 through 1885 - It was kept at the Exchange Bank of Norfolk. The bank foreclosed and the mace disappeared.
  • 1894 - Police Chief C. Iredell discovered the mace among litter in the Norfolk Police station. The mace was given to the Norfolk National Bank for safekeeping. It was later put on display.
  • February 16, 1989 - City Clerk, Breck Daughtrey, escorted by armed police officers, delivered the mace to the Chrysler Museum of Art where it remains on public display.
  • April 1, 2004 - Marked the 250th anniversary of the presentation of the mace to what was then the Borough of Norfolk. To promote awareness of our city's history, the Honorable Paul D. Fraim and members of City Council requested the mace and its connection to the city be recognized and celebrated.
  • Today - The mace, a colonial-era symbol of authority bestowed by English royalty, is a precious reminder of and witness to much of Norfolk's nearly 400 year history. The original is on display in the Chrysler Museum of Art; a replica is kept in the mayor’s office and displayed at ceremonial functions.

Current City of Norfolk Seal