This version of the California State Seal was used in the early 1860s on the letterhead of various state entities, including the Governor’s Office and the Office of the Adjutant General.
February 12, 2009 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of the most influential individuals in our country’s history — Abraham Lincoln. While this great man never set foot in California, he expressed a fascination with the newly-forged frontier state. On March 21, 1865, just weeks before he died, Lincoln voiced this interest to his friend Charles Maltby, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for California:
“I have long desired to see California; the production of her gold mines has been a marvel to me, and her stand for the Union, her generous offerings to the Sanitary Commission, and her loyal representatives have endeared your people to me; and nothing would give me more pleasure than a visit to the Pacific shore, and to say in person to your citizens, ‘God bless you for your devotion to the Union,’ but the unknown is before us. I may say, however, that I have it now in purpose when the railroad is finished, to visit your wonderful state.”
Catapulted to statehood in 1850 as a result of the Gold Rush, California during the last fifteen years of Lincoln’s lifetime wrestled with many of the issues facing the rest of the Union — slavery, reliable transportation and communication, the Civil War — as well as challenges specific to the new state, such as flooding, mining, and the development of its government. The following exhibit explores the Golden State as it existed between 1850 and 1865. These historical documents, photographs, and maps from the collections of the California State Archives depict various aspects of the state that Lincoln may have observed had he ever made his much hoped-for “visit to the Pacific Shore”.