History of the General Land Office Seal

A New Challenge

When Texas declared its independence from Mexico in 1836, the Republic of Texas founders were faced with a new challenge. A system for managing the distribution of more than 200 million acres of public domain was needed. The founders acted quickly, and the Texas General Land Office was created.

Among the most important functions assigned to the land commissioner was cosigning patents with the president of Texas. Seals of both the Republic and the Land Office were to be affixed to patents for authentication.

The Texas General Land Office seal has undergone major revisions twice since the inception of the original design.

Financial woes struck the young Republic, and funds needed to purchase the Land Office stationery ordered from New Orleans were lacking. In December 1837, Congress appropriated the funds to cover stationery needs, but when one of the first laws of the Republic granted land in Galveston, the seal needed to finalize the transaction had not arrived. “There being yet no public seal provided,” the private seal of Commissioner John P. Borden was affixed to the first patent issued by the Republic on January 25, 1838.

The First Seal

The first Land Office seal left New Orleans at the end of January 1838 and arrived in Texas within the month. This seal, which depicted a buffalo standing near a live oak tree, was used through 1842 until it was either broken or lost, most likely during an incident known as the Archives War.

An alternate seal was available between 1842 and 1844 but was never used.

The Second Seal

The second Land Office seal, featuring a cotton plant, plough, scythe, sheaf of wheat, and meridian sun, was used through 1986. Before annexation, the seal read, “Republic of Texas — General Land Office.” An updated seal was created following annexation.

Present-Day Seal

On March 25, 1986, Commissioner Garry Mauro introduced the present-day seal depicting a bison in front of mountains, plateaus, prairies, bays, barrier islands, and the Gulf of Mexico. According to Commissioner Mauro, the return of the bison in the seal, “symbolizes the commitment to protecting Texas’ public lands and the important role played by the General Land Office through Texas history.”