September 9: State Motto Day

Today is the anniversary of California’s admission as the 31st state of the Union. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 caused its population to explode, and in 1849 settlers applied for admission to the Union after drafting a state constitution that prohibited slavery. Because making California a state would upset the balance of free and slave states, statehood was delayed until September 9, 1850, when the Compromise of 1850 opened the door for California statehood.

In addition to a state constitution, Californians adopted a state seal in 1849 with the motto “Eureka,” — The Greek word for “I Have Found It” — an appropriate interjection for a state whose reputation was made on gold strikes (1).

The official state motto of Missouri is Latin: Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto (“Let the Welfare of the People Be the Supreme Law”). In fact, ‘English Only’ proponents might be surprised to learn that more than half of states in the union have mottos in languages other than English.

Here are the statistics on the polyglot mottos:

Latin: 22

French: 2

Greek: 1

Hawaiian: 1

Spanish: 1

Italian: 1

Native American – Chinook: 1

Six states feature one-word mottos. Only one state, Vermont, has its state’s name in its motto, and Florida is the only state with the same motto as the United States of America: “In God We Trust.”

For a complete list of mottos with English translations visit Wikipedia (3).

Today’s Challenge: Motto Mania

Generate some new state mottos for your home state or the other 49 states.  Have a motto contest in your class or online.  They can be funny or serious, but they should all memorable; after all, they may someday be emblazoned on a license plate.

Quotation of the Day:  The Philosopher’s Motto: I came, I saw, I pondered! –Greg Curtis

The geography pages at include a humor section called “New State Mottos.” See if you can match up the state with its “new” motto. When you finish, try creating some of your own mottos.


1 – The Library of Congress. American Memory. “Today in History: August 10.”

2 – Missouri Secretary of State’s Office

3 – U.S. State Mottos –

4 – New State Mottos –


  1. Illinois 2. California 3. Nebraska 4. Indiana 5. Rhode Island 6. Washington 7. Iowa 8. Kansas 9. Minnesota

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