State of California Seal similar to Seal of Odd Fellows Lodge No. 1

First Lodge Formed 1 Year to the Day before California Becomes a State

The good works of Odd Fellowship were in evidence in California before the official establishment of California Lodge No. 1 in San Francisco. The Lodge was instituted on September 9, 1849, one year to the day, before California was admitted to the Union as the 31st State. Unfortunately any written records concerning the seal of California Odd Fellows Lodge No. 1 and the seal for the State of California were destroyed during the San Francisco earthquake.

The original seal of California Odd Fellows Lodge #1 was adopted under the gaze of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom. A miner works near the water’s edge, and there are ships in the harbor. Mountains are shown in the background.  A very similar seal was adopted by the state of California which featured the Goddess “Minerva” looking to the left while the lodge seal shows “Minerva” looking to the right. A sheaf of grain in the foreground represents California’s agricultural wealth. At the feet of Minerva, stands the California grizzly bear. It also includes a ship in the water and a miner working with a pick.

Credit for designing the California State Seal goes to  R. S. Garnett, and it is believed that he may have also designed the California Odd Fellows Lodge Seal or at least used the lodge seal as a pattern for the State of California seal because of the similarity of the two seals. The California Lodge seal was adopted by the lodge prior to the establishment of the lodge in 1849. Original steps to form California Lodge No. 1 were undertaken in 1848, but with the discovery of gold the establishment of the lodge was put on hold while some of the petitioners left for the gold fields in the Mother Lode. When they returned to San Francisco the following year they proceeded to establish the lodge.

Unfortunately any written record concerning the seal of California Odd Fellows Lodge No. 1 was destroyed during the San Francisco earthquake.

In the book “California Odd Fellowship 1849 – 1988” by Frank S. Christy (Grand Historian of the Odd Fellows Grand Lodge of California and Historian for the Grand Parlor of the Native Sons of the Golden West of California and a recognized historian) the following is printed: “Six years later, April 18, 1906, when the earthquake and fire struck San Francisco, one of their brothers, Thomas Robert Mann, Past Grand (a member of California Lodge No. 1) became a local hero, when he defied the orders of the soldiers, not to enter the Odd Fellows Temple, when it was about to fall. However he did and was able to save the charter of California Lodge.”

That framed Charter document was the only item saved from the building located on the corner of Seventh and Market Streets in San Francisco.

The 28 Odd Fellow lodges meeting in the Odd Fellows Temple lost all minute books, records, regalia and furniture. Their financial loses approached a half million dollars. The headquarters for the Grand Lodge of California, which had copies of reports from all lodges in the state, was also located in the San Francisco Temple and all of their records were lost.

The Grand Lodge of California, established in 1852, has a seal in the shape of a shield with a smaller inner circle showing the Goddess “Minerva”  looking to the left like the state seal. It also has a ship in the water, a miner with a ax, a grizzly bear, a horn of plenty, and mountains in the background.

Several changes were made to the State of California seal over the years, but the seal of California Lodge No. 1 remains as it was originally designed.

Compiled by Don R. Smith – 6/9/07

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