As battles between British and Continental armies raged across the northern half of New Jersey in 1777, the legislature abandoned Trenton and fled south to safer haven in the village of Haddonfield. There, they reconvened in the second-floor assembly room of the Indian King Tavern and continued to conduct the newly independent state's legal affairs and war efforts.
The Great Seal of New Jersey adopted during those sessions was designed by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere. It uses old world icons to mark the most important attributes and qualities of New Jersey and its people:
The central visual element of the design is a shield with three plows--a representation of the critical importance of agriculture to every aspect of daily life and government. The state's economic power--as well as its military signifigance--was based on the fact that it was the bread basket of the Mid-Atlantic region. Even as delegates discussed this seal at the Indian King, Continental and British soldiers elsewhere in the state were engaged in skirmishes aimed at securing exclusive access to New Jersey's farm stores and livestock herds a a source of army provisions.
The female figure on the right in the seal is Ceres, the Roman goddess of grain. She holds a cornucopia representing the extraordinary fertile soils and natural abundance of the state's fields, forests and waters.
The female figure on the left is Liberty, holding a staff topped with the same kind of "Liberty cap" worn as a symbol of rebellion by patriots throughout the colonies.
Sitting atop the shield between both females is the helmet of a knight's suit of armor--a traditional old world symbol of state sovereignty that is also said to be a symbol for the importance of human intelligence and honor to the affairs of state.
Framed in plumes above the helmet is a horse's head marking the fact that New Jersey was a major center for the breeding of horses. The equestrian head also symbolizes the attributes of strength, speed and utility in war or commerce.
Hope for the Future
And below it all, in a banner anchored at its center with the year of independence, is the new state's motto: "Liberty and Prosperity"--the two post-war goals of all those in the Indian King that day who signed this seal into law and, in other legislation, officially changed the status of New Jersey from that of a colony to that of a soverign state in an independent nation.