The Honolulu City Seal celebrates its 110th anniversary this Sunday. Approved by the city’s Board of Supervisors on Feb. 10, 1909, the seal is used to authenticate all of the city’s official papers and instruments that require execution or certification by the City and County Clerk.
The seal was designed by Denmark-native Viggo Jacobsen, a pen artist and world traveler. In 1896, Jacobsen won $50 for a competition to design the seal of the Republic of Hawai‘i, and the Honolulu City Seal, also designed by Jacobsen, is an offshoot of the state emblem.
“Every time I look at our City Seal I feel a sense of pride,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “To me the seal tells the story of who we are as a people and the things we cherish. We are a diverse and welcoming community that honors its host culture, respects the natural beauty that we are blessed with, and always looks to the future with optimism and hope. Mr. Jacobsen did a wonderful job expressing all of those ideals 110 years ago, and his work will continue to be a part of Honolulu’s rich history.”
The Honolulu City Seal is described as a heraldic shield in quarters: The first and fourth quarters bear the stripes and colors of the Hawaiian flag. The center features the star of Hawai‘i against a green background, and is said to have represented the hope that one day the “Star of Hawai‘i” would be placed on the United States flag.
Two “kapu” sticks, which signify authority of government, adorn the other two quarters of the coat of arms. Supporting the shield are the Nu‘uanu Pali cliffs on the right side, and iconic Diamond Head, also known as Le‘ahi, on the left side. The crest is a rising sun above the shield, and the whole is surrounded by a legend- CITY AND COUNTY OF HONOLULU (above) and STATE OF HAWAII (below).
“The seal of the City and County of Honolulu has remained steadfast since its inception in 1909, although a major change occurred in 1959 when ‘Territory of Hawaii’ was replaced with ‘State of Hawaii,’” said Tory Laitila, registrar of the Mayor’s Office of Culture and the Arts. “The seal serves as a symbol of Honolulu and is used by the city in a variety of ways, from stationary to marking its vehicles. It is even on the City and County of Honolulu Flag, which was adopted in 1960 and displays the City Seal on a field of ‘ilima or golden yellow, the city’s official color.”
Jacobsen was born in Denmark and worked as an insurance agent in Melbourne, Australia before moving to Honolulu, where as a penman he was given the telephone number 16. He held many jobs during his time on O‘ahu, from clerk to newspaper writer, and was even a part of the staff at Theo H. Davies & Co.
Jacobsen also worked for the government legislature after the death of King Kalākaua, and was responsible for engrossing resolutions and condolences for a period of four months. Jacobsen died of pneumonia at Queen’s Hospital on Jan. 9, 1910 at about 50 years of age, less than a year after Honolulu’s City Seal was officially approved by the Board of Supervisors.