City Seal

The City Seal of 1886

Besides the founding date of May 20, 1810, there are numerous dates that are significant in the early history of San Bernardino:

1854 - San Bernardino was first incorporated as a city

1863 - After the Mormon Recall, the city was unincorporated due to expenses

1869 - San Bernardino incorporated again, this time as a town

1886 - Another reincorporation, this time as a city

According to the official Records of the Board of Trustees of the City of San Bernardino City Hall, formerly Town Hall, May 24, 1886 - 7 ½ Oclock P.M.:

"Ordered that the Clerk of the Board cause a seal to be procured for this City which shall have inscribed in raised letters the words "City of San Bernardino, Cal."

Below is a black and white depiction of the official uncolored embossed seal of 1886.

City of San Bernardino
Click image to enlarge (pdf)

(Courtesy of the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society)

The first official use of the seal was on San Bernardino City Ordinance No. 1 Concerning Meetings of the Board of City Trustees of the 25th day of May 1886...

"In witness whereof and to certify which I have hereunto set my hand and the seal of said City this 4th day of June AD 1886.

B B Harris

The official copy of this ordinance is located the vault of the City Clerk and is embossed with the official 1886 seal of the City. This is the first of many ordinances that were embossed with this seal.

Although it has been reported that the seal was used for more than ordinances, no photographs have be located that show that black and white or colored copies of the seal were used in any official capacity, i.e., letterhead or painted on the side of official city vehicles.

That is, until recently, when the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society located a 1928 letter from the Fire Department's Office of Chief Engineer, that contained a copy of this seal. It has not been ascertained whether the official seal of the City (other than the embossed version used on ordinances) was black and white or that the red seal on the letterhead was just the favorite color of the Fire Department.

City of San Bernardino
(Courtesy of the San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society)

City of San Bernardino

As you can see, the city seal that was being used prior to 1939 contained the words, "REINCORPORATED 1886". Some people were not pleased with that seal being displayed on letterhead and automobile doors. It was then that the Native Sons of the Golden West conducted a contest for a new seal.
City Seal Contest

In 1939, the Native Sons of the Golden West (Arrowhead Parlor No. 110) held a public contest for a new City Seal with the winner being awarded a prize of $25.00 first place, and $10.00 second place.

Sketches were submitted on white illustration board with a diameter or overall dimensions not to exceed 24 inches. They were painted in five colors or less using water color or poster paint and were to be inscribed with the words, "City of San Bernardino, California - Founded in 1810".

The winner was Lois Campbell, daughter of the San Bernardino County Farm Advisor, and Sal Cruz, a high school student, won second place.

The Native Sons then persuaded Mayor McAllister and the Common Council that the present seal was not representative of San Bernardino and on December 4, 1939, Ordinance 1633 was adopted selecting the design submitted by Miss Campbell as the official seal of the City of San Bernardino.

The Current City Seal

City of San Bernardino

Click image to enlarge (pdf)

As early as 1774, Captain Anza's Expedition, under the direction of the Viceroy of Mexico, entered the San Bernardino valley, surrounded by the San Bernardino Mountains and the prehistoric landmark, the Arrowhead that covers almost eight acres of the mountainside.

The early history depicts legends and settlements by many Native American tribes and is marked by the heroism and devotion of the Mission Padres, the rancho period of the Mexican settlers, the adventures of the gold seekers and the never-tiring spirit of the Pioneer Settlers.

On the 20th day of May 1810, a party of missionaries, soldiers and Native Americans from the San Gabriel Mission, under the leadership of Franciscan Fathers, established a community on the feast day of San Bernardine de Sienna (Saint). They named the Valley in his honor, San Bernardino being the Latin version.

The American colonization of San Bernardino began when a permanent settlement of Mormon emigrants from Salt Lake City, led by Captain Jefferson Hunt, entered the Valley.

The transaction by the Mormons to purchase Rancho del San Bernardino from The Lugo Family, comprised most of the Valley's tillable land, and was completed in 1852. On April 1, 1854 the first incorporation of the City became a reality.

The Orange Groves pictured, portray the important fruit industry of the region.

The Yucca Plant, with its white blossoms so prevalent on our hillsides, was called the Candle of the Lord by the early pioneers.

The Locomotive depicts the railroad industry, which entered the Valley in 1886, making San Bernardino the western crossroads of the railroad enterprise.

Under the charter form of government (1905), the City has thrived and prospered, becoming one of the fastest growing communities in California, due to its central location in the freeway and railway networks.

San Bernardino is the overland gateway for all of southern California, the Heart of the Inland Empire and the seat of government of San Bernardino County.