The General Assembly of 1987 adopted milk as the official State Beverage.
In making milk the official state beverage, North Carolina followed many other states including our
northern neighbor, Virginia, and Wisconsin, the nation's number one dairy state.
North Carolina ranks 20th among dairy producing states in the nation with nearly 1,000 dairy
farmers producing 179 million gallons of milk per year. The annual income from this production
amounts to around $228 million. North Carolinians consume over 143 million gallons of milk every
The Cardinal was selected by popular choice as our State Bird on March 4, 1943.
The Cardinal is sometimes called the Winter Redbird because it is most noticeable during the winter
when it is the only "redbird" present. A year-round resident of North Carolina, the Cardinal is one of
the most common birds in our gardens, meadows, and woodlands. The male Cardinal is red all over,
except for the area of its throat and the region around its bill which is black; it is about the size of a
Catbird only with a longer tail. The head is conspicuously crested and the large stout bill is red. The
female is much duller in color with the red confined mostly to the crest, wings, and tail. This
difference in coloring is common among many birds. Since it is the female that sits on the nest, her
coloring must blend more with her natural surroundings to protect her eggs and young from
predators. There are no seasonal changes in her plumage.
The Cardinal is a fine singer, and what is unusual is that the female sings as beautifully as the male.
The male generally monopolizes the art of song in the bird world.
The nest of the Cardinal is rather an untidy affair built of weed stems, grass and similar materials in
low shrubs, small trees or bunches of briars, generally not over four feet above the ground. The usual
number of eggs set is three in this State and four further North. Possibly the Cardinal raises an extra
brood down here to make up the difference, or possibly the population is more easily maintained
here by the more moderate winters compared to the colder North.
The Cardinal is by nature a seed eater, but he does not dislike small fruits and insects.
The General Assembly of 1987 adopted the shad boat as the official State Historical Boat.
The Shad Boat was developed on Roanoke Island and is known for its unique crafting and
maneuverability. The name is derived from that of the fish it was used to catch - the shad.
Traditional small sailing craft were generally ill-suited to the waterways and weather conditions along
the coast. The shallow draft of the Shad Boat plus its speed and easy handling made the boat ideal
for the upper sounds where the water was shallow and the weather changed rapidly. The boats were
built using native trees such as cypress, juniper, and white cedar, and varied in length between
twenty-two and thirty-three feet. Construction was so expensive that the production of the Shad
Boat ended in the 1930s, although they were widely used into the 1950s. The boats were so well
constructed that some, nearly 100 years old, are still seen around Manteo and Hatteras.
The General Assembly of 1945 declared Red and Blue of shades appearing in the North Carolina
State Flag and the American Flag as the official State Colors.
The Plott Hound was officially adopted as our State Dog on August 12, 1989.
The Plott Hound breed originated in the mountains of North Carolina around 1750 and is the only
breed known to have originated in this State. Named for Jonathan Plott who developed the breed as
a wild boar hound, the Plott Hound is a legendary hunting dog known as a courageous fighter and
tenacious tracker. He is also a gentle and extremely loyal companion to hunters of North Carolina.
The Plott Hound is very quick of foot with superior treeing instincts and has always been a favorite
of big-game hunters.
The Plott Hound has a beautiful brindle-colored coat and a spine-tingling, bugle-like call. It is also
only one of four breeds known to be of American origin.
The General Assembly of 1971 designated the Channel Bass (Red Drum) as the official State Salt
Channel Bass usually occur in great supply along the Tar Heel coastal waters and have been found
to weigh up to 75 pounds although most large ones average between 30 and 40 pounds.
The flag is an emblem of antiquity and has commanded respect and reverence from practically all
nations from the earliest times. History traces it to divine origin, the early peoples of the earth
attributing to it strange, mysterious, and supernatural powers. Indeed, our first recorded references
to the standard and the banner, of which our present flag is but a modified form, are from sacred
rather than from secular sources. We are told that it was around the banner that the prophets of old
rallied their armies and under which the hosts of Israel were led to believing, as they did, that the flag
carried with it divine favor and protection.
The flags of most of the states, however, consist of the coat of arms of
that state upon a suitably colored field. It is said that the first state flag of North Carolina was built on
this model but legislative records show that a "state flag" was not established or recognized until
1861. The constitutional convention of 1861, which passed the ordinance of secession, adopted a
state flag. On May 20, 1861, the day the secession resolution was adopted, Col. John D. Whitford,
a member of the convention from Craven County, introduced an ordinance, which was referred to a
select committee of seven. The ordinance stated that "the flag of this State shall be a blue field with a
white V thereon, and a star, encircling which shall be the words, Sirgit astrum, May 20, 1775."
Colonel Whitford was made chairman of the committee to which this ordinance was referred. The
committee secured the aid and advice of William Jarl Browne, an artist of Raleigh. Browne prepared
and submitted a model to this committee and this model was adopted by the convention of June 22,
1861. The Browne model was vastly different from the original design proposed by Colonel
This state flag, adopted in 1861, is said to have been issued to North Carolina regiments of state
troops during the summer of 1861 and borne by them throughout the war. It was the only flag,
except the national and Confederate colors, used by North Carolina troops during the Civil War.
This flag existed until 1885, when the Legislature adopted a new model.
It is interesting to examine the significance of the dates found on the flag. The first date, "May 20,
1775," refers to the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, although many speculate the
authenticity of this particular document. The second date appearing on the state flag of 1861 is that
of "May 20th, 1861." This date commemorated the secession of the State from the Union, but as the
cause for secession was defeated, this date no longer represented anything after the Civil War. So
when a new flag was adopted in 1885, this date was replaced with "April 12th, 1776." This date
commemorates the Halifax Resolves, a document that places the Old North State in the very front
rank, both in point of time and in spirit, among those that demanded unconditional freedom and
absolute independence from any foreign power. This document stands out as one of the great
landmarks in the annals of North Carolina history.
Since 1885 there has been no change in our state flag. For the most part, it has remained unknown
and a stranger to the good people of our State. However, as we became more intelligent, and
therefore, more patriotic and public spirited, the emblem of the Old North State assumed a station of
greater prominence among our people. One hopeful sign of this increased interest was the act passed
by the Legislature of 1907, requiring the state flag to be floated from all state institutions, public
buildings, and courthouses. In addition to this, many public and private schools, fraternal orders, and
other organizations now float the state flag.
The General Assembly of 1941 designated the dogwood as the State Flower.
The Dogwood is one of the most prevalent trees in our State and can be found in all parts of the
State from the mountains to the coast. Its blossoms, which appear in early spring and continue on
into summer, are most often found in white, although shades of pink (red) are not uncommon.
The General Assembly of 1973 designated the Honey Bee as the official State Insect.
This industrious creature is responsible for the annual production of more than $2 million worth of
honey in the state. However, the greatest value of Honey Bees is their role in the growing cycle as a
major contributor to the pollination of North Carolina crops.
The General Assembly of 1969 designated the Gray Squirrel as the official State Mammal.
The gray squirrel is a common inhabitant of most areas of North Carolina from "the swamps of
eastern North Carolina to the upland hardwood forests of the piedmont and western counties." He
feels more at home in an "untouched wilderness" environment, although many squirrels inhabit our
city parks and suburbs. During the fall and winter months the gray squirrel survives on a diet of
hardwoods, with acorns providing carbohydrates and proteins. In the spring and summer, their diet
consists of "new growth and fruits" supplemented by early corn, peanuts, and insects.
The General Assembly of 1893 (chapter 145) adopted the words "Esse Quam Videri" as the State's
motto and directed that these words with the date "20 May, 1775," be placed with our Coat of
Arms upon the Great Seal of the State.
The words "Esse Quam Videri" mean "to be rather than to seem." Nearly every State has adopted a
motto, generally in Latin. The reason for mottoes being in Latin is that the Latin language is far more
condensed and terse than the English. The three words, "Esse Quam Videri," require at least six
English words to express the same idea.
It is somewhat unique that until the act of 1893 the sovereign State of North Carolina had no motto
since its declaration of independence. It was one of the few states which did not have a motto and
the only one of the original thirteen without one.
"The Old North State or The Tar Heel State"
In 1629, King Charles I of England "erected into a province," all the land from Albemarle Sound on
the north to the St. John's River on the south, which he directed should be called Carolina. The word
Carolina is from the word Carolus, the Latin form of Charles.
When Carolina was divided in 1710, the southern part was called South Carolina and the northern,
or older settlement, North Carolina. From this came the nickname the "Old North State." Historians
have recorded that the principle products during the early history of North Carolina were "tar, pitch,
and turpentine." It was during one of the fiercest battles of the War Between the States, so the story
goes, that the column supporting the North Carolina troops was driven from the field. After the battle
the North Carolinians, who had successfully fought it out alone, were greeted from the passing
derelict regiment with the question: "Any more tar down in the Old North State, boys?" Quick as a
flash came the answer: "No, not a bit, old Jeff's bought it all up." "Is that so; what is he going to do
with it?" was asked. "He's going to put on you-un's heels to make you stick better in the next fight."
Creecy relates that General Lee, upon hearing of the incident, said: "God bless the Tar Heel boys,"
and from that they took the name.
The General Assembly of 1979 designated the Eastern Box Turtle as the official State Reptile for
The turtle is one of nature's most useful creatures. Through its dietary habits it serves to assist in the
control of harmful and pestiferous insects and as a clean-up crew, helping to preserve the purity and
beauty of our waters. At a superficial glance, the turtle appears to be a mundane and uninteresting
creature; however, closer examination reveals it to be most fascinating, ranging from species
well-adapted to modern conditions to species which have existed virtually unchanged since
prehistoric times. Derided by many, the turtle is really a culinary delight, providing the gourmet food
enthusiast with numerous tasty dishes from soups to entrees.
The turtle watches undisturbed as countless generations of faster "hares" run by to quick oblivion,
and is thus a model of patience for mankind, and a symbol of our State's unrelenting pursuit of great
and lofty goals.
The General Assembly of 1979 designated Granite as the official Rock for the State of North
The State of North Carolina has been blessed with an abundant source of "the noble rock," granite.
Just outside Mount Airy in Surry County is the largest open face granite quarry in the world
measuring one mile long and 1,800 feet in width. The granite from this quarry is unblemished,
gleaming, and without interfering seams to mar its splendor. The high quality of this granite allows its
widespread use as a building material, in both industrial and laboratory applications where
supersmooth surfaces are necessary.
North Carolina granite has been used for many magnificent edificies of government throughout the
United States such as the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kitty Hawk, the gold depository at Fort
Knox, the Arlington Memorial Bridge and numerous courthouses throughout the land. Granite is a
symbol of strength and steadfastness, qualities characteristic of North Carolinians. It is fitting and just
that the State recognize the contribution of granite in providing employment to its citizens and
enhancing the beauty of its public buildings.
A seal for important documents was used before the government was ever implemented in North
Carolina. During the colonial period North Carolina used successively four different seals. Since
independence six seals have been used.
Shortly after King Charles II issued the Charter of 1663 to the Lords Proprietors, a seal was
adopted to use in conjunction with their newly acquired domains in America. No official description
has been found of the seal but it can be seen in the British Public Record Office in London. The seal
had two sides and was three and three-eighths inches in diameter. The impression was made by
bonding two wax cakes together with tape before being impressed. The finished impression was
about one-fourth inch thick. This seal was used on all official papers of the Lords Proprietors of
Carolina, embracing both North Carolina and South Carolina.
When the Government of Albemarle was organized in 1665, it adopted for a seal the reverse side of
the seal of the Lords Proprietors. Between the coat-of-arms, the word A-L-BE-M-A-R-L-E was
fixed in capitals, beginning with the letter "A" between the Craven arms and those of Lord John
The Albemarle seal was small, only one and seven-sixteenths inches in diameter and had only one
face. The seal was usually impressed on red wax, but was occasionally seen imprinted on a wafer
stuck to the instrument with soft wax. The government for Albemarle County was the first to use the
seal; however, as the colony grew, it became the seal of the entire Province of North Carolina. It
continued in use until just after the purchase of North Carolina by the crown. During the troublesome
times of the Cary Rebellion, the Albemarle seal was not used. Instead, Cary used his family arms as
seal for official papers. William Glover used his private seal during his presidency as well.
When North Carolina became a Royal Colony in 1729, the old "Albemarle" seal was no longer
applicable. On February 3, 1730, the Board of Trade recommended that the king order a public
seal for the Province of North Carolina. Later that same month, the king approved the
recommendations and ordered that a new seal be prepared for the Governor of North Carolina. On
March 25, the Board of Trade presented the king with a draft of the proposed seal for his
consideration. The king approved the proposed new seal on April 10 with one minor change -
"Georgius Secundus" was to be substituted for the original "Geo.II." The chief engraver of seals,
Rollos, was ordered to "engrave a silver Seal according to said draught ...."
The arrival of the new seal in North Carolina was delayed, so when the council met in Edenton on
March 30, 1731, the old seal of the Colony was ordered to be used till the new seal arrived. The
new seal arrived in late April and the messenger fetching the seal from Cape Fear was paid ten
pounds for his journey. The impression of the new seal was made by placing two cakes or layers of
wax together, and then interlacing ribbon or tape with the attached seal between the wax cakes. It
was customary to put a piece of paper on the outside of three cakes before they were impressed.
The complete seal was four and three-eighths inches in diameter and from one-half to five-eighths
inches thick and weighed about five and one-half ounces.
At a meeting of the council held in New Bern on December 14, 1767, Governor Tryon produced a
new Great Seal of the province with his Majesty's Royal Warrant bearing date at the Court of St.
James the 9th day of July, 1767. The old seal was returned to his Majesty's Council office at
Whitehall in England. Accompanying the warrant was a description of the new seal with instruction
that the seal was to be used in sealing all patents and grants of lands and all public instruments
passed in the king's name for service within the province. It was four inches in diameter, one-half to
five-eighths inches thick, and weighed four and one-half ounces.
Sometimes a smaller seal than the Great Seal was used on commissions and grants, such as a small
heart-shaped seal, or a seal in the shape of an ellipse. These impressions were evidently made by
putting the wax far enough under the edge of the Great Seal to take the impression of the crown. The
royal governors also used their private seals on commissions and grants.
Lord Granville, after the sale of the colony by the Lords Proprietors, retained his right to issue land
grants. He used his private seal on the grants he issued. The last reference found to the colonial seal
is in a letter from Governor Martin to the Earl of Hillsborough in November, 1771, in which he
recounts the broken condition of the seal. He states the seal had been repaired and though
"awkwardly mended . . . [it was] in such manner as to answer all purposes."
Following independence Section XVII of the new constitution adopted at Halifax on December 18,
1776, provided "That there shall be a Seal of this State, which shall be kept by the Governor, and
used by him as occasion may require; and shall be called the Great Seal of the State of North
Carolina, and be affixed to all grants and commissions." When a new constitution was adopted in
1868, Article III, Section 16 provided for ". . . a seal of the State, which shall be kept by the
Governor, and used by him, as occasion may require, and shall be called 'The Great Seal of the
State of North Carolina.' It also provided for the secretary of state to countersign with the governor.
When the people of North Carolina ratified the current constitution in 1970, Article III, Section 10
contained provisions for "The Great Seal of the State of North Carolina." However, the wording
which authorized the secretary of state to countersign documents was removed.
On December 22, 1776, the Provincial Congress at Halifax appointed William Hooper, Joseph
Hewes and Thomas Burke as commissioners to procure a seal for the State; however, there is no
record that a report was ever made by this commission. The Congress provided for the governor to
use his "private seal at arms" until the Great Seal for the state was procured. A bill calling for the
procurement of a Great Seal was introduced in the lower house of the General Assembly on April
28, 1778. The bill became law on May 2. The legislation provided that William Tisdale, Esq., be
appointed to cut and engrave a seal for the State. On Sunday, November 7, 1779, the senate
granted Tisdale £150 to make the seal. The seal procured under this act was used until 1794. The
actual size of the seal was three inches in diameter and one-fourth inch thick. It was made by putting
two cakes of wax together with paper wafers on the outside and pressing them between the dies,
thus forming the obverse and reverse sides of the seal.
An official description of this seal cannot be found, but many of the seals still in existence are in an
almost perfect state of preservation.
In January, 1792, the General Assembly authorized a new State seal, requiring that it be prepared
with only one side. Colonel Abisha Thomas, an agent of North Carolina commissioned by Governor
Martin, was in Philadelphia to settle the State's Revolutionary claims against the Federal
Government. Martin sent a design to Colonel Thomas for a new seal for the State; however, after
suggestions by Dr. Hugh Williamson and Senator Samuel Johnston, this sketch was disregarded and
a new one submitted. This new sketch, with some modification, was finally accepted by Governor
Spaight, and Colonel Thomas had the seal made accordingly.
The seal press for the old seal must have been very large and unwieldy probably due to the
two-sided nature and large diameter of the seal. Governor Richard Dobbs Spaight in a letter to
Colonel Abisha Thomas in February, 1793, wrote: "Let the screws by which the impression is to be
made be as portable as possible so as it may be adapted to our present itinerant government. The
one now in use by which the Great Seal is at present made is so large and unwieldy as to be carried
only in a cart or wagon and of course has become stationary at the Secretary's office which makes it
very convenient." The seal was cut some time during the summer of 1793, and Colonel Thomas
brought it home with him in time for the meeting of the legislature in November, 1793, at which
session it was "approbated." The screw to the seal was two and one half inches in diameter and was
used until around 1835.
In the winter of 1834-35 the legislature enacted legislation authorizing the governor to procure a new
seal. The preamble to the act stated that the old seal had been used since the first day of March,
1793. A new seal which was very similar to its predecessor was adopted in 1835 and continued in
use until 1893. In 1868 the legislature authorized the governor to procure a new replacement Seal
and required him to do so whenever the old one was lost or so worn or defaced that it was unfit for
In 1883, Colonel S. MCD. Tate introduced a bill that did not provide that a new seal be procured
but described in more detail what the seal should be like. In 1893, Jacob Battle introduced a bill that
made no change in the seal except to add at the foot of the coat-of-arms of the state as part thereof
the motto Esse Quam Videri and to provide that the words "May 20, 1775," be inscribed at the top
of the coat-of-arms.
By the late 19th and early 20th century, the ship that appeared in the background of the early seals
had disappeared. The North Carolina Mountains were the only backdrop on the seal, while formerly
both the mountains and the ship had been depicted.
This brief history of the seals of our State illustrates the great variety and liberty that was taken in the
design of the official State seal.
The General Assembly of 1965 designated the Scotch Bonnet (pronounced bonay) as the State
A colorful and beautifully shaped shell, the Scotch Bonnet is abundant in North Carolina coastal
waters at depths between 500 and 200 feet. The best source of live specimens is from offshore
The song known as "The Old North State" was adopted as the official song of the State of North
Carolina by the General Assembly of 1927.
THE OLD NORTH STATE
(William Gaston; Collected and Arranged by Mrs. E. E. Randolph)
- Carolina! Carolina! heaven's blessings attend her,
While we live we will cherish, protect and defend her,
Tho' the scorner may sneer at and witlings defame her,
Still our hearts swell with gladness whenever we name her.
Hurrah! Hurrah! the Old North State forever,
Hurrah! Hurrah! the good Old North State.
- Tho' she envies not others, their merited glory,
Say whose name stands the foremost, in liberty's story,
Tho' too true to herself e'er to crouch to oppression,
Who can yield to just rule a more loyal submission.
Hurrah! Hurrah! the Old North State forever,
Hurrah! Hurrah! the good Old North State.
- Then let all those who love us, love the land that we live in,
As happy a region as on this side of heaven,
Where plenty and peace, love and joy smile before us,
Raise aloud, raise together the heart thrilling chorus.
Hurrah! Hurrah! the Old North State forever,
Hurrah! Hurrah! the good Old North State.
The General Assembly of 1973 designated the emerald as the official State Precious Stone.
A greater variety of minerals, more than 300, have been found in North Carolina than in any other
These minerals include some of the most valuable and unique gems in the world. The largest Emerald
ever found in North Carolina was 1,438 carats and was found at Hiddenite, near Statesville. The
"Carolina Emerald," now owned by Tiffany & Company of New York was also found at Hiddenite
in 1970. When cut to 13.14 carats, the stone was valued at the time at $100,000 and became the
largest and finest cut emerald on the continent.
The long leaf pine was officially designated as the State Tree by the General Assembly of 1963.
The pine is the most common of the trees found in North Carolina, as well as the most important one
in the history of our State. During the Colonial and early Statehood periods, the pine was a vital part
of the economy of North Carolina. From it came many of the "naval stores" - resin, turpentine, and
timber - needed by merchants and the navy for their ships. The pine has continued to supply North
Carolina with many important wood products, particularly in the building industry.
The sweet potato was officially designated the State Vegetable by the General Assembly of 1995.
Students at a Wilson County school petitioned the North Carolina General Assembly for the
establishment of the sweet potato as the Official State Vegetable. Their assignment lead to the
creation of the newest state symbol. North Carolina is the largest producer of sweet potatoes in the
nation harvesting over four billion pounds of the vegetable in 1989. The sweet potato is high in
vitamins A and C and low in fat and was grown in North Carolina before the European colonization
of North America.