United States
Fact-checked

At UnitedStatesNow, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What Is the State Motto of California?

California's state motto, "Eureka," encapsulates a rich history of discovery and innovation. Stemming from the Greek for "I have found it," this phrase echoes the triumphant gold rush era. It's a testament to the Golden State's spirit of exploration and achievement. How does this motto still shape California's identity today? Join us as we explore its enduring influence.
Britt Archer
Britt Archer

The state motto of California goes hand in hand with its gold rush history. When a miner named James Wilson Marshall discovered gold in the state in 1848, it triggered the first great gold rush in the United States, predating the Klondike Gold Rush in Canada’s Yukon Territory by about 50 years. “Eureka,” the state motto of California, roughly translates to English as “I have found it,” and refers to the momentous discovery. “Eureka” can also refer to California’s statehood in 1850.

The state seal bears the word “Eureka.” At the time of the seal’s design, 1849, California was a year shy of statehood. The official state motto of California was not adopted until 1963. During the 1950s, slightly more than 100 years after the discovery of gold in California and the popularization of the word “Eureka,” there was an unsuccessful movement to change the state motto of California to “In God We Trust.”

A 19th century gold rush contributed to the growth of California's population.
A 19th century gold rush contributed to the growth of California's population.

Sutter’s Mill is the site on the American River where the gold discovery was made, about a 60-minute drive today from the California capital of Sacramento. Upon his discovery, James Marshall turned to workmen nearby and said, “Boy, by God, I believe I’ve found a gold mine.” The discovery created a new word for the droves of about 90,000 gold seekers who raced to California from all over the United States and the world in 1849 to claim their share of gold: Forty-niners. The number of gold-seeking pioneers swelled to 200,000 within three years of John Marshall’s gold strike.

The motto, "Eureka," may have originally been used as an indication of discovering gold in the state of California.
The motto, "Eureka," may have originally been used as an indication of discovering gold in the state of California.

James Marshall, who was 37 years old when he discovered gold, grew up in Lambertville, N.J., and headed west in 1844 to become a farmer. The house that sheltered him as a boy in Lambertville still stands today with a plaque to honor his memory, and a nearby church building is said to contain flecks of gold donated by him. Today his childhood home houses Lambertville’s historical society and is a museum, and it is listed on the state and national historic registers. He died in 1885 without much money to his name because the land rights to the gold claim were seized by squatters. His grave is located near the American River, marked by a statue of him, with the left hand pointing to the site of his gold discovery.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the state motto of California?

The state motto of California is "Eureka," a Greek word meaning "I have found it." This phrase is believed to have been exclaimed by the ancient Greek scholar Archimedes upon discovering the principle of water displacement. California adopted "Eureka" as its state motto during the height of the Gold Rush in 1849, reflecting the discovery of gold that brought fortune-seekers to the state.

When was "Eureka" officially adopted as California's state motto?

"Eureka" was adopted as the official state motto of California in 1963. Although the term had been associated with California since the Gold Rush era, it was not formalized as the state motto until the California legislature passed Resolution Chapter 77, making the designation official.

How does California's state motto reflect its history?

California's state motto, "Eureka," reflects the pivotal moment in the state's history when gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in 1848. This event sparked the California Gold Rush, leading to a massive influx of immigrants seeking their fortunes. The motto encapsulates the spirit of discovery and the transformative impact of the Gold Rush on California's development and identity.

Where can you find the state motto of California displayed?

The state motto of California, "Eureka," is prominently displayed on the state seal. You can find the motto on various state government buildings, official documents, and even on the California state flag. The seal features an image of the Roman goddess Minerva, a grizzly bear and grapevines, representing California's rich resources and its status as a state that came into being without first being a territory.

Does the California state motto appear on the state flag?

No, the California state motto "Eureka" does not appear on the state flag. The California state flag, also known as the Bear Flag, features a grizzly bear, a red star, a red stripe along the bottom, and the words "California Republic." The flag was originally raised in 1846 by settlers during the Bear Flag Revolt and was later adopted as the state flag in 1911.

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • A 19th century gold rush contributed to the growth of California's population.
      By: Maksim Shebeko
      A 19th century gold rush contributed to the growth of California's population.
    • The motto, "Eureka," may have originally been used as an indication of discovering gold in the state of California.
      By: juan35mm
      The motto, "Eureka," may have originally been used as an indication of discovering gold in the state of California.