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The State of New York is known for being home to New York City (NYC) and Niagara Falls. It was one of the original 13 colonies and although it’s the 27th largest state, it’s the 4th in population. Its capital city is Albany, while its most important city is NYC, which contains globally significant institutions such as the United Nations and Wall Street.
New York is known for its diversity, rich history and heritage. Let’s take a look at the official and unofficial symbols of New York.
The Flag of New York
The state flag of New York features the coat of arms on a dark blue background. Although the state coat of arms was officially adopted in 1778, the flag was adopted much later in 1901.
The shield in the center of the flag displays a ship and sloop on the Hudson River (symbols of foreign and inland commerce). Bordering the river is a grassy shore and in the back is a mountain range with a rising sun behind it. The ribbon below has New York’s state motto Excelsior, meaning ‘ever upward’. Supporting the shield is Liberty and Justice and an American eagle can be seen spreading its wings while perched on a globe at the top. Under Liberty’s foot is a crown (symbolic of freedom from Great Britain) while Justice is blindfolded, holding a sword in one hand and scales in the other, representing fairness and impartiality.
Seal of New York
The Great Seal of New York was officially adopted in 1778, featuring the state coat of arms in the center with the words ‘The Great Seal of the State of New York’ surrounding it. A banner just below the arms portrays the state motto ‘Excelsior’ and its secondary motto ‘E Pluribus Unum’ (meaning ‘Out of Many, One’).
First created by a committee in 1777, the seal was to be used for all the purposes the Crown Seal was used for under the Colony. After undergoing several modifications in the late 18th and early 19th century, its fourth version was finally established and continued to be used ever since.
The beaver is a unique animal with lustrous fur, a flat tail and the ability to change landscapes. These animals, called ‘nature’s engineers’, are extremely important to the natural flow of water and control of erosion due to their dam-building activities.
In the past, their fur and meat made them a popular target for early settlers, and they were once under the threat of extinction. However, through proper management and conservation projects, its numbers are now re-established.
In 1975, the beaver was designated the state animal of New York and continues to help spur the development of the city by attracting traders and trappers to the area.
The State Capitol
The New York State Capitol is situated in Albany, the capital city of New York, U.S.A. Starting in 1867, the building was constructed over a period of 32 years and finally completed in 1899. It was a mix of several styles with a granite foundation and a dome that was planned but never completed.
The State Capitol is a meeting place for Congress to write the laws of the nation while also housing the Congress. During the Civil War, it was used as a hospital, bakery and military barracks and today it’s the most well-known symbol of democratic government throughout the world,
The Nine-Spotted Ladybug
The nine-spotted ladybug (Coccinella novemnotata) belongs to the species of ladybug native to North America. It can be identified by the 4 black spots on each of its forewings, a black suture and a single spot split just between them. It’s commonly found all over the State of New York, U.S.A.
The ladybug has been the official state insect of New York since it was adopted in1989. At one stage, people believed that it was extinct in the state since there wasn’t a single one to be found. However, it was rediscovered in Virginia and Amagansett, the first sighing in the entire state since 1982.
The garnet is a silicate mineral, used as a gemstone and an abrasive in the Bronze Age. High-quality garnets are similar to rubies but come at a lower price. These gemstones can be easily used as sandpaper since they’re extremely hard and sharp. They’re dark red in color and are typically found in the southeastern part of New York but they’re mostly seen in the Adirondacks where Barton Mines, the largest garnet mine in the world is located. In 1969, the garnet was designated the state gem of New York by Governor Nelson Rockefeller.
New York Quarter
The state quarter of New York is a coin that features a bust of the first U.S. president George Washington on the obverse and the Statue of Liberty defacing the state outline with the words: ‘Gateway to Freedom’ on the reverse. Around its border are 11 stars, which represent New York’s position when it was admitted into the Union in 1788. Released in January 2001, this coin is the 11th that was issued in the ’50 State Quarters Program’ and the first to be released in 2001.
The sugar maple has been the official state tree of New York since 1956 when it was adopted in recognition of its high value. Sometimes called ‘rock maple’ or ‘hard maple’, the sugar maple is one of the most important and largest of all hardwood trees. The sap from its trunk is used for making maple syrup and its leaves which turn into bright colors during autumn contribute to the state’s beautiful fall foliage. These trees rarely flower until they’re about 22 years old and they can live for about 300 to 400 years.
I Love New York
The popular song ‘I Love New York’ was written and composed in 1977 by Steve Karmen, as part of an advertising campaign to promote tourism in the state. However, due to its increased popularity, Governor Hugh Carey declared it as the state’s national anthem in 1980. The lyrics of this iconic song were reworked in 2020, reflecting the response to the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting in a more motivational and inspiring version.
The Eastern Bluebird
The Eastern Bluebird (Siala sialis) is a small bird from the Passerine family (thrushes) which is commonly found in farmlands, orchards and woodlands. The bird is of medium size and blue in color with slight differences between the males and females. Male Eastern Bluebirds are completely blue on the top, with a brown-red breast and throat and a fully white belly whereas the females have a much paler coloring.
Declared as the state bird of New York in 1970, the eastern bluebird is now making a dramatic comeback from dangerously low numbers in the 1950s.
The lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is a type of flowering plant native to south-eastern Europe and is grown and has been naturalized in certain parts of North America. It’s grown for its purple flowers which carry a mild and pleasant scent but is also commonly seen growing in the wild.
The flower was adopted as the official state flower of New York in 2006 and is an extremely popular ornamental plant grown in parks and gardens all over the state. Its fragrant flowers bloom in early summer and spring. However, the common lilac also flowers copiously in alternative years.
Working canines are dogs used to perform certain practical tasks as opposed to companion or pet dogs. In New York, the working dog was officially adopted as the state dog in 2015 and includes police work dogs, guide dogs, hearing dogs, service and therapy dogs, detection dogs and war dogs among many others.
These dogs are much respected by the citizens of New York because of the work they do protecting, comforting and giving their affection and friendship to New Yorkers who are in need of assistance. There’s no specific breed of dog that qualifies as a working canine since it can be any trained working or service dog that can help veterans, civilians or first responders.
Roses, officially adopted as the State flower of New York in 1955, are perennial flowers that grow on shrubs or vines and are found wild or cultivated in all corners of the state. They grow in bushes and the flowers are beautiful and fragrant, with prickles or thorns on their stems. Wild roses usually have only 5 petals whereas cultivated ones tend to have multiple sets. An ever-popular flower in New York, the rose is also the national flower of the United States of America.
The apple muffin has been the official state muffin of New York since 1987, its recipe developed by a group of school children in North Syracuse. These muffins are made by adding little pieces of apple to the batter before it’s baked, resulting in an incredibly moist and delicious muffin. Upon tasting the muffin, Governor Cuomo loved it so much, he signed a bill into law, turning it into the official muffin of the state.
The Snapping Turtle
Snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentine), named the official reptile of New York State in 2006, are the largest freshwater turtles that grow up to 35 pounds with a shell longer than 20 inches. These turtles live in ponds, lakes, rivers, marshes and streams throughout the state and are easily recognized because of jagged rear edge of their large shells and their saw-toothed tails. When the time comes for the females to lay eggs, they make a hole in the sandy soil near the water for 20-40 eggs which are usually the size of ping-pong balls. As soon as they hatch, the baby turtles make their way to the water to start a new life.
Check out our related articles on other popular state symbols:
Symbols of Hawaii
Symbols of Pennsylvania
Symbols of California