The beehive image, symbolizing industry, has been central to Utah’s identity since the arrival of the pioneers, first appearing in 1851 on the seal of the Territory of Utah. It can be found throughout the history and art collections, and seen stitched into two of our highlighted artifacts so far, the state flag and Emma Bull’s quilt. It can also be seen in pieces from the Folk Arts Collection, like the Navajo sand painting and the Tongan tapa cloth.
The symbolism behind the beehive is “industry,” originating from the pioneers’ “industry” when they settled the territory. It is also Utah’s official motto, and is on the state seal and flag. Although both the beehive and the motto of “industry” were part of Utah since the 1800s, they did not become the official emblem and motto until 1959.
The Sego Lily
The sego lily, found stitched into the first flag and Emma Bull’s quilt, became the state flower in 1911 and became a symbol of peace during World War I. The plant also held significance for the pioneers who ate the bulb during their first years in Utah when they faced starvation.
The Pioneer Wagon
A red and green pioneer wagon can be seen stitched into Emma Bull’s crazy quilt, a way for her to represent her pioneer background. This symbol of the pioneers and of Utah’s heritage can be found throughout the artifacts and art in the collection, used as a way to celebrate Utah’s pioneer history.
The eagle stitched into the first flag symbolizes national protection, and it is also included in the state seal. It can be found throughout Salt Lake’s architecture, artifacts, and art, including pieces in the collection from Indian tribes.
Written by Michelle James