Mark Twain and Utah’s Grand Beehive

The central emblem on Utah’s state flag is the beehive, and this is more than appropriate since the likeness of the beehive permeates Utah’s history and culture.  The state’s nickname is the Beehive State and visitors to Utah will note that the image of the beehive abounds within the states boundaries.  Businesses and organizations picture beehives on their signs and logos, and even highway road markers take on the shape of the hive.  Perhaps no other state has an emblem which is so much on display.

Roughing It Missouri

Mark Twain’s illustration of the Missouri State Seal. He turned the shield held by the bears into the top of a whiskey barrel.

The beehive symbol had its origins in the early days of settlement by the Utah Pioneers who recognized that a hive populated with bees gave them an excellent example of a community united in their labors for the common good.  Isolated from eastern markets in the mid nineteenth century, the valleys of the Great Basin severely hampered the availability of manufactured goods and food stuffs.  The necessities of existence were necessarily produced locally rather than being shipped in by wagon.  So like a swarm of bees working together to produce from the environment everything needed for survival, the early Utah settlers worked to create a society where cooperation and hard work would provide the necessities of life.

Roughing It Beehive

Mark Twain’s drawing of Utah Territory’s Beehive.


Utah Territory Second SealIt was not only these Utah Pioneers who saw the appropriateness of the beehive symbol; novelist Mark Twain visited pioneer Utah in 1861 describing his experience in this book Roughing It.  Contemplating the seal of his own home state of Missouri, Twain described that seal as being, “always too figurative.”  Then he turned his attention to the emblem of Utah and noted, “… it was simple, unostentatious, and fitted like a glove. It was a representation of a GOLDEN BEEHIVE, with the bees all at work!”

Argus Pix

Drawing of original Utah State Seal adopted in 1896.

Utahns still work together to created a great community, and the grand Beehive beset with bees is still Utah’s paramount symbol at home and around the world.

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