How Long Beach Got Its Official Seal

Gerrie Schipske

One hundred and thirty years ago, 106 residents voted to incorporate Long Beach as a city. In 1896, some of the same residents expressed their dissatisfaction with the local officials who wanted to keep alcohol out and voted to unincorporate the city and turn over the assets to Los Angeles County.

That tantrum only lasted a little while before the voters incorporated the city of Long Beach on December 1, 1897 by a vote of 237 to 37, which is why the official seal of the city has “incorporated 1897.”

The first city seal was designed in the early 1900s and consisted of a ship sailing along the coast of Long Beach.

In 1930, a contest was sponsored by the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce with a prize of $150. The winning design won over 40 others and was drawn by a draftsman in the city engineer’s office, Roland S. Gielow.

Gielow was originally from Alabama and attended military school in New York. He became the youngest volunteer (at age 16) in the Spanish American War and served as a bugler. He owned a blueprint company in Washington, D.C. and came to Long Beach with his mother, Martha.

Gielow’s design included what were then considered to be symbols that best represented Long Beach. However, many complained that the seal looked like a copy of the State of California seal and that Gielow’s inclusion of a shell was an advertisement for Shell Oil Company.

His design included four stars that signified Long Beach as the state’s fourth largest city. The smoke from the Edison plant was removed. The rest remained: “Urbs Amicitiae” (friendly city); an airplane, the port, an oil derrick, a long beach and the Edison plant, the municipal auditorium and rainbow lagoon, the Queen of the Beaches, a California bear, a horn of plenty and a lamp and book to symbolize the city’s cultural side.

Cities do not enjoy trademark protection for their seals. To protect the unauthorized use of the city “logo” a city needs to pass ordinances that give the City Clerk “custody” of the seal and spells out “penalties” for the unauthorized use. California law makes it a misdemeanor to use city seals with the “intention of creating an impression that a document is authorized by a public official.”


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