The New International Encyclopædia/Seal (mark)
SEAL (OF. seel, scel, Fr. sceau, from Lat. sigillum, seal, mark, diminutive of signum, sign, mark, token). By ancient common law a seal must consist of a piece of wax, lead, or other tenacious metal or substance, stamped with words or a device, according to the fancy of the person adopting it. At present two of the most common devices are: a circular bit of paper stamped in some manner and attached to the instrument by mucilage; the impress of a design or words in the paper of the instrument itself by means of a die.
Introduced at a time when practically only the clergy could write, and used for a long time instead of signatures on private writings, etc., as well as legal instruments, seals did not originally invest an instrument with any distinctive solemnity, but after the art of writing became a common accomplishment and most private writings, not of a legal nature, were signed instead of sealed, the courts began to attach a peculiar and arbitrary efficacy to a sealed legal instrument as distinguished from one bearing merely a signature. After feoffment as a means of transfer of land was abolished, all conveyances were required to be under seal. The most important effect ascribed to the use of a seal was that it conclusively imported consideration for a promise or obligation contained in a sealed instrument.
However, today in the United States the matters of the necessity for a seal on various instruments and the kind of a seal required when necessary are almost wholly regulated by statutes. In New York and Connecticut the word ‘seal’ or the Latin abbreviation ‘L.S.,’ written on the instrument, are recognized as sufficient substitutes for seals; and in Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Virginia, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and West Virginia, a scroll executed with a pen will be sufficient. In New Jersey, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming any device or flourish with the pen will be recognized as a seal if intended as such.
In the following States the common-law distinction between sealed and unsealed instruments has been abolished by statutes: Arkansas, California, North Dakota, South Dakota, Mississippi, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
It is not necessary for individuals to use seals in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Utah, and Washington. Most States, however, require a seal on instruments executed by corporations. Public officers are usually required to have official seals and all important public documents must be impressed with the proper seal.
The courts will usually recognize without proof the seals of nations and of the various States of the United States, the seals of superior courts and of public officers within their own State, including notarial seals. See Contract; Consideration; Notary Public, and consult “History and Use of Seals in England,” in vol. xviii. of Archæologia (London); Blackstone, Commentaries; Parsons, On Contracts.