It is not always easy to determine where some companies incorporated. Many companies printed state names on their certificates, but a substantial number did not.Between a quarter and a third of issued certificates show state of origin on printed or embossed corporate seals. When location of incorporation cannot be determined from those two sources, it is helpful to turn to depictions of state seals. Engravings or lithographs of state seals appear on over 2,000 railroad certificates and they can be very helpful.
To my knowledge, every state, territory and province in North America has as official "seal" reserved exclusively to authenticate official documents. Those are usually circular devices referred to officially as "The Seal of the State of..." or "The Great Seal of the State of..." All carry designs indicative of overarching characteristics of their locations, values and aspirations. Designs on U.S. state seals may be very simple (e.g. Rhode Island or Texas) or highly complex (e.g. Florida, Maryland and the Territory of Puerto Rico.) State seals and "coats of arms" often show the same or similar themes and subjects, but they are separate devices.
State and provincial laws formalize the designs and usages of seals and exact reproductions are universally prohibited. The designs of many seals are so "strong" and so widely associated with specific locations, that they are frequently imitated and used for commercial and promotional purposes. Probably none is used more widely than the Texas state seal.
Approximately 7% of all railroad companies used derivations of state seals on their securities. The most heavily imitated seal of all was that of Pennsylvania, alone accounting for almost 20% of all the state seals that appear on railroad certificates. Seals from New York and New Jersey were also very popular illustrations on railroad certificates. Below is a finding guide to help you identify state seals for yourself.
Instructions: Start with #1 at the top left and decide whether human figures are obvious in the design or not. To the right is a "go to" instruction. Follow that suggestion to the next number and repeat the process. Continue until you arrive at a single state abbreviation. Click on the state name and a new page will open showing the description and official seal of the chosen state.
Warning: You will occasionally encounter seals that don't seem to "fit" current descriptions. That is because a handful of seals from cities, Mexican states, Canadian provinces and Caribbean countries have been encountered on railroad certificates.