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Our Community Focus

Learning Our Past

Jun 11, 2018 07:56AM ● By Elena Hutslar

By Priscilla A. Couden, Ph.D., Executive Director 

Contra Costa County Historical Society 


The official seal of Contra Costa County, which colorfully depicts scenes of Mt. Diablo, the S&H Sugar refinery, oil tanks and tankers, orchards, wineries, and towns, has become a familiar part of county life. But have you ever given thought to how the seal was created?  

Here are excerpt taken from Contra Costa County Historical Society records:

On February 4, 1937, the board of supervisors adopted this design for a new county seal that would be used for official and civic purposes. The seal “was enthusiastically endorsed by the five members of the board as a remarkably graphic design, embodying in a small space the outstanding advantages of the county, including industry, agriculture, shipping and homes.”

The design was created by the [Contra Costa County] Development Association through a contest in the high schools of the county, and the winner of first place was Joe Ruzich of Richmond Union High School. Ed Corbett, also of Richmond, took second place, while third honors went to Peggy Christian of Antioch. Three entries from each school, chosen by judges appointed by the principal, were sent to the association office and then submitted to Frederick Meyer of the California School of Arts and Crafts of Berkeley, who made selections for the first, second, and third-best designs.

All three were honored by the directors of the development association at the recent monthly meeting in Martinez, and the winning design was accepted by the association for submission to the supervisors. Walter T. Helms of Richmond, treasurer of the association, was general chairman of the seal committee, with B.O. Wilson, county superintendent of schools, giving co-operation on behalf of the high schools of the county.

About the winners of the contest: Joe Rusich was a senior in the class of 1937. His picture appears in Richmond High’s The Shield yearbook for June 1937. Ed Corbett was a hurdler for the Richmond High track team, known as the Oilers, and was high point man in at least one tournament against San Rafael High. (The Shield, June 1937).”

Contra Costa County Historical Society History Center, 724 Escobar St., Martinez. Open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, 9-4, and third Saturdays, 10-2. Check out