On Oct. 14, 1902, 53 residents of a small outpost on the Gulf of Mexico met to create a new town, Sarasota. When they disbanded long after midnight, they had hammered out the municipality’s first charter, selected J. Hamilton Gillespie, a Scottish settler, as the town’s first mayor, and decided upon a town motto (“May Sarasota Prosper”) and a town seal. Recorded first in a crude hand drawing, the seal depicted everything that up to that point had made Sarasota special: a ray-spouting sun rising over a row of palmettos and shell-strewn waters, with a mullet swimming in the foreground.
Few people know it, but a more refined version of that original image remains the official seal of the City of Sarasota and is still used on official documents and proclamations. The image is emblazoned in the terrazzo floor of downtown’s city-owned Federal Building; a modified version on a patch is still worn today by Sarasota Police Department officers.
Still, when residents think of the image of the City of Sarasota, it’s Michelangelo’s David that comes to mind. While still maintaining the mullet as its official seal, in 1988 the City Commission adopted a rendering of the David as the city’s new “logo.”
That could change. Two years ago, the city began exploring the possibility of rebranding, which included rethinking its use of the David as its primary image. I can think of no better representation of the charms of Sarasota than those laid out in the city’s original seal, with the beautiful, flavorful, iconic mullet front and center. May Sarasota prosper once again.