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The Great Seal of the United States

Updated: Dec 18, 2021

I'm pretty sure you have seen the Great Seal of the United States at least one point in your life. If you forgot what it looked like, it looks like this:


This is our nation's official emblem that is on the back of every single dollar bill. It was adopted as our symbol back on June 20th, 1782 that holds many specific meanings and values that our Founders wanted to pass on to future generations.


On the front of the seal, you can see an Eagle spread out bearing a coat of arms, holding something in each claw while holding a scroll in its beak. The shield has thirteen vertical lines representing the thirteen original states. In one claw is an olive branch with thirteen leaves, and thirteen olives symbolizing peace and strength. The thirteen arrows in the other claw are to stand for strength during war. There is even a reason the eagle is facing towards the olive branch: to show that America prefers peace.


The scroll in the eagle's beak is inscribed with the Latin words: E Pluribus Unum that stands for "Out of many, one". This is a motto that is to represent the multiple states forming one nation. We are to be reminded that it takes people from just about every country, culture, and background to help build this great nation.


Who created our Great Seal? Well, it was a team effort between Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Pierre Eugene du Simitiere. The first three wanted to use the motto in 1776 which they asked the artist Pierre to take care of the design.


The motto probably came from that time's Gentleman's Magazine which was a very popular journal published in England. Once a year they would publish an anthology volume that contained the best essays, poetry, articles from the previous twelve months' issues. One of the collections used the motto E. Pluribus Umon. Congress, since 1873, has required that the motto is on every coin.


Above the eagle's head is a sky of thirteen stars, breaking through the clouds. Another symbol to show that the United States is taking place among the other nations. Our founding fathers wanted the future generations to know and remember the number 13.


The colors were chosen for our Great Seal also represent various things: Red stands for hardiness and valor; white for purity and innocence; and Blue for vigilance, perseverance, and justice.


Did you think we only had one side? There is a backside to the Great Seal and I would think it is a little more well-known. However, let's see if you recognize it:


Did you know this is sometimes called the spiritual side? It has a pyramid with...you guessed it, thirteen levels of stone. Pyramids have been representing as symbols for strength and duration. Walt Whitman had a say on this design as he recommended that we show it unfinished. Though the founders laid down the foundation, it's not complete until each generation does their part in building our good, strong nation. At the top is the triangle eye which is the eye of Providence to watch over the Union.


The Latin words over the pyramid say Annuit Coeptis which means "He [God] has favored our undertakings.". At the base of the pyramid are the Roman numerals MDCCLXXVI (1776), the date of the Declaration of Independence. On the scroll at the bottom of the Great Seal reads Novus Ordo Seclorum means "A New Order of the Ages," which is referring to 1776 marked as the start of the American era.


I gotta say, I learned a lot about this. I'm so fascinated that such little things in life these days have such a deep and rich history. We tend to overlook them and take them for granted. Take a look around at just your city or county. What are some symbols that represent the area? What are their origins and meanings? Has the establishment kept to its founding or have they strayed and made a new path?


The world is shifting and moving quickly all the time. Though we may pause to enjoy the world, the world never stops. So many things are becoming unknown if we let them slip our attention. We should be proactive in learning our history and not let our origin story disappear!

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