The Great Seal of the United States

Obverse Side of the Great Seal  

On July 4, 1776, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson were given the task of creating a seal for the United States of America.
They believed that having an emblem and a national coat of arms would show the world that we were an independent nation with free people who had great hopes for the future of our country.

The Great Seal was approved in 1782.
The seal shows the beliefs and values that the Founding Fathers wanted to pass on to their descendents.
In the center of the seal is a bald eagle, our national bird. It holds in its beak a ribbon on which the words E pluribus unum are written. That means "out of many, one" in Latin, and stands for one nation that was created from 13 colonies.
In one claw is an olive branch, while the other holds a bundle of thirteen arrows.
The olive branch and arrows show the power of peace and war.
A shield with thirteen red and white stripes covers the eagle's chest. The shield is supported only by the eagle to show that Americans should rely only on themselves.
The red and white stripes of the shield represent the states united under the blue, representing the President and Congress.
Above the eagle's head is a cloud surrounding a blue background containing thirteen stars in a constellation.
The constellation shows that a new nation is taking its place among other nations.

Do you see a pattern of thirteen in the Great Seal?

  • 13 stars in the crest above the eagle

  • 13 stripes in the shield upon the eagle's breast

  • 13 arrows in the eagle's left claw

  • 13 olives and leaves in the eagles' right claw

  • 13 letters in the motto carried by the eagle, E Pluribus Unum

Why thirteen? Thirteen represents the first thirteen states -Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Reverse Side of the Great SealThe seal's reverse side is sometimes referred to as the spiritual side. It contains a 13-step pyramid with the year 1776 in Roman numerals at the base. At the top of the pyramid is the Eye of Providence and above is the motto Annuit Coeptis, meaning "It [the Eye of Providence] is favorable to our undertakings" or "He favors our undertakings." Below the pyramid, a scroll reads, Novus Ordo Seclorum, meaning "New Order of the Ages." It refers to 1776 as the beginning of the American new era.The Great Seal can be seen on the back of a one-dollar bill. The Secretary of State is the official custodian of the seal. It is only attached (affixed) to certain documents, such as foreign treaties and presidential proclamations. The Great Seal is displayed in the Exhibit Hall of the Department of State, in Washington, DC.


Great Seal

Artwork by Doris Rowe - 2001

Rays sing consciousness