The Great Seal

The Great Seal Front (Right), Back (Left)
The Great Seal Front (Right), Back (Left)

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress passed a resolution authorizing a committee to devise a seal for the United States of America. This mission, designed to reflect the the Founding Fathers’ beliefs, values, and sovereignty of the new Nation, became a reality on June 20, 1782.

The front side of the Great Seal, which is the U.S. coat of arms, authenticates the President’s signature on numerous official documents such as treaty ratifications, international agreements, appointments of Ambassadors and civil officers, and communications from the President to heads of foreign governments. It is also shown on coins, postage stamps, passports, monuments and flags, and in many other ways. The American public sees both the front and less familiar reverse, which is never used as a seal, every day when using a $1 dollar bill.

On the front side, the American bald eagle is prominently featured supporting a shield composed of 13 red and white stripes representing the Thirteen Original States with a blue bar uniting the shield and representing Congress. The motto of the United States, E Pluribus Unum (meaning out of many, one), refers to this union. The olive branch and 13 arrows grasped by the eagle allude to peace and war, powers solely vested in the Congress, and the constellation of stars symbolizes the new Nation taking its place among the sovereign powers.

On the reverse side, the pyramid signifies strength and determination: The eye over it and the motto, Annuit Coeptis (meaning He, [God,] has favored our undertakings) allude to the many interventions of Providence in favor of the American cause. The Roman numerals below are the date of the Declaration of Independence. The words under it, Novus Ordo Seclorum (meaning a new order of the ages), signify the beginning of the new American era in 1776.