Great Seal of the United States 

The Great Seal of the United States is one of the most significant national symbols of the United States of America. The phrase refers to the actual seal, which is retained by the US Secretary of State and the design imprinted on it more generally.

The United States’ national coat of arms is shown on the Great Seal’s obverse, while an Eye of Providence is perched atop a pyramid on the reverse. Find such items as the US Seal in our patriotic jewelry category, from Apples of Gold Jewelry.

History of the Great Seal of the United States

On July 4, 1776, Congress tasked Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson with creating the official seal for the United States. This marked the beginning of the Great Seal project. Their endeavor would be the first of three committees that Congress would appoint before the final version was adopted over six years.

The Secretary of Congress, Charles Thompson, was given all three proposals by Congress on June 13, 1782, after the third attempt, and instructed to test the design. Finally, on June 20, 1782, he presented the Continental Congress with his final design for the great seal, which it authorized the same day. He had chosen particular components from the three distinct designs and added some new ones. The Great Seal of the United States was finally authorized as the official seal of America by the US Congress on September 15, 1789.

Great Seal of the United States Symbolism

The Great Seal of the United States represents America’s unity, strength, and independence—except for the escutcheon (shield), which resembles the American flag

A bald eagle with outstretched wings holds up the shield. The eagle holds an olive branch in its right talon and a bundle of 13 arrows in its left talon. Although not required by law, the typical representation of the olive branch has 13 leaves and 13 olives. In addition, the eagle is holding a scroll bearing the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” in its beak (“Out of Many, One”). 

The arrows and olive branch collectively represent the United States’ strong desire for peace while also showing that it will always be able to defend itself. To represent a preference for peace, the eagle is depicted with its head tilted toward the olive branch on its right side.

The bundle of arrows, the stripes on the shield, and the constellation’s 13 stars on a blue field are additional representations of the number 13. The constellation of stars represents a new nation assuming its position among other independent governments. The thirteen initial states are referenced frequently by the number 13. 

Great Seal in the US Army Insignia

The United States has chosen the American bald eagle as its national symbol of strength because it has a long history of symbolism related to its military and the United States of America, including for the US Army Insignia. The Great Seal of the US is used as our national coat of arms. Additionally, the Great Seal is formally used as ornamentation on buttons for military uniforms, plaques, and above the gates to American embassies and consulates. Many military insignia and emblems are based on the great seal of the United States.

Category: Jewelry History, Military Jewelry, Patriot Jewelry

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