United States Great Seal facts
July 3, 2012 2:12PM
Updated: August 5, 2012 6:02AM
Dear Readers: Happy Fourth of July! While you are enjoying the outdoor barbecue, here’s a little history to go with the day:
The United States has a Great Seal that is used to authenticate certain documents issued by the federal government. The Great Seal has a picture of a bald eagle with its wings outstretched, holding a bundle of 13 arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other. The arrows refer to the 13 original states, and the olive branch symbolizes a desire for peace. The olive branch is usually depicted with 13 leaves and 13 olives, going back to the original states.
In its beak, the eagle has a scroll with the motto “E pluribus unum,” which means “out of many, one.” Over its head is a blue field (called a “glory”) with 13 stars. In front of the eagle is a shield with a blue top (called a “chief”) and red and white stripes (called “pales”). The stripes represent the states joined together, supporting a chief, which unites the whole and represents Congress. The reverse side of the Great Seal has the familiar pyramid.
The Great Seal was first used publicly in 1782. The front of the Great Seal is also our national coat of arms and is used on U.S. passports, military insignia, etc. Since 1935, both sides of the Great Seal have appeared on our $1 bill, although not in color.
While the colors of the American flag do not have specific meanings, the colors of the Great Seal do. Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress, stated that the white signifies purity and innocence. The red stands for hardiness and valor. Blue, which is the color of the chief, signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice. We hope you’ve learned something today. We certainly did.
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