© Copyright 1995-2022, Clay Irving <clay@panix.com>

The Great Seal of the United States

The First Continental Congress requested that Benjamin Franklin and a group of men come up with a Seal. It took them four years to accomplish this task and another two years to get it approved. The front (or obverse) of the seal shows an American bald eagle behind the national shield. In the right talon, the eagle holds an olive branch which symbolizes peace, with 13 berries and 13 leaves. In the left talon, the eagle holds 13 arrows, which represents war. The 13 leaves represent the original colonies. The eagle's head is turned toward the olive branch, showing a desire for peace.

The top of the shield represents the Congress, the head of the eagle the Executive branch, and the nine tail feathers the Judiciary branch of US government. The 13-letter motto, "E Pluribus Unum," on the ribbon held in the eagle's beak means "Out of Many, One."

On the reverse of the seal is a pyramid with 1776 in Roman numerals at the base. The pyramid stands for permanence and strength. The pyramid is unfinished, signifying the United States' future growth and goal of perfection. The western side of the pyramid is dark because we had not yet begun to explore the Western United States. A sunburst and an eye are above the pyramid, representing the overseeing eye of a deity. The 13-letter motto, "Annuit Coeptis" means "He has favored our undertakings." Below the pyramid the motto, "Novus Ordo Seclorum" means "A new order of the ages," standing for the new American era.