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Karen Palumbo

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Blogs by Karen Palumbo

On This Day 6/20/1782
6/23/2011 7:02:43 PM

Congress adopts the Great Seal of the United States


Contress adopts the Great Seal of the United States after six years of discussion. The front of the seal depicts a bald eagle clutching an olive branch in its right talon and arrows in its left. On its breast appears a shield marked with thirteen vertical red and white stripes topped by a bar of blue.

The eagle's beak clutches a banner inscribed:

"E plurbus unum"

a Latin phrase meaning:

"Out of Many One."

Above the eagles head, golden rays burst forth, encircling thirteen stars. Charles Thomas outlined the symbollic connotation of the seal's elements ,when he presented his design to Congress. The bottom of the shield (or pale) represents the Thirteen States united in support of the blue bar at the top of the shield (or chief):

"which unites the whole and represents Congress."

The motto, " E Pluribus Unum" serves as a textual representation of the same relationship. The colors used in the shield are the same as those in the flag; alternating red and white for the important balance between innocence and valor. This is topped by the blue of "vigilance, perswverance, and justice."

The eagle's talons hold symbols of Congress' power to make peace, (the olive branch) and war (arrows). The constellation of stars indicates that:

"a new State is taking its place and rank
among other soveriegn powers."

The reverse side of the seal bears the familiar motif of a pyramid, which Charles Thomas proposed as a symbol of:

"Strength and Duration"

The pyramid like the new nation, is unfinished and frequently depicted as having thirteen steps for the original states. The disembodied eye floating above the structure is that of providence, which Charles Thomas believed had acted:

"in favour of the American cause."

Beneath the pyramid, the number 1776 appears in Roman Numerals as a reminder of the year of independence. The phrase:

"Annuit Coeptis"
("Providence has Favoured our Undertakings")
appears above the providential eye.

Novus Ordo Seclorum
("A New Order of the Ages")
appears beneath the pyramid.



(K) (HST)

Charles Thomas Artist, designer


Comments (2)

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