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Facts About the Great Seal of the United States

Renuka Savant
All kinds of conspiracy theories tumble out of the proverbial closet at the mention of the Great Seal of the United States. This story attempts to clear the air by presenting the most authentic facts about the Great Seal.

Conspiracies galore!

There have been scores of rumors regarding the alleged Freemason influence on the Great Seal of the United States, particularly regarding the Eye of Providence seen over the pyramid on the reverse side. The fact of the matter remains that the Eye was not commonly associated with the Masons at the time of the creation of the seal; it was, on the contrary, considered to be more of a Christian motif.
The creation of the Great Seal of the United States dates back to the day of the country's independence from the British Empire―July 4th, 1776. A committee comprising Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson―Founding Fathers of the United States―was formed to oversee the creation of a national emblem.
Six years went by, and the design of the Great Seal was finally approved on June 20, 1782. The seal is a fine representation of the beliefs and values as set forth by the nation's Founding Fathers.

Description of the Great Seal

The seal has two sides―the bald eagle appears on the obverse side, whereas the pyramid is present on the reverse.

The Obverse

☆ At the center of the obverse side is the national bird of the United States, the bald eagle. The bird is seen holding a scroll in its beak inscribed with the Latin motto:

E pluribus Unum

This translates to 'One Out of Many', and is a reference to the nation created from 13 colonies. The eagle's right talon is grasping an olive branch, and the left clasps a bundle of thirteen arrows. The olive branch and arrows are symbols of the power of peace and war, respectively. The eagle is seen facing its right side, which holds the olive branch, and upholds peaceful motives.
☆ The eagle's chest is covered by a shield with thirteen red and white stripes. The shield is supported solely by the eagle―a metaphor representing the idea that Americans rely on their own virtue.
☆ The red and white stripes of the shield represent the 13 original colonies united and supporting the blue, which represents the President and Congress. The color white is a symbol of purity and innocence; red represents hardiness and valor; whereas blue signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
☆ A cloud surrounding a blue field comprising 13 stars is seen above the eagle's head, forming a constellation. This represents the birth of a new State taking its place among other nations.
☆The number 13 is omnipresent, as is evident from the following―the stars in the crest above the eagle, the stripes in the shield upon the eagle's breast, the arrows in the eagle's left claw, all measure up to the same number. The original 13 colonies that made up the United States back then were:

1. Massachusetts
2. Connecticut
3. Rhode Island
4. New Hampshire
5. New York
6. New Jersey
7. Pennsylvania
8. Delaware
9. Virginia
10. Maryland
11. North Carolina
12. South Carolina
13. Georgia

The Reverse

☆ The seal's reverse side has a 13-step pyramid with the year 1776 inscribed in Roman numerals at the base.
☆ Right at the top of the pyramid is the Eye of Providence with the Latin motto,

Annuit Cœptis

This means that the all-seeing Eye of Providence is favorable to all that we undertake.

☆ On a tap right the pyramid are the words,

Novus Ordo Seclorum

which is Latin for New order of the ages, referring to 1776 as the beginning of the new American era.

Interesting Facts About the Great Seal

The Great Seal as seen on a one dollar bill.


☆ The Great Seal is seen on the reverse of a United States' one dollar bill.
☆ The Secretary of State is the official custodian of the seal.
☆ It can only be affixed on specific documents, such as foreign treaties and presidential proclamations.
☆ The seal is on display in the Exhibit Hall of the Department of State, in Washington, DC.


☆ Benjamin Franklin was on the original committee appointed to design the seal. He was also a famous Freemason. Before you yell c-o-n-s-p-i-r-a-c-y, let it be known that several of his design suggestions were rejected. He actually wanted a wild turkey in place of the bald eagle on the seal.
☆ The four men whose ideas were primarily adopted included Charles Thomson, Pierre Du Simitière, and William Barton. No one among these men was known to have Masonic connections.