Great Seal of the United States
June 20, 1782: Congress adopts a design for the Great Seal of the United States. When the US declared independence from Great Britain in 1776, the Continental Congress formed a committee to design a Great Seal or national emblem for the country. Other nations had these seals and the thirteen states felt it was another demarcation from mere colonies to being nationhood. The first committee was just three men – Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. The three were brilliant, but without experience in heraldry, the art of designing the seal. They brought in Pierre Eugene du Simitiere. The design was presented to Congress in August and modification was asked for.
Nothing more was done for over three years. On March 25, 1780 a second committee was formed, this time with James Lovell, John Morin Scott, and William Churchill Houston. They chose Francis Hopkinson as their heraldic artist. Hopkinson was not just an artist, but also a signatory of the Declaration of Independence and it was he who helped design the American flag. His design was placed before Congress on May 10 and was liked, but with modifications needed.
Two years later, a third committee was formed on May 4, 1782. This time John Rutledge (replaced by Arthur Lee), Arthur Middleton, and Elias Boudinot were in charge and hired 28-year-old artist William Barton. Barton’s first design was deemed too complex and was abandoned. A second design was submitted on May 9. Nothing was done with the submitted design. On June 13, it was turned over to Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Congress. He combined the three designs and the seal was submitted to Congress and accepted the same day.
The Great Seal of the United States is used to authenticate formal documents of the United States federal government. The phrase can be used for the physical seal but is more often used to indicate the design. The Great Seal is kept by the United States Secretary of State. On the front side is the national coat of arms, an eagle holding an olive branch in one talon and thirteen arrows in the other with a constellation of stars over its head. “E pluribus unum” is embossed on the ribbon held in the eagle’s mouth. A stylized flag drapes in front of the bird. On the reverse side is an unfinished pyramid topped by an eye in a triangle. The scroll at the bottom proclaims, “novus ordo seclorum” and across the top is “annuit cæptis.”
We can’t all be Washingtons, but we can all be patriots. – Charles F. Browne
There are those, I know, who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the American dream. – Archibald MacLeish
May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country! – Daniel Webster
We sleep peacefully at night, cradled by the big strong hands of America. – Val Saintsbury
Also on this day:
Lizzie Borden Took an Axe – In 1893, Lizzie Borden is acquitted of murder.
Fort William – In 1756, the fort was attacked and 146 prisoners taken – the Black Hole of Calcutta.
Communication is Key – In 1963, a hot line was set up between the US and USSR.