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Fun Facts About The Great Seal of the United States
Posted By Jim On 12/17/2008 @ 12:32 pm In Personal Finance | 9 Comments
If you’ve seen any conspiracy theory movies involving Freemasons or other secret societies, you probably remember numerous references to the Great Seal of the United States on the reverse of the one dollar bill. Stories about secret societies make for great movies but real life is probably less glamorous (it always is!). I thought it would be interesting to look at the seal, as many have done beforehand, and explain a little of the imagery.
The image on the left, with the pyramid, is considered the reverse (back) side of the seal. The image on the right, with the eagle, is considered the obverse (front) side. In 1776, Congress established a three-person committee to design the Seal, but they never completed the task. Over the next six years, two more committees were formed until a final design was assembled by Charles Thomson, secretary to Congress, in 1782.
The most prominent part of the Seal is the bald eagle, representative of liberty and freedom. In his talons are an olive branch (the strong right talon) and a bundle of thirteen arrows (the weaker left talon), with the eagle always looking towards the olive branch. The olive branch represents peace while the arrows represent war, thus representing the fact that the power to declare peace and war were the right of Congress alone. The thirteen arrows represent the thirteen colonies and strength in unity. On the eagle’s chest is a shield with thirteen red (6) and white (7) stripes supporting the blue, signifying that it is the states (stripes) who support the federal government (blue). “E pluribus unum” (Out of many, one) is written on the ribbon clutched in the eagle’s beak, reinforcing the idea that the federal government comes out of the authority of the states. Finally, the constellation of thirteen stars breaking through the clouds signifies that this new federal government, with thirteen states, should take its place among the other sovereign nations.
The reverse side is less exciting but has several bits of imagery worth checking out. First, of course, is the pyramid that dominates the Seal. The pyramid represents strength and duration, much like the great Pyramids at Giza still remain. The pyramid has thirteen levels, though that was explicitly called out in the original design. Atop the pyramid is the Eye of Providence, or God, to watch over. Over the eye, there is the Latin phrase “Annuit Cœptis,” which loosely translates to “favors undertakings.” It referred to Providence, or God, favoring the undertakings of the United States. The other Latin phrase, Novus ordo seclorum, translates to “New Order of the Ages.” Finally, the Roman numeral MDCCLXXVI, at the base of the pyramid, translates to 1776.
Hope you enjoyed the trivia!
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