On July 4, 1776, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were given the task of creating a seal for the United States of America. The Great Seal of the United States of America was finalized and approved on June 20, 1782. The seal reflects the beliefs and values that the Founding Fathers wanted to pass on to future generations of American citizens.
In the center of the seal is an bald eagle, the US national bird. It holds in its beak a scroll inscribed – E PLURIBUS UNIM – which in Latin means “out of many, one” and stands for one nation that was created from many colonies and personal backgrounds. In one claw is an olive branch, in the other is a bundle of 13 arrows. The olive branch and arrows represent the power of peace and war.
A shield with 13 red and white stripes covers the eagle’s breast. The shield is supported solely by the American eagle to denote that Americans should rely on their own virtue. The red and white stripes of the shield represent the states united under and supporting the blue, representing an elected federal Government. The color white represents purity and innocence. Red represents hardiness and valor. Blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice. Above the eagle’s head is a cloud surrounding a blue field containing 13 stars, which forms a constellation. The constellation denotes that a new Nation is taking its place among other nations. 13 represents the first 13 states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
The Great Seal of the United States of America’s reverse side contains a 13-step pyramid with the year 1776 (MDCCLXXVI) in Roman numerals at the base. At the top of the pyramid is the Eye of Providence and above is the motto – ANNUIT COEPTIS – which in Latin means “It [the Eye of Providence] is favorable to our undertakings” or “He favors our undertakings.” Below the pyramid, a scroll reads – NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM – which in Latin means “New Order of the Ages.” It refers to 1776 as the beginning of the new era of the American nation.
The Great Seal of the United States of America can be seen on the back of a $1 bill. The Secretary of State is the official custodian of the seal. It is only affixed to certain documents, such as foreign treaties and presidential proclamations. The Great Seal of the USA is displayed in the Exhibit Hall of the Department of State, in Washington, DC.