The Final Design of the Great Seal June 20, 1782
On June 13, 1782, Congress asked Charles Thomson to come up with a suitable design for America's Great Seal. With the reports and drawings of the three committees before him, he set to work.
Thomson incorporated symbolic elements from all three committees with ideas of his own to create a bold and elegant design. He made a sketch and wrote a description of his preliminary design.
For the front of the Great Seal, Thomson made an American bald eagle the centerpiece and placed the shield upon the eagle's breast. Thomson envisioned an eagle "on the wing and rising."
In the eagle's right talon is an olive branch. In its left, a tightly drawn bundle of arrows. Thomson said these symbols represent "the power of peace and war."
In the eagle's beak, he placed a scroll with the first committee's motto: E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One).
For the crest above the eagle's head, Thomson used the radiant constellation of thirteen stars suggested by the second committee. He described the light rays as "breaking through a cloud."
For the reverse side of the Great Seal, Thomson used Barton's (third committee) suggestion: an unfinished pyramid with the eye of Providence in its zenith, but added a triangle around the eye (like the first committee did).
He also created two new mottoes: "Novus Ordo Seclorum" (A New Order of the Ages) and "Annuit Coeptis" (Providence has Favored Our Undertakings).
After consulting with William Barton, the position of the eagle was changed to "displayed" (wings spread with tips up) and the chevrons on the shield were changed to the vertical stripes we see today.
Thomson submitted this design to Congress on June 20, 1782,
The first die was cut three months later, and on September 16, 1782, the Great Seal was impressed on a document for the first time. (That die was the obverse, eagle side. A die for the reverse, pyramid side has never been created.)
In 2004, GreatSeal.com commissioned wildlife artist Cy Hundley
Historical content is based on the official history of the Great Seal.
Copyright ©2014 by John D. MacArthur.