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Design Process
 1st Committee
   Benjamin Franklin
 2nd Committee
   Francis Hopkinson
 3rd Committee
   Barton's Design
 Final Design
   Charles Thomson
   Thomson's Design
   Thomson Bible
 Description
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Latin Mottoes
 E Pluribus Unum
 Annuit Coeptis
 Novus Ordo Seclorum

Symbols (front)
 Bald Eagle
 Shield
 Olive Branch
 Arrows
 Stars
 Rays of Light
 Cloud

Symbols (back)
 Pyramid
 Eye
 MDCCLXXVI

Great Seals
 Official Dies
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 First Painting
 1792 Medal
 Indian Medals
 1882 Medal
 One-Dollar Bill

Myths
 Eagle Side
 Pyramid Side

Themes
 Unity
 Peace
 Liberty
 Thirteen

Related
 Wild Turkey
 President's Seal
 Sightings
 Resources


Charles Thomson's Description of His Preliminary Design
for the Great Seal – June 1782

Thomson's description of the front of the Seal.

Text of above description for the front of the Seal:

Thomson's sketch On a field       Chevrons composed of seven pieces on one side & six on the other, joined together at the top in such wise that each of the six bears against or is supported by & supports two of the opposite side the pieces of the chevrons on each side alternate red & white. The shield born on the breast of an American Eagle on the wing & rising proper. In the dexter talon of the Eagle an Olive branch & in the sinister a bundle of Arrows. Over the head of the Eagle a Constellation of Stars surrounded with bright rays and at a little distance clouds.

Motto In the bill of the Eagle a scroll with these words E pluribus unum. –

Shield Thomson obviously gave a lot of consideration to the shield design, introducing the theme of mutual support that led William Barton to suggest the 13 vertical stripes (states) supporting a chief (federal government) for the final shield. Also, based on Barton's advice, the eagle's stance was changed to "displayed," with wing tips up like we see today.

  • The origin of chevrons comes from a pair of rafters meeting at the peak of a house.
  • "Proper" means depicted in its true shape and natural color.
  • Escutcheon = shield.
  • Glory = rays of light.
  • Or = gold.
  • Argent = white.

Historical content is based on the official history of the Great Seal.
Author and webwright: John D. MacArthur