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

Symbols (front)
 Bald Eagle
 Shield
 Olive Branch
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 Pyramid
 Eye
 MDCCLXXVI

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 Eagle Side
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Themes
 Unity
 Peace
 Liberty
 Thirteen

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 Wild Turkey
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Francis Hopkinson

Francis Hopkinson The consultant chosen by the second Great Seal committee was Francis Hopkinson, a well-known Philadelphian with experience in heraldry, who in 1776 had helped design the Great Seal of New Jersey.

Hopkinson has also been credited with designing the American flag that Congress adopted on June 14, 1777. Prior to that, he had signed the Declaration of Independence as a delegate from New Jersey.

Born on October 2, 1737, in Philadelphia to English immigrants, Hopkinson became the first graduate of the College of Philadelphia in 1757. As a lawyer and public official, he was at various times a member of the Provincial Council of New Jersey, Treasurer of the Continental Loan Office, judge in the Admiralty Court of Pennsylvania, and a member of the Navy Board.

Naturally musical, he performed publicly on the harpsichord and composed both sacred and secular music. A prolific writer, he created poems, essays, songs, and political satire for publication.

$50 bill designed by Hopkinson, 1778 Hopkinson's design (left) for the Continental currency $50 bill issued in 1778 undoubtedly led to William Barton's pyramid & eye design for the third committee, especially since Hopkinson also designed the emblem for the $40 bill which had an eye that was not in a triangle (shown below).

Other items Hopkinson designed for Congress from included devices, borders, ornaments, and similar decorations for currency, checks, and bills of exchange, including seals for the Board of Treasury, for the Board of Admiralty, and for ships' papers.

Hopkinson had received nothing for this work. Writing in 1780 to the Continental Admiralty Board, he referred to these designs as "Labours of Fancy," and although he made them free of charge, he asked "whether a Quarter Cask of the public wine" would not be a reasonable and proper reward for his labors.

$40 bill designed by Hopkinson, 1778 Francis Hopkinson

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