Seal of the United States

views updated May 14 2018


SEAL OF THE UNITED STATES. The seal of the United States, or the Great Seal, is the official embossed emblem that validates a U.S. government document. On 4 July 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a committee to design the seal, but it took Congress six years more to obtain a satisfactory design. The obverse of the seal that was finally adopted is still in use; it depicts the American eagle, as Charles Thomson suggested, while the reverse displays a pyramid and the Eternal Eye of God (symbols of the Freemasons), as proposed by William Barton. The secretary of state keeps the seal and affixes it to such documents as foreign treaties and presidential proclamations.


Jillson, Calvin C. Congressional Dynamics: Structure, Coordination, and Choice in the First American Congress, 1774–1789. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1994.

Schlenther, Boyd Stanley. Charles Thomson: A Patriot's Pursuit.

Newark: University of Delaware Press; London: Associated University Presses, 1990.

John C.Fitzpatrick/a. e.

See alsoE Pluribus Unum ; Eagle, American ; State, Department of .

Seal of the United States

views updated May 29 2018


The official die or signet, which has a raised emblem and is used by federal officials on documents of importance.

The United States seal is sometimes officially known as the great seal. The secretary of state has custody and charge of the official seal and makes out, records, and affixes the seal to all civil commissions for officers of the United States, who are appointed by the president alone, or by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate. In order for the seal to be affixed to any commission or other instrument, the president must sign or specially warrant the commission. When the seal is affixed to an appointment, such appointment is made and the commission is valid.

Each state also has an official seal, which is carefully described by law and serves functions on the state level of government that are similar to those of the seal of the United States on the federal level.