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United States of America

Coat of Arms


The Great Seal of the United States is used to authenticate certain documents issued by the United States government. The phrase is used both for the physical seal itself, (which is in the keeping of the U.S. Secretary of State), and more generally for the design impressed upon it. The Great Seal was publicly first used in 1782.

The main figure, of the Seal is a Bald Eagle with its wings outstretched (or "displayed", in heraldic terms). From the eagle's perspective, it holds a bundle of thirteen arrows in its left talon, (referring to the thirteen original states), and an olive branch, (having thirteen leaves and thirteen olives), in its right talon, symbolic respectively of war and peace. The eagle has its head turned towards the olive branch, symbolizing a preference for peace. The eagle clutches the motto "E Pluribus Unum", ("Out of Many, One"), in its beak; over its head there appears a "glory" with thirteen stars on a blue field. The thirteen stars above the eagle form a Star of David.

The shield the eagle bears on its breast, though sometimes drawn incorrectly, has two main differences from the American flag. First, it has no stars on the blue chief, (though other arms based on it do: the Chief of the Arms of the United States Senate shows thirteen, and the shield sometimes used by the September 11 Commission has fifty mullets on the chief). Second, unlike the American flag, the outermost stripes are white, not red; so as not to violate the heraldic rule of "color on color." The shield is usually blazoned Paly of thirteen argent and gules, a chief azure, a technically incorrect blazon under traditional Western heraldic rules, since a shield cannot be paly, (i.e., vertically striped), of an uneven number. A more proper blazon would be argent, six pallets gules… (six red stripes on a white field), something recognized at the time of its adoption, but the incorrect blazon was chosen since it preserves the reference to the thirteen original colonies.


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Last Up-Date   12/24/2006 10:19:19 PM