Talk:Great Seal of the United States

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How is it that the masonic symbolism of the pyramid is debunked? It is extremely masonic in its aesthetic, the only thing more distinictly masonic in look would be the concept of globes on top of pillars.

Debunk can be found here. Quoting from the website: "The seal’s Eye of Providence and the Mason’s All-Seeing Eye each express Divine Omnipotence, but they are parallel uses of a shared icon, not a single symbol." --Aluion 11:56, 30 July 2005 (UTC)

I rearranged two of the sections to facilitate discussion of the reverse side of the seal. I deleted the line about Ben Franklin's opinion's on turkeys. It was a joke. What I intended is very serious. Please, discuss the 'murkiness' of the reverse side of the Great Seal in further detail.

Surely this theory and subsequent debunking deserves some kind-of mention? I'm certainly curious about it. I expect the release of a recent piece of fiction may be drawing others, too. -- Jon Dowland 13:03, 8 September 2005 (UTC)

The article says, the "Eye of Providence" is out of use during the time of the Great Seal, but can be seen clearly on Washington's Masonic Apron. That seems to directly contradict that the Masons had stopped using it, no? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:38, 29 June 2010 (UTC)

Not really... First, there are actually several "Washington Aprons" that exist ... and all of them date to the 1780s or later (ie after the Great Seal). Most of them were presentations (ie aprons that were presented to Washington by a local lodge, and not actually worn by him) done either during his Presidency or after.
Furthermore, Washington was still alive when Thomas Smith Webb wrote his ritual (which was when the emblem became "official"), so if the apron you are thinking of was created after that, it does not debunk what the sources tell us in reguard to the Great Seal.
Also, apron decoration was a very individualized thing at that time (ie there was no standardization)... so the fact that ome apron depicts what was a fairly common Christian symbol does not indicate a wider acceptance or usage amoung Masons. Indeed it is possible that the eye became a common Masonic emblem in part because Washington chose to put it on his apron (or someone else chose to put it on an apron presented to him).
Finally, if your comment is based on an image of Washington wearing an apron it does not tell us anything... Washington never actually sat for a protrait wearing Masonic regalia. Most of the images showing him dressed as a Mason date to the 1810s or 1820s (or later)... and are simply copies of famous portraits of him with an apron and jewel slapped on by the copier. The apron being depicted might not have been "his" at all, but one invented by the artist.
More importantly, we must follow what the sources say, and not speculate based on our own observations (see WP:No original research). The sources say the eye was adopted by the Masons sometime after it appeared on the Great Seal... so that is what we must say... even if our own research and observation indicates something different. Blueboar (talk) 16:02, 30 June 2010 (UTC)

Eagle claws?[edit]

I thought Harry Truman interchanged the gripppings of the left and right claws to show olive leaves on the right claw in place of the original layout --Ipsofacto 16:16, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

sounds right.. I just saw Bush in his video guide to the oval office saying that they were changed after WW2 by Truman so that the eagle would face away from war --Astrokey44 08:59, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
This was the Seal of the President of the United States, not the Great Seal. The official blazon of the Great Seal has not changed since 1782. Carl Lindberg (talk) 22:04, 14 February 2009 (UTC)


It cannot be used 2000 to 2000 times a year as this is the same number. --Daniel C. Boyer 19:47 28 Jul 2003 (UTC)

Tincture Convention[edit]

It should be mentioned how this violates very basic rules of heraldry (there cannot be an uneven number of pallets, for instance). --Daniel C. Boyer 19:48 28 Jul 2003 (UTC)

Well, actually there can, but it can't be blazoned as paly of an uneven number. The shield is technically argent six pallets gules. I clarified the situation as it is clarified in Julian Franklyn's Shield and Crest. - Montréalais

National Coat of Arms[edit]

On June 20, 1782, the Continental Congress adopted an "armorial achievement and reverse of the great seal." This act was the same act adopting the great seal. Since the act specified an armorial achievement, why can't we assume that this is, legitimately, the national coat of arms?


The shield has seven white stripes and six red?? Is that a mistake? -Branddobbe 19:40, Apr 12, 2005 (UTC)

That is not a mistake. That was in the original description of the seal as adopted by the continental congress and has not changed since. Pmadrid 23:47, 13 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Not a mistake. Seven red and six white stripes would violate the rule of tincture; technically any shield you see that way is incorrect (at least if it claims to be the arms of the United States). Carl Lindberg (talk) 22:09, 14 February 2009 (UTC)
Please red further below as to why it's seven white with six red and not vice versa. (talk) 07:03, 25 August 2013 (UTC)Christopher L. Simpson


It is said that Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom told Truman during a 1946 visit that he thought the eagle's head should be on a swivel.

Winston Churchill wasn't Prime Minister in 1946, can I amend this sentence accordingly?

No he was Prime Minister back then, do your research properly.

LOL. I followed that link you gave, and it says May-July 1945, and 1951 and on. Where is 1946 included then? Actually, Attlee was the PM in 1946. D. F. Schmidt 01:50, 14 January 2006 (UTC)

The sentence about Churchill now seems gone entirely. Is this a reference to a swiveling head the idea that in time of war the eagle looks to the arrows rather than the olive-branch? (In which case it's more likely they'd reverse the talon-contents rather than changing the head, so Churchill wasn't making much sense there was he?) Is that a myth? There is something on this talk-page but not the article that suggests the gaze of the eagle changes on the PRESIDENT's seal, not the Seal of the U.S.A. Could any of that be clarified in the article? (Update--Well, it's dealt with BELOW on this talk-page, in a manner implying it USED to be dealt with in the ARTICLE, so why isn't it in the ARTICLE anymore? It's a pervasive enough myth that if the remark about Churchill and the eagle's head swiveling is true then someone of his caliber believed it for true.) (talk) 07:03, 25 August 2013 (UTC)Christopher L. Simpson
The direction of the eagle's head on the Great Seal has never been changed (not really specified by the blazon, but usually would default to dexter, the eagles's right, which is the direction of honor). The blazon specifies which talon the arrows are in, so those could not be switched without violating the blazon, i.e. the result would not actually be the Great Seal but something which just looked similar. Churchill's 1946 quote (which was a joking comment and not something he believed to be true) however was in relation to the similar (but different) Seal of the President of the United States, and is documented on that article. It has nothing to do with the Great Seal, so should not be documented here. (It is true that he was not Prime Minister at the time; it was a mostly personal visit.) The direction of the eagle's head on *that* seal was changed for mainly heraldic reasons in 1945, not long after World War II ended, possibly giving rise to that "times of war" myth (which is also discussed on the other article, since that is the seal which it more applies to). Carl Lindberg (talk) 12:57, 28 August 2013 (UTC)

Designed by Tiffany?[edit]

The Tiffany website claims that in 1885 they designed the current Great Seal used on the back of the one dollar bill (USD). After looking at some of the other seals I'm confused on what is actually considered the Great Seal. Can any else weigh in on how the Tiffany design plays out in the history of the Great Seal? Please see the 1885 section at

Jasenlee 16:44, 8 November 2005 (UTC)

I would presume that they merely reinterpreted it artistically, without changing the fundamental design. Traditionally, heraldic specifications are simple and a great deal of latitude is given to artists. Doops | talk 23:24, 8 November 2005 (UTC)
Yes, Tiffany did create the current interpretation of the Great Seal, as is now explained much better on the page. The interpretation often changes when new artists make a new one, but their design for the 1885 die (the physical bit of metal which impresses the design onto documents) has pretty much stuck ever since. Carl Lindberg (talk) 22:15, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

Coat of Arms of the United States of America[edit]

It is said in the article that there is no "coat of arms" per se of the U.S., but a U.S. Army site on awards (The Institute of Heraldry of the Pentagon) mentions this on the page for the Distinguished Service Medal.

  • As it states in the article, the coat of arms of the US is found on the obverse of the Great Seal, which itself refers both to the eagle coat of arms and the unfinished pyramid/eye of providence found on its reverse. It's seldom referred to as a coat of arms, I'd speculate, because Americans tend to be wary of anything that suggests the trappings of royalty. Wormwoodpoppies (talk) 22:14, 15 October 2008 (UTC)
    • There used to be a grievous error on this page which claimed that the U.S. had no coat of arms... been fixed for a while thankfully.

50 Mullets on the Chief?[edit]

What the heck does this even mean? I went to the September 11 Commission page and looked at their seal, and I didn't see any huge difference between the two, let alone 50 of something added to the latter. It's been there for a year and a half, so I very possibly could be wrong, but someone at the very least needs to elaborate on this.Flannel 19:06, 27 November 2005 (UTC)

in heraldry, a "mullet" is a star; and a "chief" is a horizontal section at the top of a shield. (As you can imagine, most people assume that the chief should have 50 mullets simply by analogy to the flag.) But you point out, the logo shown at September 11 Commission is mullet-free. Hmmm. Doops | talk 08:29, 6 December 2005 (UTC)
as you mentioned under the Tiffany description, artists do take a bit of latitude. The 9/11 commission symbol is an interpretation of the great seal, not the great seal itself.--Eddylyons 19:52, 22 June 2006 (UTC)

Seal at War[edit]

Is there anything out there on the eagle's head facing the other way (towards the arrows) when war is declared? I've heard of this before, it even comes up on an episode of the west wing, does anyone know if there is any validity to it? Benw 07:51, 6 December 2005 (UTC)

The article addresses that very point in the "history" section. It seems to be one of those "wouldn't that be fun" things. Doops | talk 08:29, 6 December 2005 (UTC)
I don't see that section (Not sure why, but it looks like it was removed on Nov 15th?!?), but Snopes addresses it quite well, IMO... -- MyrddinEmrys 10:25, 27 November 2006 (UTC)
This is a false myth, and anyways it relates to the Seal of the President of the United States (which did have the arrows and olive branch switched once, but not in relation to any war). Carl Lindberg (talk) 22:18, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

References to the number 13[edit]

I'm thinking about adding a section that lists the references to the number 13 in the seal. So far, I know of:

  • 13 arrows in the eagle's left talon
  • 13 leaves on the olive branch
  • 13 olives on the olive branch
  • 13 stripes on the shield
  • 13 stars above the eagle's head
  • 13 letters in the motto E Pluribus Unum
  • 13 layers of bricks in the pyramid
  • 13 letters in the motto Annuit Cœptis, if you count the œ as two separate letters
  • I'm pretty sure that the shield on the one dollar bill has 13 lines darkening the blue field, but I counted without a magnifying glass or anything (which, by the way, is incredibly hard), so I'm not positive.

I wasn't sure whether I should put this in, so I'd like an opinion or two. It may not deserve its own section. But... well, my vote is to include it. Twilight Realm 01:13, 15 March 2006 (UTC)

There's 12 dark lines on the shield on the 1 dollar bill. Image:United States one dollar bill, reverse.jpg -- I. Pankonin Review me! 02:13, 27 January 2008 (UTC)

I see 15 (need a reliable source to supply an interpretation) Tedickey (talk) 12:05, 27 August 2008 (UTC)
I don't think there is an interpretation... just artist's choice, and different versions of the reverse will show them differently. Certainly the blazon doesn't specify (nor does it mention weeds/grass at all). The SVG was drawn by a wikipedia contributor, so that aspect is original to this version anyways. Carl Lindberg (talk) 15:55, 27 August 2008 (UTC)

Two Interlocking Tetraktyses[edit]

IMHO the 13 stars on the Great Seal of the United States are arranged in a unique shape that has a unique name: "two interlocking tetraktyses". Tetraktys is a shape made of 10 points arranged in 4 rows: 1,2,3,4, the sum of which is 10 which was considered a sacred number by the Pythagoreans. In "two interlocking tetraktyses" the stars (points) are arranged in 5 rows: 1, 4, 3, 4, 1 the sum of which is 13.

Jay Kappraff wrote on his book (Connections, 2001, ISBN: 9810245858 p.4) that while one tetraktys represents the cosmos - two interlocking tetraktyses form the Star of David representing the signs of the zodiac surrounding the 13th point which is the source of life. See: [1] Zeevveez 12:12, 17 July 2006 (UTC)

Native American origins[edit]

Perhaps some mention should be made of the origins of the eagle/arrow iconography in traditional Iroquois folk art? The original "American eagle" held five arrows in its claws, one for each of the Five (later Six) Nations. This can be read about in Ronald Wright's Stolen Continents. Or perhaps there is a more appropriate article on the use of the eagle in symbolic American nationalism? Fucube 04:29, 11 September 2006 (UTC)


Vandalism by I.P. address: was removed.--Lance talk 14:26, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

Different in the Dollar Bill Article[edit]

In this article, in regards to the pyramid icon, it says 'Where the top of the pyramid should be, the so-called Eye of Providence watches over it.' and 'Two mottos appear: Annuit Cœptis signifies that the Eye of Providence has "nodded at (our) beginnings."'

In the dollar bill article it says 'The separated cap of the pyramid, portraying the all-seeing eye, symbolizes that the United States is still far from finished. The Latin phrase "Annuit Cœptis" ("He [God] has favored our undertaking")'

So, is the top piece of the pyramid the Eye of Providence or the All-seeing eye, and does 'Annuit Cœptis' translate to 'nodded at (our) beginnings' or 'He [God] has favored our undertaking'.--Jcvamp 06:42, 16 October 2006 (UTC)

Thorough research on the truth of all symbolism is a legitimate matter in the reckoning of whether or not all that is forged together (credit to Ezra Pound and his quote "The Image is more than an idea.") to substantiate the underlying concepts of and a genuine reputation for THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Every part of the total should contribute to the promises and ideals once in the minds of this nation's Founding Fathers and every patriot then, and those since, guided by Providence, without cunning nor deceit. When the "Eye of Providence" imagery may, in fact, be the symbol of a centuries old secret organization (credit to author CS, called the "Cult of the All-Seeing Eye" (est. 1660s-1710s) there is question enough about why such a symbol has been on the dollar bill for now seventy-four years. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 1111anidea (talkcontribs) 19:38, 12 October 2009 (UTC) Steve Feld

No question... we know the answer... the eye is on the dollar bill because it is part of the Great Seal of the United States. It is part of the Great Seal because the desiners wanted to portray that God watches over the country. It really is that simple. Blueboar (talk) 19:49, 12 October 2009 (UTC)

History of the Great Seal[edit]

I am adding a few paragraphs in the "History" section of this article in order to show the process by which the current design was ultimately chosen. Several designs were nominated as the great seal prior to the one ultimately chosen; this history is vital to this article. I have just started so feel free to add or edit if necessary. (Gaytan 20:11, 26 October 2006 (UTC))


I wish you would withdraw your last comment. -- 09:45, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Symbolism of Eagle[edit]

  • "The symbolism of the seal is obvious—the shield is reminiscent of the national flag, and the Bald Eagle is a well-known national symbol of the United States."

Was the bald eagle a national symbol already at the time of the seals adoption, or did it become the national symbol because of its use on the seal? Incidentally, which came first, the eagle or the egg?--dave-- 14:22, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

According to sources I've read and the source I added to the wiki, "The Bald Eagle was officially declared the National Emblem of the United States by the Second Continental Congress in 1782." 1782 being the same year the seal was approved. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Cheddy7 (talkcontribs) 02:54, 29 January 2007 (UTC).
No, it was not a symbol at the time -- it became a symbol due to the Great Seal. Thankfully that statement has since been removed. The stripes and colors on the shield were however somewhat based on the flag (same person, Francis Hopkinson, was involved). Carl Lindberg (talk) 22:21, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

FDR's approval of the modern one dollar bill reverse design[edit]

President Franklin Roosevelt's conditional approval of the 1935 one dollar bill's reverse design, switching the positions of the seal's sides

i thought this image was a good addition to the article, but couldnt find a good place to put it, as the article seems overloaded with good images already... here it is for a future day when the copy has been expanded.

popefauvexxiii 19:53, 10 January 2007 (UTC)

According to sources I've read and the source I added to the wiki, "The Bald Eagle was officially declared the National Emblem of the United States by the Second Continental Congress in 1782." 1782 being the same year the seal was approved. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Cheddy7 (talkcontribs) 02:53, 29 January 2007 (UTC).


Pendant seals: U.S. seal on the Treaty of Ghent, and the French seal on the Louisiana Purchase

I'm confused about the "reverse" of the Seal. Our article on Seal (device) doesn't mention them having reverse sides, ie: they appear to be either stamp-like things or they are signet rings, something that only has a single side. This article suggests that a "seal" is like a coin...but wouldn't that make it hard to actually use for the purpose of "sealing" something? 18:58, 19 January 2007 (UTC)

They are for use on "pendant seals", which are discs (thus having two sides) attached to the document by a ribbon. The United Kingdom's Great Seal of the Realm has a reverse, as did the seals of some of the colonies, so the committee provided a design in case the Congress wanted to do the same. They did not initially, but the U.S. did eventually use pendant seals for treaties starting with the Treaty of Ghent in 1814 up through 1871. However, they never used the reverse for these -- they stamped one side of the disc only (I think because stamping both sides was harder to do, and makes the disc more brittle). Therefore a die/matrix for the reverse has never been made, and I guess not much reason to do so in the future. The general seal article should probably be improved though. Carl Lindberg (talk) 14:36, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

Why no mention of the reverse of seal being symbol of the British Israel World Federation?[edit]

This should certainly be mentioned as it is a significant representation of a group which controls the destiny of America. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 13:01, 30 January 2007 (UTC).

In what way do British Israelite adherents "control America"?? They had a few prominent individuals expressing sympathy with their views in the late 19th century and/or early 20th century, but they've been a very obscure and uninfluential group, widely viewed as crackpots, for a rather long time now... AnonMoos 22:03, 16 March 2007 (UTC)


Text: "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..."

But the picture shown in the article does have the stars... 18:06, 6 November 2007 (UTC)

Hmmm... Interesting... the current image (with the stars) was taken from this document, issued by the 108th Congress in 2003, and published by the US Government Printing Office. Are you suggesting that Congress (gasp) got it wrong? Oh, wait, we are talking about the US Government aren't we?... never mind. If you want to track down a correct version and replace the image, feel free. Blueboar 18:49, 6 November 2007 (UTC)
The opening image of our article is definitely wrong. There are no stars on the shield. The link you provided also shows no stars on the shield, so I'm not sure where the problem came from. Can someone please fix makes us look quite silly.--Eva bd 14:51, 29 November 2007 (UTC) I see the offending arms in your link (page 42). Interesting that the cover of the .pdf has the correct arms. We still need to fix ours.--Eva bd 14:54, 29 November 2007 (UTC)
Unfortunately, I am not up on how to import images... if you know how to do so, feel free. I agree that we should have the correct seal displayed. Blueboar (talk) 15:16, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

Meaning of Latin words and phrases?[edit]

What does the Latin in Image:Great_Seal_of_US,_Recto_Design,_1782.png mean? Шизомби (talk) 17:44, 20 April 2008 (UTC)

According to this website:
"In Vindiciam Libertatis" = In Defense of Liberty.
"Virtus sola invicta" = Only virtue unconquered.
"Deo Favente" = With God's Favor (lit., God Favoring)
"Perennis" = Everlasting (lit., Through the years) Blueboar (talk) 18:27, 20 April 2008 (UTC)

6 pointed stars & masonic imagery - A rational explanation[edit]

I did some research, and found that during the revolutionary war, Synagogues in North America donated large sums of money to the continental army, as well as the masons. In one case, one of the richest men in the continent donated every last bit of money he owned to the cause, soon dying a starved beggar. To thank the Jews and Masons, Washington asked that they be added to the seal.

Unfortunately, my internet history was recently deleted in a computer crash, and I no longer have the links to the sites which contain the information. Zib Blooog (talk) 04:22, 7 August 2008 (UTC)

To put it bluntly... this is hogwash. You should not believe everything you read on the internet. Blueboar (talk) 14:00, 7 August 2008 (UTC)


OK... seem to have a disagreement on the wording of the symbolism section. Til Eulenspiegel's edit summary says that that my versoin does not match what the source says... I disagree. It may not be a word for word copy, but I think it does match what the source says. So let's discuss. Blueboar (talk) 13:54, 1 November 2008 (UTC)

Where does the source say anything about the eye being "Christian symbolism"? This claim needs some citation if it is to appear.
I have just been looking at the meticulously researched Great Seal website now, and it reveals that the Eye of Providence feature in question, was first submitted by Du Simitiere, to the first committee. So perhaps we should mention that as well... Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 14:02, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
The source was used purely for the statement that Franklin was the only Mason amoung the varous design committees (I have replaced it with another source that makes the statement in a far more definitive manner).
As to the eye being a Christian symbol... If you walk into any number of European Cathedrals you will see it. It was quite common. I figured this was a non-controvercial statement based on obvious visible evidence. But, if you need a written citation, I will see what I can find. Blueboar (talk) 14:22, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
I doubt there is a more careful source than, and it certainly has other relevant material of high interest to this article, which should be cited and not suppressed - namely, the four men whose ideas were adopted. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 14:24, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
As says of The Eagle and the Shield: A History of the Great Seal of the United States: "Meticulously researched, this 1976 book is still the finest reference on the U.S. Seal." The book for dummies probably got their information from that book, but we should use the same amount of caution that the more scholarly work uses. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 14:28, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
First, I don't think you can call the For Dummies series of books a POV source (as you do in your edit summary)... they too are "careful sources", written by established experts in their field of study. Yes, they are written with the layman in mind, but they are well researched.
Perhaps there is a compromise here... I have no problem mentioning the other people who worked on the various committees, or including the source, but I do think it is important, given the number of conspiracy theories about this, to mention that the symbolism is not Masonic... that the pyramid and eye do not originate in Freemasonry and that only Mason to serve on the various committees was Franklin. If you need yet more sources that definitively state all this, I can come up with them. Blueboar (talk) 14:37, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
The "For Dummies" are more like a tertiary source, since the authors compile them based on secondary sources like The Eagle and the Shield that did the actual research. When this "meticulously researched" book states that there are no records for the two men, so therefore they were "presumably" not masons, it is exercising responsible scholarly caution, so we ought not to say or assume any more than that. Note, there should be no problem if you want to echo this source and say they were "presumably" not masons in the absence of any records, but we can't be any more presumptive than that. Even this book mentions the unproven allegations about Hopkinson in this connection, so why shouldn't the article mention them also? It does not seem as balanced not to mention this at all, as it is to mention it. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 14:50, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
Another point, made clear by our own Eye of Providence article, is that the Eye of Providence is indeed a freemason symbol. It should be easy to find some holes in the argument that its use in conjunction with a pyramid, therefore necessarily negates the fact that the same symbol is also used by freemasons. The focus of these theorists seems to be the Eye by itself, not necessarily the fact that it appears together with a pyramid. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 14:59, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
We should not base what we write on only one single source, no matter how good. When you look at the totality of the sources, a consesnus begins to form. While Eagle and Shield hedges by saying there is "no record", multiple other reliable sources say "not Masons". Combine these sources and we get a more definitive picture that we can use. If we need to, we can place multiple citations on the statement.
For example, we can use another source that is cited by the Masonic Service Association which stated definitively that a) the eye was a common Christian symbol long before the seal was designed, and b) Franklin was the only Mason. If that source is considered good enough for, it should be good enough for us.
Finally, as the MSA page discusses... while the "All Seeing Eye of God" is currently a symbol used by the Masons... it wasn't a symbol used by the Masons at the time that the Great Seal was designed. It was adopted by the Masons at a later date. For all we know, the Masons got it from the seal and not the other way around (although it is more likely that both the seal designers and the Masons took it independantly from common iconogarphy). Blueboar (talk) 15:08, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
Yes, you are right on that last point, which I just learned myself and added to the text one minute ago! Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 15:10, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
However, as to your previous point, the link you just gave, I cannot find any mention of "Christian" on the page... Am I missing it? Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 15:13, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
No, you are not missing it... the author uses the word "Trinitarian" instead. But the meaning is clearly the same. Blueboar (talk) 15:16, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
Ah, thanks... I was not searching for that string... It calls the Eye in triangle a "Trinitarian statement", which seems like a good way of putting it. "Christian symbol" makes it sound much more universal than it ever was; it's not something used everywhere throughout the churches like, say, the cross...! Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 15:22, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
It may not have been universal... but it was not uncommon (you find it in a lot of the mosaics, frescos, and carvings in medieval churches). It was part of general Christian symbolism. I would place it along side the Lamb (often used as a symbol of Christ)... or any number of iconic symbols that were emblematic of various Saints (grills, wheels, arrows, etc... usually tied to how the Saint was martered or died). Blueboar (talk) 15:30, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
You may want to check out some of the images at wiki-media commons... scroll down and eventually you will find quite a lot of photos of the eye from various Medieval and Renaisance Churches... including the Vatican! Blueboar (talk) 15:49, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
Thanks again... I agree this establishes enough for us to say something like 'the Eye is used in some Christian Churches as a Trinitarian statement', but still we couldn't go so far as to say "most" churches... Also, would the best place for adding this possibly be the Eye of Providence article? Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 16:07, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
Something about this should definitely should be added in detail to the Eye of Providence article (BTW... if you do add it, use "Christian churches"... with a small "c", otherwise people might think you mean "denominations", when you really mean the physical buildings). However, I see no reason not to include a brief mention of it here, as part of a refutation of the conspiracy theory that the symbolism is Masonic.
What I am getting at is that I think it important to show that the conspiracy theory has it wrong... the symbolism in the seal could not stem from Freemasonry since: a) The pyramid is not a Masonic emblem; b) the eye was used in iconography (including Christian iconography) prior to being adopted by the Freemasons, who adopted it after it was used on the seal; and c) the only Mason on any of the committees was Franklin, and his ideas were not incorporated into the design (nor did his suggestions have any Masonic reference, but that does not need to be mentioned). Blueboar (talk) 16:29, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
Even if the Eye was used in some Christian churches, I don't personally get how this has any bearing on the masonic claims about the Seal one way or the other, since that is a different question altogether... (being the one doesn't negate the other...) but, if some source has made such a connection with regard to the Great Seal, we should attribute that refutation, so it won't seem like an original or novel rebuttal. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 17:46, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
The theory is that the eye (and the pyramid) was put on the seal because it is a Masonic emblem (I have never understood how this is supposed to "prove" that the Masons are out to take over the world, but then I am not the type to believe conspiracy theories). The facts, on the other hand show that this could not have been the case. If we are going to mention the theory, we should also mention the facts that either contradict the theory or call it into question. The fact that, at the time that the seal was designed, the eye was not a Masonic emblem, but was a fairly common emblem in Christion iconography is one of those facts. The fact that the pyramid has never been a Masonic symbol is one of those facts. The fact that non of the men who had anything to do with the final design were Masons is one of those facts. Blueboar (talk) 22:55, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
The symbolism, per the Thomson description (and thus the only symbolism that Congress adopted), is The Eye over it & the Motto allude to the many signal interpositions of providence in favour of the American cause. The symbol itself does go back centuries, and is often used in other contexts (with slightly different meaning, too). The All-Seeing Eye is a symbol of freemasons, but I've never seen any indication or source whatsoever to show that it was a masonic symbol at the time -- so I'm not sure that we should give that too much weight. The current text seems basically to imply that it was, and that there is no absolute proof that it wasn't masonic-related, but the reader is free to judge... doesn't feel like the weighting is quite right. Anyways, it was apparently a fairly common iconography in the Christian world (and maybe non-christian as well) for centuries (see Image:Jacopo_Pontormo_001.jpg). But, the actual symbolism as it pertains to the Great Seal goes no further than Thomson's text, since that is what the Congress voted on and approved (and was later re-approved after the current government was formed in 1789). The Congress would be the only ones to decide the actual symbolism, and enact it in law. Where du Simitiere got the idea is an interesting matter of speculation, but the current section barely mentions the non-masonic sources (which are the most likely ones) and has way too much of the masonic discussion. It feels like much of that would be better in a footnote, unless the entire section is renamed to something like "Myths" since that is what most of the content is about -- speculative theories of symbolism that go way beyond the Congressional text, and often using suggestive (but misleading) evidence. For example, the six-pointed star design discussion is a bit silly -- that was an artistic choice by the engraver of the first physical seal, a choice which has remained, but was not present even on Thomson's drawing and therefore not even a matter of speculation before Congress. Carl Lindberg (talk) 18:24, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
Are you suggesting that we simply cut the symbolism section all together? I could live with that. If we don't bother to mention all the conspiracy theory claims, then there is no need to debunk them. Blueboar (talk) 22:26, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
No, they meet the test for mention as WP:FRINGE theories. Renaming the section would be fine with me, but a title like 'speculation' or 'speculative theories' is probably the most NPOV description. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 22:31, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
Actually, that would work too... but if we discuss the fringe stuff, I still think we would need to include any stuff that debunks it. Blueboar (talk) 23:00, 1 November 2008 (UTC)
It needs to be included somehow, or else people will continually add it thinking it is "missing". Entire books have been written on the subject, and movies like National Treasure keep the fun going, as well ;-) It is called "myths" by the page, and "Myths, Mistakes, and Misconceptions" by this page, which is another well-researched site on the seal, so naming it that way has some backing (and really, I haven't seen any good evidence to support any of them, so even calling it "speculation" may be giving them more credence than deserved). Maybe something like "Legends, misconceptions, and speculative theories". But yes, if we include it, we need to include the debunking information as to why they are not (or likely not) correct. Carl Lindberg (talk) 00:55, 2 November 2008 (UTC)
OK, following this idea up, I have added a quote from Charles Thomson, which now forms the bulk of the symbolism section... and moved most of what was in the old symbolism section into a new "Myths and misconceptions" section. Let me know if that satisfies. Blueboar (talk) 03:28, 2 November 2008 (UTC)
The Charles Thomson details being called the "only" official explanation made me leery since there are other official explanations compiled by other authors at the request of the State Department. I changed "only" to "primary" and included a paragraph other official accounts. I'm not sure, the way I've worded it, that it fits with the rest of the symbology section but at least it indicates that there are other officially sponsored sources by which to obtain a description of the symbols contained in the great seal. I hope I haven't stepped on toes of those of you who've put so much work into this section. Jadewik (talk) 23:38, 9 July 2013 (UTC)
Hmmm. The original document really the only official explanation of the symbolism, "official" meaning sanctioned by Congress and coming from the people actually involved in its creation. Hunt was primarily a historian 100 years later, mostly just printing all the background material which had preceded the seal being adopted, plus a history of the seal dies etc. following adoption. There is really no attempt to really interpret the meaning; from what I can see and remember he just printed out the descriptions of the preceding designs and also the full content of Thomas' submission to Congress, i.e. just supplying as much factual information on the development of the seal as he could find in State Department records. Additionally, Hunt's 1892 pamphlet was rife with inaccuracies. His 1909 version was much better, and a pretty solid history. Totten was far (*far*) from unbiased when it came to interpretation; he had a heavily mystical bent (a second book of his went ever deeper in that direction). Totten did however do quite a bit of investigative work and brought to light a bunch of interesting information (mostly on the history of the seal subsequent to its introduction), including a lot of stuff that Hunt had originally missed, so his stuff is quite valuable in that respect. Most all of those (as documentation) were far surpassed by the 1978 book put out by the State Department, The Eagle and the Shield, which was an exhaustive history of the seal and basically superseded the Hunt pamphlets and just about every other prior publication on the matter. But I'm not sure that any of them were really in a position to interpret the meaning beyond that original submission to Congress. Totten was the only one who tried, and while he was at one point a Army lieutenant his interpretation is in no way official (his books were a personal endeavor, many/most of which came out after he left the Army). So... I'm not sure that listing those books is necessarily a good idea in that part of the article. They might be good in a "further reading" kind of sense though. Carl Lindberg (talk) 03:19, 11 July 2013 (UTC)
Yeah... I would say Thompson's original explanation is the only "official" one... as it goes to original intent of the designer. The others might well be "reliable" in terms of symbolic scholarship (and thus worthy of being mentioned in the article in some way), but I would hesitate to call them "official". Blueboar (talk) 15:12, 11 July 2013 (UTC)

Repitition of images of obverse and reverse[edit]

Does anyone else think it is a bit silly to repeat the the exact same set of images for the obverse and reverse of the seal in such proximity? We use the exact same images in the infobox as we do just a few paragraphs later in the main text sections about each side. One of these sets should go (probably the reitteration in the main text).

Alternatively, we should find a different set of depictions to use in either the info box or the main text. Blueboar (talk) 16:42, 7 January 2009 (UTC)

OK, I have been WP:BOLD and have removed the images from the main text. Since they appear in the infobox, which is in close proximity to the relevant text secions, I don't think this hurts the article in any way. Blueboar (talk) 15:10, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

Masons & dollar bill[edit]

I posted the part about the seal first appearing on paper currency on the 1935 silver certificate. I noted that this was the idea of Vice President Henry Wallace and President Franklin Roosevelt, and that, by the way, they were both Freemasons. I cited this document as a source ( My contribution was deleted without discussion. Here's some more information: There were 9 founding fathers that were Freemasons. Benjamin Franklin, William Ellery, John Hancock, Joseph Hewes, William Hooper, Robert Paine, Richard Stockton, George Walton and William Whipple. George Washington was also a Freemason. (source: Here's more: 16% of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were apparently Freemasons, 33% of the signers of the Constitution were apparently Freemasons, and 46% of the Generals in Washington's army were apparently Freemasons (source: (talk) 08:24, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

You might want to look at the discussion about Symbolism (above). Yes there were Freemasons involved in the founding of the United States, but they has nothing to do with the seal. Yes the all seeing eye is currently a well know Masonic emblem ... but it wasn't a Masonic emblem at the time that the seal was concieved. That happened later. It seems that Roosevelt and Wallace made the same error that you do... seeing something as being Masonic that isn't.
In any case, I don't think we need to discuss Wallace's or Roosevelt's motivations behind puting the seal on the dollar bill. What is important for this article is that it was placed on the dollar. Why it was is essentially irrelevant. Blueboar (talk) 15:23, 14 February 2009 (UTC)
It is probably the only even halfway reasonable link between freemasonry and the seal -- the reverse probably caught their attention because of the eye. The rest of it, neither of them had ever seen before, and it seems as though the motto and pyramid's applicability to the New Deal were more of a driving factor, so that is what I left in there. Wallace's letter contains at least one major inaccuracy; he thought that Roosevelt was responsible for adding the term "Great" to the "Great Seal" but that is quite incorrect. The Eagle and the Shield book researched it, but found nothing to support nor cast doubt on Wallace's story -- apparently several people made similar suggestions to the Secretary of the Treasury, so it may well have initially come from Roosevelt's direction. Also according to Wallace, Roosevelt also consulted a Catholic member of the Cabinet (James Farley) to make sure it wouldn't be offensive to Catholics, since the suggestion was coming from a mason. The actual designs used on the bill date from the late 1800s, so they had no influence on those either. Your edit was way over-emphasizing the masonic aspect, which is why I assume it was deleted. The Eye of Providence is a Christian symbol going back for many centuries (predating any existence of freemasonry); by basically all evidence, freemasonry had nothing at all to do with the seal itself. Carl Lindberg (talk) 16:53, 14 February 2009 (UTC)
So your personal knowledge trumps a first hand account by Henry Wallace, one of the participants in a historical event? The evidence cited to prove the Eye of Providence is an exclusively Christian symbol is not very convincing. First of all, "The Declaration of the Rights of Man" is NOT a Christian document! It was created during the anti-clerical French Revolution. Also, the book cover that is cited as evidence - what's the translation of the title? How do we know this is a Christian symbol? A cross is a Christian symbol. The Star of Bethlehem is a Christian symbol. The fish is Christian symbol. The Eye of Providence? I don't think a few examples makes something a Christian symbol. Many churches have handicapped access stickers on their doors. Does that make the handicapped access symbol a Christian symbol? (talk) 14:11, 16 February 2009 (UTC)
The symbol has been used by different people for different uses; in that era it was apparently most often used as a symbol of the deity (certainly not exclusively by religious organizations). Freemasons obviously use that symbol today too, also as a symbol of the deity, but that was by all indications not the case in 1776/1782. The Declaration of the Rights of Man was obviously using it to imply that they were divine rights (note that it also uses Ten Commandments imagery). Also note the 1525 painting which contains it, which is in the article. this page indicates that actual stone masons often used it, referring to the Holy Trinity, which may explain its presence on so many churches (and why freemasons later co-opted it). Obviously 150 years later the reverse probably appealed to Wallace and Roosevelt because of the Eye, but Wallace's own account indicate that the other symbolism (none of which have anything to do with freemasonry) was a larger reason they put it on the bill, and Wallace also reports that Roosevelt did take steps make sure it others did not see it as a masonic symbol, so it would appear as though that aspect was not particularly significant in the reasoning to put it on the bill. Furthermore, the edits you are referring to are in the Speculation area at the bottom which refers to the original 1782 seal, which Henry Wallace had no first-hand knowledge of, and his letter is completely irrelevant to that section. (The letters referred to above were from 1951 and 1955, many years after even the one dollar bill decision). Carl Lindberg (talk) 19:21, 16 February 2009 (UTC)
I think we have two statements that need separation (which I have done)... 1) that the eye was a Christian symbol (at least as far back as the Renaissance ... Jacopo Pontormo's painting with the Eye of Providence in a triangle above Jesus's head demonstrates this), and 2) that it was still in common use (in both religious and secular settings) in Europe throughout the 1700s (as demonstrated by all the other examples). I have slightly re-worded to account for the difference.
The point the article is making is that the eye did not originate with the Masons. They simply adopted a symbol that was, at the time, commonly used to symbolize God (and the Masons adopted it after the Great Seal was invented). Wallace may have thought that the seal contained a Masonic symbol... but he was wrong in thinking so. Blueboar (talk) 19:31, 16 February 2009 (UTC)

Abstract of things 13[edit]

Do we really need this section?... and should it be where it is, if we do need it? I know numerologists and conspriacy theory fans find the repitition of things numbering 13 to have some sort of significance or something... but as far as the Great Seal goes all those thirteen stars, arrows, tail feathers etc. have a much more mundane reason for being there - the US originally had 13 States. Any objections to simply cutting the section? Blueboar (talk) 12:33, 7 July 2009 (UTC)

I'm borderline on it. It is all true, and the E Pluribus Unum motto being 13 letters is probably the only coincidental one in the list (maybe the ribbons too). On the other hand, it is probably not as significant as the room it takes -- it seems mostly a convenient number to choose in a representation, so to avoid questions on if there was any meaning behind any other chosen random number when there wasn't. It may deserve a sentence or two, and I'm not sure where else to put it -- it is a theme which pertains to both the obverse and reverse. I wouldn't really object to removing it, nor keeping it. The similar list on the US dollar bill article is much sillier though, and the list does seem to make people search for more and more irrelevant coincidental occurrences of 13. Carl Lindberg (talk) 17:20, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
I was thinking of perhaps moving it to the symbolism section and changing it from a bullet point format (which tends to highlight it) to a simple text list. Blueboar (talk) 17:37, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
Ah, that's a good idea. Yes I think that would be an improvement. Carl Lindberg (talk) 18:41, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
Done... feel free to tinker. Blueboar (talk) 19:09, 8 July 2009 (UTC)
OK, I did just a bit ;-) Carl Lindberg (talk) 01:36, 9 July 2009 (UTC)
Looks good to me. Thanks. Blueboar (talk) 16:35, 9 July 2009 (UTC)

The heraldic rule of tincture[edit]

Currently the article states that the outermost stripes on the shield are white, not red; "so as not to violate the heraldic rule of tincture". In what way would another arrangement violate the tincture rule? /B****n (talk) 05:30, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

The current arrangement implies that the base tincture of the shield is argent (white), with six pales gules (six vertical red stripes) and a chief azure (a blue chief, which is the upper third area) placed on it. Both of those are "color on metal", which is fine. Argent is a "metal", while gules/azure are "colors". Having the outermost "stripes" (which is really the background color in between the stripes) be red, would mean that the background color is red, with white vertical stripes and a blue chief laid on top of it. The blue chief on the red background would be "color on color", which is a violation of that most basic heraldic rule. I'm pretty sure that is the reasoning. Carl Lindberg (talk) 11:10, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
THANK YOU CLINDBERG! For once a question is answered before I asked it. May I request two things: first, that this explanation (that the problem is putting a blue chief ON a red background) be moved from Talk to the Article. Second, further clarify what you've said by emphasizing that a chief is ON the field (if it's not like a tierced-in-fess thing) rather than a PARTITION of the field. That's what had me stumped (until I went to the WikiP article on "chief"), was thinking that blue touching red would be o.k. if it weren't ON the red but merely ADJACENT to it. I found out a chief is ON (and is NOT "adjacent to") the background. I was really scratching my head over this and even considering that it was a problem of putting the red stripe adjacent to the brown of the bald-eagle (and not really being satisfied with that since "proper"-colored things are not subject to the tincture-rule anyway). (talk) 07:03, 25 August 2013 (UTC)Christopher L. Simpson

Speculations on the motto[edit]

Re: the motto: "Novus ordo seclorum". The fact is Charles Thompson explained what he had in mind when he proposed it. Modern day speculations that it should be translated or "interpreted" as either "New World Order" or "New Secular Order" are irrelevant within in the context of this article. Furthermore, these "interpretations" are proposed by fringe conspiracy theorists... even mentioning them in the main text gives undue weight to their fringe theories. At best, such speculations should be relegated to a foot note... but they do not belong in the main text. Blueboar (talk) 13:25, 6 December 2009 (UTC)

Is Thompson a good source? He was involved with the design, so should he be interpreting it? He was a Greek scholar, but was he a Latin scholar? The phrase should be straightforward translatable by a Latin scholar, but it is not easily interpreted. (See below.)
The article is over 70kb. I think it should be split into two: one with design and symbolism, and one with history. Words are symbols, and phrases have many interpretations. I don't care what the textualists say about interpreting. I mean there are entire books about interpretation and metaphor. Our greatest philosophers swim in what Wittgenstein believes are errors with words. I will try to explain the phrase, where you may find the reasons I think we should include both sides in the symbolism section of the article, with more space given to the way it is interpreted now.

I learned three words in Latin from this obfuscation:

The word seclorum does not mean "secular", as one might assume, but is the genitive (possessive) plural form of the word saeculum, meaning (in this context) generation, century, or age. Saeculum did come to mean "age, world" in late, Christian Latin, and "secular" is derived from it, through secularis. However, the adjective "secularis," meaning "worldly," is not equivalent to the nominative plural possessive "seclorum," meaning "of the ages."

I wonder if the Italian version of this English article... nah.

Saeculum means "generation, world, or age".
Seclorum is its possessive plural.("worlds'", "ages'", or "generations'"
Secularis is its adjective form. ("worldly", "of an age", "of a generation" (all singular)).

Seclorum, our motto word, has a word relation:.
Saeculum is it's possessive plural. (The 's is implied in the word Seclorum. We would say "Seclorum's")

Saeculum has a word relation:
Secularis is its adjective.

Ordo translates to "Order".
Novus translates to "New".

Novus Ordo Seclorum translates New Order of the Worlds'.
(Note the apostrophe.)

Adjectives only ever accompany the singular form. Children are childlike and trees are all tree-like, and women are womanly. Secularis can modify Saeculum. Worldly world is 'Saeculum Secularis. If Seclorum hypothetically transformed into an adjective, it would be "of the worlds'" (Note the final apostrophe.)

We can translate Of the worlds (without the apostrophe) "world-like worldliness of worlds", or "world of worlds". We can translate Of the worlds' (with the apostrophe) only as "owned by all the worlds" or as the non-word "worlds's". To relate Secularis, to Seclorum would also be best said "of the Worlds" but worlds would not be plural possessive, worlds', it would be simply plural worlds.

The other motto on our Great Seal refers to the eye of providence. Perhaps that's why the use of "worlds'" in the phrase, instead of "worlds".

Note that adjective forms of plural posessives only apply to simulations or in the context of malcreants. (tree-like trees, or worldly worlds.)

"Worldly", "world-like", or "of a world's way", but not "of a worlds' way" It is an adjective form. Adjectives only describe singular forms. Goose-like flight pattern. Adjectives simply don't describe plural forms. They can describe plurals, but when they do the plural is made singular first, and it is understood by the context that it describes plurality. For example, children-like, "like women" are written childlike and womanly.

Secularis aka Secular are both adjectives. They both kinda mean: "worldly":

  • "of the world",
  • "of the generation"
  • "of the age"

"A New worldly order"? No. That would have to have been translated from the Latin "Novus Ordo Secularis": "A New Order, done the way a world does things" which is not the plural possessive, but the singular attribute of the order, describing the type of order. The adjective form of Seclorum describes nothing we say. We have adjectives of singular forms, but not plural forms. We don't say children-like or men-like or buses-like, but "how like a bus" or childlike or womanlike. If we did say "like the way of worlds (plural)", we'd say "world-like" or worldly. It's always singular.

In conclusion, Seclorum does not relate to Secularis, and by extension secular.

  • "A New Order Worldly"? No. The simple reason for the "No" answer in both cases here is that our motto word "Seclorum" implies "Worlds" not "world".
  • A New Order of the Worlds. Yes.
  • "A New Secular Order"?

That would be "Novus Ordo Secularis". What we have is Novus Ordo Seclorum.

All the uses of the word world above can also be replaced by generation or by age'.
Let's try this with our working model, New order of the worlds.

New Order of the Ages.

  • "A New Order of the Age"? No. (The reason for the wording "of the age" derives from the fact that the adjective of, say, "David" is "of David" or David-like.)
  • "A New Age-like Order"? No.
  • A New Order of the Ages. OK.

New Order of the Generations.

  • "A New Generational Order"? No.
  • "A New Order Generationally"? No. (Not even a word "generationally")
  • A New Order of the Generations. OK.

Unfortunately, conspiracy has gone mainstream.[2] Nevertheless "Abyssus abyssum invocat". — CpiralCpiral 07:04, 7 December 2009 (UTC)

Thomson was also the author of the motto. It is hard to have a better source. He was a Latin scholar, yes; he taught Latin at the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania). Wouldn't be surprised if wanting more scholarly Latin was why he replaced both Latin mottos from Barton's initial design for the reverse. Furthermore, the included section is the only symbolism that the Congress approved. Carl Lindberg (talk) 13:41, 7 December 2009 (UTC)
I don't consider the motto to be "authored" because there were others involved. What did they mean? That phrase is a symbol to be interpreted by people. What motivated all the minds that effected that phrase? Can we ever know? One thing is for sure: they were not all of perfect and harmonious accord, either on the wording or the meaning. I am saying we keep the wrong-headed but common-enough interpretation in some main text until someone somewhere can sinch the meaning. It means "The world's own new order", but that assumes an impostrophe is there. It isn't. Therefore as I say above in the paragraph "We can translate...". — CpiralCpiral 01:09, 8 December 2009 (UTC)
Others involved? No. Thomson changed the motto "Perennis" on Barton's initial design to "Novus ordo seclorum" (and "Deo favente" to "Annuit cœptis"). He adapted both from Virgil quotes but he was the only person to author the mottos. The symbolism text was mostly written by Barton, then adapted by Thomson for the version submitted to Congress -- who, really, are the only ones who can decide what the country's seal is and what the official symbolism is. Translations are fun, and it's hard to call yours wrong -- but the intended meaning doesn't go any further than the text supplied in the article -- Congress couldn't guess if there were hidden meanings either when they voted on the seal (and the symbolism which was submitted alongside), they had to go by the text submitted -- which they approved without change. Carl Lindberg (talk) 03:48, 8 December 2009 (UTC)
Carl has this right... furthermore, all that "translating" that Cpiral does above constitute's Original Research and so could not be added. The simple fact is... Thompson told us what the motto means and why he chose it. In the context of the Great Seal, nothing but Thompson's translation and Thompson's meaning matter. Blueboar (talk) 04:11, 8 December 2009 (UTC)

Step pyramid and frustum[edit]

Hi there. Yesterday I added links to step pyramid to this article, but according to this edit, "the specification just says "pyramid" without specifying a type". I beg to differ. Please take a look at following quotes, taken from the current version of the article (emphasis mine):

These quotes match perfectly the definition at step pyramid:

I'd like your opinion on the subject before undoing the edit I mentioned above. Please note that the passage "and though the number was left out of the final version" mentions that the number of steps was left out; not the fact that the pyramid has them.

That edit also removed the links to Frustum (which I had added to the "pyramid unfinished" expressions), with the comment "frustrum links are misleading; that was not the intent." I don't understand how this can be misleading. Frustum is just the name of the geometric shape, and the article itself has a section that refers to the truncated pyramid in the Great Seal. I'd like to readd the links, so your comments would also be appreciated on this issue. Thanks, Waldir talk 12:09, 24 January 2010 (UTC)

Context is important, even in linking. I will grant you that the unfinished pyramid as depicted happens to be a frunstum, but the official description does not actually specify that the top must be parallel to the base, mearly that it must be "unfinished".
As for step pyramid... while the official descriptions do use the words steps or levels or what ever, what is clearly meant are 13 cources of stone. By your logic the Great Pyramid of Giza would be a "step pyramid", as it too consists of "levels" of stone.
But my real objection to your links is that they are overly specific. We are not really talking about archetecture or geometry in this article... we are talking about symbology. In the context of symbology the type of pyramid is irrelevant... what is important is that the seal depicts a pyramid (symbolizing strenth and durability) that is unfinished (symbolizing that the work of building a perfect nation will never end). Being overly specific in our linking loses that symbolic context.
Acually, what we should be linking to is an article on Pyramid (symbolism), but until that aricle is written, it is better to either link to the article on Pyramids in general... or to not link the word at all. Blueboar (talk) 15:44, 24 January 2010 (UTC)
(ec) It is my impression that step pyramids are distinct from smooth-sided pyramids; Egypt has examples of both but the more famous ones are smooth-sided (as mentioned in the step pyramid article). The early renderings from Barton and Trenchard (and Hopkinson's Continental note) do show a step-sided pyramid, while renditions based on Lossing's version use smooth-sided. The design does not specify, so artists can use whichever type they want, so the generic design section should not link to either, I don't think. And yes, the final version of the design does leave out any mention of levels or steps, so they are not strictly necessary to show. As for frustum, that may be the arguable result of what artists use, but again the design is to show an unfinished pyramid (not a finished frustum). There are potentially other ways of showing an unfinished pyramid (maybe one level incomplete, or other), and artists would be free to use alternate representations which are not frustums. Frustum is a not a definition of "unfinished pyramid", so I don't think it is appropriate to use that as a link. While an interesting mathematical term -- and I can see the link going the other way, using a commonly-known example to illustrate the term -- I think the frustum concept is too far from the Great Seal's design and intent for it to be a reasonable link to make. Carl Lindberg (talk) 15:50, 24 January 2010 (UTC)
Fair enough. I think both of you have a point. I do partially agree with Blueboar that an article on the (intentionally) unfinished pyramid as a symbol —There's Unfinished Pyramid, but it's just a disambiguation page— would be useful, but I still believe that while that's not written, the frustum link wouldn't hurt (and wouldn't prevent the liking to the pyramid article as well, from somewhere else in the text). That said, I understand your arguments and won't insist further on this point. Thanks for your comments :) --Waldir talk 17:26, 24 January 2010 (UTC)
I do have to agree that the definitions sound the same but maybe the people who designed intended for it to be a regular pyramid or for people to discuss it? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:26, 24 November 2011 (UTC)

Conspiracy theorists and the numbers[edit]

I can not support changing "some conspiracy theorists" to "some people". It gives unjust weight then to the conspiracy by making it sound like a mainstream beliefs held by a small though sizable portion of the population. Is there any poll that could be cited that shows the percentage of people that believe the conspiracy is true? Otherwise, if conspiracy theorists is an unjust term, it should be changed to something like "a small yet vocal minority" if the numbers are not certain. It does not appear based on the amount of reliably published material (omitting self publish and personal websites) that such conspiracies are taken with any grain of salt. It is not accurate to compare the number of historians with books from well respected publishing houses against the number of people that can maintain a personal website and post their own thoughts; on any subject it is easy to believe the latter would outnumber the former even if the latter is the minority view.

I would not think to withhold the conspiracy either. Why I do not believe it to be widely believed, I do think it is widely known or at least portions of it are (like what the symbols themselves mean) if not the conspiracy itself is. It would be a bit of an elephant in the room that none wish to address if the material were altogether removed, and could cause confusion to not debunk the false symbolism.

So again, if anyone has ever come across a poll, could they please link it for us. Also, of course, everyone interested herein please contribute your thoughts amongst my ramblings. [tk] XANDERLIPTAK 06:54, 29 May 2010 (UTC)

Speculation - conspiracy theory[edit]

We seem to be in an edit war over the use of the term "conspiracy theory" in the Speculation section. We have two instances (I have un-wikified the citations so we can see and discuss them):

  • Some conspiracy theorists <ref>for example: []</ref> believe the eye atop the pyramid to have its origins in Masonic iconography;<ref>[]</ref>


  • Furthermore, contrary to many conspiracy theory claims, and the Great Seal was not created by Freemasons. <ref>[,2933,330388,00.html Associated Press story, Tuesday, February 12, 2008 as hosted by]</ref>

In both sentences we have direct support for the use of the term... in the first, we support the use of "some conspiracy theorists believe" with a website that calls itself "conspiracyarchive" showing this belief. In the second we cite to a reliable third party source that debunks the idea the Great Seal was created by Freemasons, and attributes that idea to... conspiracy theorists.

In fact, I will challenge the IP to find a source that connects Freemasonry to the Great Seal that does not either claim a conspiracy exists or attempt to debunk that theory. Blueboar (talk) 12:06, 12 June 2010 (UTC)

It is not appropriate to introduce the label here, because the fact that they are conspiracy theorists is not directly relevant. The article makes no reference to any conspiracy theories, nor does it make any suggestion that the idea that there are Masonic symbols there is in and of itself conspiracy theory material. The claim comes out of nowhere, so that some of them are nutjobs is not of any relevance here. Yes, some people believe that these are Masonic symbols in connection with the broader idea that there's a great Masonic conspiracy operating some kind of "shadow government". However, it's equally possible that someone that doesn't necessarily know the timeline believes them to be Masonic symbols by innocent mistake - it's also entirely possible that there are people out there that don't regard Freemasonry as a sinister cult that wants to take over the world. As such, it is an inappropriate generalisation in this context. I remind you at this point that it isincumbent upon you to demonstrate that the content you want to use is suitable. (talk) 03:42, 14 June 2010 (UTC)
I know WP:Burden well (I should, as I helped write it)... and I have complied with its provisions. I have provided sources that support the attribution. Again, I challenge you to find a source that connects Freemasonry to the Great Seal that is not promoting a conspiracy theory. If you can, I will consider modifying the attribution. Until then, no. Blueboar (talk) 13:16, 14 June 2010 (UTC)
I would not say those that believe that the symbols are derived from Freemasonry are "theorizing" somehow. No, they simply heard a widely held tale and are merely repeating this story; they propose nothing. That then only leaves those that claim the facts are actually cover-up to hide away some secret “truth“ of the symbols, as well as the secretive group (the conspiracy and its conspirators) behind them. Since all that is left is a theory based upon a conspiracy, it is accurately described as a conspiracy theory and the promoters of which conspiracy theorists. The term arrives in the article suddenly and out of nowhere because the article is about the facts, not theories and not conspiracies. It is only because the story is so widely known that it even warrants mention, as a sort of elephant in the room which needs be named. It is a footnote, an "oh, by the way" to point out that the theory was reviewed and is discredited. Only those that still theorize these facts to be created to further the conspirators . [tk] XANDERLIPTAK 09:15, 15 June 2010 (UTC)
The rest of the article focuses on facts... but the section in question, however, is (explicitly) about speculation, conjectures and conspiracy theories. Again, if the story is a widely known tale and those who hold it are "merely repeating the story" without promoting a conspiracy theory, surely there are non-conspiracy theory sources that repeat it. So find one and cite it. You are the one who wishes to change the text... so (per WP:BURDEN) the burden is on you to provide sources that support your change.
No, sources can not say "I heard form somewhere that this might be true" and be considered reliable. Any non-conspiracy source that repeats such theories will do so only to point out these tales are false rumours and a conspiracy theories, not to give them credibility. So then, there are no reliable sources that would print information about Freemasons or what not being the inspiration for the symbols, because such things do not exist. Literature from conspiracy theorists, however, do not rely on primary sources, but on connections and leaps they make themselves. The section highlights this well-known belief, though how widely-held it is I do not know, but it is merely to point out that such ideas originated from people making theories claiming conspiracy without any proof. There already are sources cited that use the term "conspiracy theory", so burden of proof is met. It seems you wish to merely give more credence to the theories, however there is no information or source that can be given to warrant such. [tk] XANDERLIPTAK 03:29, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
No, the section highlights a well known conspiracy theory (well known enough that we can not simply omit mentioning it). It is long established on Wikipedia that we should label conspiracy theories as being "conspiracy theories", and those who propose such theories as "conspiracy theorists". You can ask at WP:Fringe theories/Noticeboard to confirm this if you doubt my word. Blueboar (talk) 12:15, 16 June 2010 (UTC)
You missed the point. The fact that the people you cite are conspiracy theorists is orthogonal to the context of the article. That would be rather like including a reference to Peter Tatchell and Iain Dale and glibly introducing it as "Some homosexuals believe ..." (talk) 19:01, 25 June 2010 (UTC)
No, sexuality and academic association are completely different, the former irrelevant while the latter is completely germane to the topic. It makes a difference to note whether a child in 5th grade is presenting information or a university professor or a man with nothing but a "hunch" to go on. We do not include hearsay, we do not include things without fact--except here, because it is such a widely told tale that it is notable. Calling conspiracy theories and those that produce them conspiracy theorists is as legitimate as calling fact just that, fact, and those that present them historians. What would you prefer them be called? Alternative-non-factual-based-history-theorists? [tk] XANDERLIPTAK 17:37, 30 June 2010 (UTC)
In the absence of any suggestion of an actual conspiracy, "mistaken" is probably a good choice. (talk) 04:38, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

Speculation and conspiracy - part 2[edit]

OK... the rewrites of this section are an improvement... but I still have issues with the first sentence: "Some believe that the Great Seal shows the influence..." This is weasel wording pure and simple. We need to state who believes this. And the simple fact is that the only sources that link the Great Seal to the Freemasons do so in the context of conspiracy theory (I have yet to see a source for this belief that do not involve a conspiracy ... if they exist, please provide a few). Thus, I think it is appropriate to state upfront that the theory is a conspiracy theory, and those who believe it are conspiracy theorists. Blueboar (talk) 13:26, 9 July 2010 (UTC)
The "some" doesn't need qualification, since you have already provided examples cited later on. It is an error to conflate the two separate and orthogonal concepts of having misunderstood the symbols and the history, and believing it to be evidence of a grand conspiracy. Referring to it as "hidden" influence is probably improper too, since it's known that they were fairly overt about it - liberty, equality and brotherhood were Masonic values, and it's known that Jefferson subscribed to these values while at the same time being critical of organized Freemasonry itself. (talk) 01:22, 11 July 2010 (UTC)
Simply because cites later in the paragraph specify who says it does not adequately address the "who". That is weasel wording and a poor argument to maintain it, saying that if they keep reading and the follow the cite to the page and read the original source then there is no confusion. That is not the purpose of this article, to provide vague generalities and force the reader to go into great depth to figure out what is true and myth. Fact is to presented as fact, clearly and precisely. Myth as myth, clearly labeled. All sources state there is a group that has tried to secretly influence events, the very definition of a conspiracy. The IP editor is simply offended his beliefs, evident by his language, are not treated as fact and is wishing to give more credence than justly due to these conspiracy theories. [tk] XANDERLIPTAK 01:38, 11 July 2010 (UTC)

Which image should we use?[edit]

Coat of arms of the United States of America.svg or Greater coat of arms of the United States.svg
The opinions of other users would be helpful. - SSJ t 00:47, 28 January 2011 (UTC)

Dunno. I don't think it matters too much which one we use (if either -- a photo of the front of a passport may be even better there, given the caption). The one on the right is more detailed, but may not scale down as well. It's also directly extracted from the obverse image at the top of the page, so is essentially a duplicate and located not so far away... the other is at least a (very slightly) different representation, so it feels to me a little preferable. I think the caption is a bit long (maybe move some detail into the text, if needed), and should not be in bold (that probably violates the manual of style). Carl Lindberg (talk) 04:46, 28 January 2011 (UTC)
Scaled down: Coat of arms of the United States of America.svg and Greater coat of arms of the United States.svg
The eagle in the one on the left has for some strange reason white claws, and contradictory to e.g. this well established raster version, the vertical red stripes aren't thicker than the white ones. Personally I think the eagle's head also looks weird. - SSJ t 18:31, 28 January 2011 (UTC)
Yeah, it was probably designed for lower-resolution stuff, where some of that fine detail doesn't matter much. Most of the intricate detail on the right version is lost at that resolution. And the stripes are supposed to be the same width; they represent the 13 states. They are both extracted from government publications... just different artists, really (and pretty close at that). Carl Lindberg (talk) 00:42, 30 January 2011 (UTC)

"Which of these two images of the Great Seal should we use?" Neither. The image of the actual metal Great Seal that is used to imprint upon offical documents with the 19 orbs surrounding the 13 stars above the eagle should be chosen. - Brad Watson, Miami (talk) 01:47, 11 September 2011 (UTC)

13 letters in "E PLURIBUS UNUM" and 19 orbs[edit]

In listing the examples of the #13, I added that E PLURIBUS UNUM is a 13-letter motto. Also, I changed the ancient Latin phrase to all Capital letters - like on the Great Seal. The actual metal Great Seal has 19 orbs surrounding the 13 stars above the eagle. Sometimes the number of orbs varies in other depictions of the Seal, i.e. the Dollar Bill has 14 blurry orbs. My logical speculation of "Why 19 orbs" is they represent the Metonic cycle of 19 tropical years and Eclipse series of 19 eclipse years. Google Seal #4: S=19 Theory (18.6 algorithm/fractal) - Brad Watson, Miami (talk) 01:39, 11 September 2011 (UTC)

There is no documented significance to the 13 letters in the motto -- anyone can see that if they want to count letters, but it appears to be coincidental. There is even less significance to the clouds, which you incorrectly called orbs. There is no significance to the number; they have changed repeatedly in all the metal versions of the seal (the current one dates from 1885, over a century after the original). How to draw the clouds is simply an artistic choice -- there is no requirement to draw them in a ring, even. Carl Lindberg (talk) 02:11, 11 September 2011 (UTC)

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Jewish Star?[edit]

File:Star of david on the American seal.png
Star of david on the American seal

— Preceding unsigned comment added by Thanatos7474 (talkcontribs) 12:47, 12 March 2012 (UTC)

First off, it's not even a "Star of David" -- it's just a compact and symmetrical arrangement of 13 stars inside a circle (there are only a limited number of ways of doing that). Furthermore, it's very doubtful that the hexagram would have been at all commonly understood as a symbol of Judaism in the United States of the late 18th century... AnonMoos (talk) 13:07, 12 March 2012 (UTC)

Far too many long tracts of text with factual (historical, etc.) information...[edit]

...without citations to allow sources to be checked. Until this is changed, the article cannot be seen as a reliable article on this subject. (For particulars, check any section or paragraph without a citation. I am an educator, and well educated; this information is not common knowledge, and so requires verifiable sourcing.) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:50, 21 December 2013 (UTC)

Most paragraphs seem to have citations. Is there one in particular you'd like to point out? You can add the tag {{citation needed}} for any fact which appears to be unsourced. In general, the major source for most all historical information on the seal is the book The Eagle and the Shield by Richard S. Patterson and Richardson Dougall, published by the Department of State in 1978. It is several hundred pages long and extremely thorough. Most sources since then are primarily distillations of the information there (and this article is probably no different). Very little new information I can think of has come to light since (other than some of the bits about the Dorsett seal). Carl Lindberg (talk) 15:29, 21 December 2013 (UTC)
Yeah... the article as a whole is extensively cited (and this is especially true for the history sections), so I am not sure what the OP is talking about. Blueboar (talk) 15:38, 22 December 2013 (UTC)

Gender of the eagle[edit]

User is insistent that we use "he" instead of "it" when referring to the eagle... I have now had to revert to gender neutral language twice (see here). The fact is, we don't know if it is a male or female eagle (it could be either). Blueboar (talk) 13:13, 14 February 2015 (UTC)

Symbolism of the Unfinished Pyramid (specifically, why it's unfinished)[edit]

I seem to recall a documentary I saw some time ago (perhaps something from the History Channel, before it turned to aliens to explain everything) that described the symbolism of the Great Seal. Nothing unusual or surprising, probably less than this article explains. But one thing that's not clearly stated anywhere in this article is why the pyramid is unfinished. As I recall, the documentary explained that the pyramid represents our nation, or the work of building our nation, and that it's unfinished because the nation (or the task of building it) is unfinished; I'm not sure how well I can explain it, but as I understand it the idea is that the founding fathers didn't consider their work finished; we are constantly building our nation, and this task will never be completed as long as the nation continues to exist. For me this is the most sublime example of allegory in the Great Seal. If it's true, then it really ought to be explained in the article. Has anybody else heard of this, or know of any sources that might support or refute this symbolism? P Aculeius (talk) 04:34, 25 September 2015 (UTC)

There's not a ton in the actual record, and the "unfinished" part was added by Thomson at the end of the process without any explicit explanation. Francis Hopkinson had earlier (in 1778) designed a $50 Continental note which showed a pyramid with 13 levels (presumably representing the colonies). When Barton made his design for the third committee, he included a quick reverse in the upper right corner, which included a pyramid which looked about the same. In his notes, he defined it as "A Pyramid of thirteen Strata (or Steps) Or", which is a gold pyramid of 13 levels. In his notes, he just says "The Pyramid signifies Strength & Duration". (In his written design, he originally had a palm tree on top of the pyramid, with the explanation that "The Palm Tree, when burnt down to the very Root, naturally rises fairer than ever". However, he crossed those parts out of the written design, and there is no palm tree in his subsequent drawing.) When Thomson created the more-or-less final design, he pretty much just kept Barton's design for the reverse, outside of changing the Latin mottoes. When it came to his description of the design though, Thomson used "A pyramid unfinished" as the main element of the reverse (without any mention of levels or color). The Eagle and the Shield simply notes that "His 'pyramid unfinished' is another way of describing Barton's specification of 'thirteen Strata, (or Steps)' and the color gold (or)". In the final blazon submitted to the Continental Congress, Thomson's wording of the blazon from his first draft is unchanged in this area. In the "Remarks and Explanations" submitted along with the designs, Thomson just says "The pyramid signifies Strength and Duration", which was the same symbolism as Barton's. I don't think there is much else in the contemporary record.
The reverse was basically supplied in case Congress wanted to use it on a pendant seal (a wax disc hung from a thread attached to a treaty); the UK and a couple of colonies had reverses on their seals. However, Congress chose not to do this (even decades later when pendant seals were used, the U.S. only ever stamped one side with the obverse only). There was a private publication with a drawing of the reverse a few years after the seal was introduced, another in the 1850s, and there was a centennial medal by the mint in 1882 and some State Department publications which showed it. Overall though, it was an extremely obscure symbol probably for the first 150 years of its existence, until it was put on the back of the one dollar bill in the 1930s. That is probably when the "unfinished" part probably had its impact. According to Henry Wallace (a Cabinet member at the time and later Vice President, writing about it many years later) he had seen the reverse in an old State Department publication and was taken with it, particularly in the context of the New Deal (he took the Novus Ordo Seclorum motto to mean "New Deal of the Ages" in his perspective, per his letter). He showed it to Roosevelt who also supposedly agreed, taken with the concept that the foundation was laid in 1776 but that it would be completed later. However much of that was true, the $1 dollar bill was indeed redesigned to show both the obverse and reverse of the seal on the back, with Roosevelt specifying which one was on the left. So, that last part is probably where that concept was most mentioned. It's possible that is part of what Thomson intended, but he didn't include it in his written symbolism, so it's also possible that is simply what his interpretation of the pyramid drawing was. Or maybe that concept was indeed floating around Congress at the time and it influenced Thomson. It's anyone's guess how far the design for the reverse was disseminated among the founding fathers, given that it was pretty much ignored at the time (the obverse was the thing they needed made, since they needed a seal to sign the Treaty of Paris to end the revolutionary war). There certainly was the sense in the writings of some of the founders that much was left to be done (at the time, the Constitution didn't exist, and of course the inability to solve the slavery issue weighed on some of them for the rest of their lives), but there's no firm historical evidence to link that with the design of the reverse. It's always possible though, which should keep the History Channel specials coming ;-) Carl Lindberg (talk) 05:25, 26 September 2015 (UTC)
Well, even if we can't find documentary evidence that that's what the founding fathers intended it to suggest, if there's any evidence that this is a widely-believed symbolism, it ought to be mentioned as such ("although the symbolism of the unfinished pyramid is not stated in the surviving documents from the Great Seal's creation, it is widely believed that... blah blah... this seems to have been an idea that President Franklin D. Roosevelt considered important when he decided that the reverse of the Great Seal should be depicted on the dollar bill, and may suggest one reason why he asked that the reverse appear on the left, rather than the right." Or something similar. If we can find something to back that up, of course! As to whether it's currently a widespread belief, if it occurs in widely read literature (fiction or non-fiction), then there's at least evidence that the idea is out there. P Aculeius (talk) 12:12, 26 September 2015 (UTC)
The question is... are there any reliable sources out there to support what we might say? If not, we can't say it. Blueboar (talk) 12:38, 26 September 2015 (UTC)