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Tag: seals

The Great Seal: Celebrating 233 Years of a National Emblem

Today’s post comes from Meagan T. Frenzer, graduate research intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

On June 20, 1782, the Confederation Congress approved and finalized the first Great Seal of the United States.

The First Continental Congress in 1776 originally commissioned Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams to create a national seal. As members of the First Great Seal Committee, these Founding Fathers intended to design a national emblem that reflected the independence and aspirations of the new nation.

This was no easy task. It took more than three committees and six years of congressional debate to complete the Great Seal.

It was Secretary of the Continental Congress, Charles Thomson, who submitted the final design for the Great Seal 233 years ago. Thomson’s design combined elements of submissions presented to the prior committees. His uncluttered, symbolic design fulfilled Congress’s expectations.

The face side of Thomson’s seal, also known as the “observe” side, displays a bald eagle with wings spread. The eagle clutches a bundle of 13 arrows (representing the 13 colonies) in its left talon and an olive branch in its right talon. Together, the items in the eagle’s talons stand for war and peace.

Charles Thompson's First Design, 1782. (National Archives Identifier 595257)

Charles Thompson’s first design for the Great Seal (obverse side), 1782. (National Archives Identifier 595257)

The eagle’s beak holds a banner that reads E pluribus unum. The Latin … [ Read all ]

Thursday caption contest

"I'm just saying, I think I saw a shark, but it could have been something else."

Congratulations, Teresa Martin Klaiber, for bringing a smile to the face of Gwen Granados, our guest judge from the National Archives at Riverside. She shared this photograph with us, and we all agreed it was eminently caption-worthy. (Teresa, if you send an e-mail to, I can send you your 15% discount code to use at the National Archives eStore.)

The photograph is in a file on “Porpoises, 1965–1967,” among the records of the  11th Naval District in Record Group 181, Records of Naval Districts and Shore Establishments. Its original caption reads, “Sam the Sea Lion and his trainer Walley Ross.”

OK, captioners, get your thinking caps on for this week’s challenge. This Sunday is Mother’s Day, so maybe these ladies are celebrating their day! Write your own caption in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

Your caption here!

 … [ Read all ]