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Home > About Us > The Great Seal of the United States

The Great Seal of the United States

Official information and services from the U.S. government

El Gran Sello de los EE UU: Vea esta tema en español

The design of the obverse (front) of the Great Seal, which is the coat of arms of the United States, is used by the government in many ways. It appears in some form on coins, postage stamps, stationery, publications, flags, military uniforms, public monuments, public buildings, passports, and other items the U.S. government has issued, owns, or uses. The Seal can be affixed only by an officer of the Department of State, under the authority of its custodian, the Secretary of State.

Symbolically, the Seal reflects the beliefs and values that the Founding Fathers attached to the new nation and wished to pass on to their descendants. The most prominent feature is the American bald eagle supporting the shield, or escutcheon, which is composed of 13 red and white stripes, representing the original states; and a blue top which unites the shield and represents Congress. The motto "E Pluribus Unum" ("Out of Many, One") alludes to this union. The olive branch and 13 arrows denote the power of peace and war, which is exclusively vested in Congress. The constellation of stars denotes a new state taking its place and rank among other sovereign powers.

Read more about the Great Seal of the United States. (.PDF | requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: May 1, 2007