Information about effigy: American Heraldic Eagle

American Heraldic Eagle

The American Heraldic Eagle symbol is the main part of the obverse (or front) of the Great Seal of the United States, which displays the full achievement of the national coat of arms.

The Great Seal is a principal national symbol of the United States. The phrase is used both for the physical seal itself, which is kept by the United States Secretary of State, and more generally for the design impressed upon it. The obverse of the Great Seal depicts the national coat of arms of the United States.

First used in 1782, the seal is used to authenticate certain documents issued by the federal government of the United States. Since 1935, both sides of the Great Seal have appeared on the reverse of the one-dollar bill. The coat of arms is used on official documents - including United States passports - military insignia, embassy placards, and various flags. The Seal of the President of the United States is directly based on the Great Seal, and its elements are used in numerous government agency and state seals.

Today's official versions from the Department of State are largely unchanged from the 1885 designs. The current rendering of the reverse was made by Teagle & Little of Norfolk, Virginia, in 1972. It is nearly identical to previous versions, which in turn were based on Lossing's 1856 version.

The design has the Union Shield at centre, legally blazoned as "paleways of 13 pieces, argent and gules; a chief, azure" (thirteen vertical stripes, white and red, with a blue horizontal stripe on top). The supporter of the shield is a bald eagle with its wings outstretched (or "displayed", in heraldic terms). From the eagle's perspective, it holds a bundle of 13 arrows in its left talon, and an olive branch in its right talon. Although not specified by law, the olive branch is usually depicted with 13 leaves and 13 olives. In its beak, the eagle clutches a scroll with the motto E pluribus unum ("Out of Many, One"). Over its head there appears a "glory" with 13 mullets (stars) on a blue field.

The recurring number 13 refers to the 13 original states. The arrows and olive branch together symbolise that the United States has "a strong desire for peace, but will always be ready for war." The eagle has its head turned towards the olive branch, on its right side, to symbolize a preference for peace.

Royal Mint
Royal Mint
American Heraldic Eagle: Details
CountryUnited States
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