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Design Process
 1st Committee
 2nd Committee
 3rd Committee
 Final Design
 Description
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Latin Mottoes
 E Pluribus Unum
 Annuit Coeptis
 Novus Ordo Seclorum

Symbols (front)
 Bald Eagle
 Shield
 Olive Branch
 Arrows
 Stars
 Rays of Light
 Cloud

Symbols (back)
 Pyramid
 Eye
 MDCCLXXVI

Great Seals
 Official Dies
  Pendant Seals
 First Engravings
 First Painting
 1792 Medal
 Indian Medals
 1882 Medal
 One-Dollar Bill
 Bicentennial
 United Seal
 Eagle Rising

Myths
 Eagle Side
 Pyramid Side

Themes
 Unity
 Peace
 Liberty
 Thirteen

Related
 Wild Turkey
 President's Seal
 U.S. Constitution
 Sightings
 Resources

Official Dies of the Great Seal of the United States

First Great Seal die Impression of first Great Seal die
This first die and its impression on paper
(On a die, the image of a seal is engraved in reverse.)

The first die was cut in September 1782. It is 2 3/8 inches in diameter, made of iron or steel with a brass surface.

The Great Seal was used for the first time on September 16th: on a document that gave General Washington full power to negotiate with the British and sign an agreement for the exchange, subsistence, and better treatment of prisoners of war.

When the first die became worn out, it was replaced by the Throop die in 1841 (which incorrectly had only six arrows instead of the required thirteen).

1841 die
1841 design

In 1825, a special die for treaties was cut and used concurrently with the first two dies. Larger and more elegant, the Masi treaty-seal was used for pendant seals.

1825
Masi Treaty-Seal
of 1825
(cover of its metal case)

The Baumgarten die was cut in 1877. This fourth official die is almost identical to the 1841 die, including the wrong number of arrows.

1877 die
1877 design

A major effort went into creating the fifth die, the Tiffany die of 1885, whose design is the one we see today. After 17 years, a worn counter die led to improvements in the Great Seal press and the cutting of a sixth die, the Zeitler die of 1904. It is identical in design to to the Tiffany die.

1904
Impression from the 1904 die

May 8, 1945
May 8, 1945 – Victory in Europe

Based on the Zeitler die, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing made a master die in 1986 and struck the die in use today – the seventh Great Seal die.

Unfortunately, this die still fails to show the rays of light breaking through the cloud, as specified in the Seal's official written description.

Note: In 1885, Congress requested and purchased a die for the reverse of the Great Seal, but the pyramid & eye side has yet to be cut.

The U.S. government's most accurate medal engravings of the Great Seal are the Indian Peace Medals given out by President George Washington in the 1790s and the Centennial Medal of 1882. They are based accurately on the official written description that defines the appearance of the Great Seal.

Historical content is based on the official history of the Great Seal.
GreatSeal.com is not affiliated with the U.S. Government.
Author and webwright: John D. MacArthur