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Thirteen: America's Number On the Great Seal

13-cent stamps, 1976

The number 13 is found many times in the design of the Great Seal.

    Specified in the official description of the Great Seal:
  • 13 stars in the constellation over the eagle's head
  • 13 stripes in the shield upon the eagle's breast
  • 13 arrows held in the eagle's left talon
    Latin mottoes and date:
  • 13 letters in E pluribus unum on the scroll carried by the eagle
  • 13 letters in Annuit Coeptis above the pyramid & eye
  • 26 (2x13) letters in "MDCCLXXVI" plus "Novus ordo seclorum" at the base of the pyramid
  • 13 is the number of symbolic elements (10) plus mottoes (3) on the two sides of the Great Seal
  • 13 is the number of committee members (10) appointed by Congress plus consultants (3) they chose to help them design the Great Seal

The official description of the Great Seal does not specify the number of olives, olive leaves, or eagle feathers. These details are determined by artists and engravers.

Likewise, the number of steps on the pyramid is not specified, although it is usually depicted with 13 because the third committee (1782) suggested: "A Pyramid of thirteen Strata, (or Steps)."

Musings on Thirteen


Historical content is based on the official history of the Great Seal.
Author and webwright: John D. MacArthur