The United States National Emblem: Its Origins and Symbolism

When people think of the United States, the first things that come to mind might be the American flag or the national anthem. However, the national emblem of the United States is another important symbol that represents the country and its values. It can be found on everything from currency to government buildings to military uniforms. The history and meaning behind this emblem is fascinating and complex, from the original designs to the controversies and debates that continue to surround it today. In this article, we will explore the rich history and symbolism of the United States National Emblem.

The History of the United States National Emblem

The History Of The United States National Emblem
The United States National Emblem has undergone several changes throughout history. The Great Seal of the United States is the first emblem that was designed in 1782 and it still remains in use today. The emblem features an eagle with outstretched wings holding arrows and olive branches in its talons. The eagle is surrounded by a circle with the words “Seal of the United States” and the date “MDCCLXXVI”. The emblem on the reverse side of the Great Seal depicts an unfinished pyramid with an eye above it, and the Latin motto, “Annuit Coeptis.” The National Emblem has been changed twice since the Great Seal. The first emblem was designed in 1778 and featured a spread eagle on a shield with stars above its head. This emblem was short-lived and was replaced in 1782 with a new emblem that featured a bald eagle with a shield on its breast. The emblem has become an important symbol of American democracy, dignity, and strength. People can visit the US National Archives Museum in Washington DC and see the original Great Seal in person.

The Great Seal of the United States

The Great Seal of the United States is the official emblem and coat of arms of the United States. It was adopted by the Continental Congress in 1782 and is used by the federal government to authenticate important documents. The Great Seal consists of two distinct sides: the obverse, which is the national coat of arms, and the reverse, which features an unfinished pyramid and the eye of Providence above it.

The obverse side of the Great Seal features a bald eagle, which is the national bird of the United States. The eagle is displayed with its wings outstretched, holding a ribbon that reads “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” which means “out of many, one.” The eagle also has a shield in front of its chest, which bears thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies, and a blue field with thirteen white stars.

The reverse side of the Great Seal features an unfinished pyramid, which represents strength and durability, with the eye of Providence above it, which symbolizes the watchful eye of God. The pyramid has the year 1776 written in Roman numerals at the bottom and the phrase “NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM” above it, which means “a new order of the ages.”

The Great Seal has gone through several changes since its creation. The original design consisted of a shield with thirteen stripes and a crest featuring an eagle with a scroll in its beak that read “E PLURIBUS UNUM.” This design was later revised to feature the same eagle, but with a different shield design and the addition of an olive branch and arrows in its talons.

Today, the Great Seal is still used to authenticate and verify important documents and is a symbol of the United States’ authority and power. While there have been calls to change the national emblem in the past, the Great Seal remains an important symbol of the nation’s history and values.

Fun fact: The Great Seal is not the only national emblem of the United States. In addition to the Great Seal, the United States has a number of national symbols including the bald eagle as the national bird, the American flag with fifty stars and thirteen stripes as the national flag, and the oak tree as the national tree, among others. To learn more, check out Significance of National Tree in Culture and Environment.

The First National Emblem in 1778

The First National Emblem in 1778 was created during the Revolutionary War. It consists of an American eagle with outstretched wings standing in the center of a shield. The eagle holds a banner in its beak with the Latin phrase “E pluribus unum” (Out of many, one), which was adopted as the national motto in 1782. The eagle also holds in one talon a bundle of thirteen arrows and in the other an olive branch with thirteen leaves and thirteen olives, representing the thirteen original colonies.

The design of the first emblem was created by Charles Thomson, who was the Secretary of the Continental Congress. Thomson’s design also contained a constellation of thirteen stars above the eagle’s head, symbolizing a new constellation, referring to the newly-formed United States. Additionally, the shield is supported by a golden eagle on one side and a wild American Indian on the other, signifying the country’s strength and willingness to defend itself.

The emblem was used unofficially during the war and was first used officially on June 20, 1782. After that, it was replaced two times with new versions before the current one was finally adopted in 1885. This emblem served as a precursor to the seals and emblems that would come in the future and represented the early symbol of the United States as a nation.

It is interesting to note that the bald eagle was not declared as the official national bird of America until 1782. The First National Emblem in 1778 was designed earlier than the choice of the national bird and portrayed an eagle with a different appearance than the bald eagle. The First National Emblem showed an eagle with a shorter neck and legs than the bald eagle, and the bird was more closely modeled after the European eagle. Nonetheless, the choice to use an eagle as a symbol for America was a natural one, signifying strength, freedom, and resilience.

Internal Link: The evolution of the National Bird symbolism gives a good overview of the national bird and its symbolism, which plays a significant role in the creation of the emblem.

The Second National Emblem in 1782

The Second National Emblem in 1782, also known as the “Reverse of the Great Seal,” was designed to be printed or stamped on the back of official documents to make them more difficult to counterfeit. This emblem features an eagle with wings outstretched, clutching an olive branch in its right talon and a bundle of arrows in its left talon. Above the eagle’s head is a cloud surrounding a constellation of thirteen stars, representing the original thirteen colonies. Surrounding the eagle is a circular design with thirteen stars and stripes.

The Second National Emblem was used on many official documents, including military commissions and land grants, until it was replaced by the Finalized National Emblem in 1885. However, the design continues to be used on some military insignia and the reverse of the one-dollar bill.

The Second National Emblem represents the role of the United States as a peace-loving nation that is also prepared to defend itself against those who threaten it. The eagle’s right talon holding an olive branch symbolizes the country’s desire for peace and non-violence, while the left talon holding the bundle of arrows signifies the nation’s strength and readiness for conflict if necessary.

The thirteen stars surrounding the eagle and in the cloud symbolize the original thirteen colonies that formed the United States, while the thirteen stripes represent the country’s values of courage, justice, and equality. The circular design and stars represent the idea of unity and infinity while the colors of the emblem, red, white, and blue, signify the principles of valor, innocence, and justice.

Despite being replaced by the Finalized National Emblem in 1885, the Second National Emblem remains an important part of the history of the United States National Emblem and represents the country’s commitment to peace and strength.

National Coat of Arms Meaning

The Finalized National Emblem in 1885

In 1885, the Congress officially approved the current design of the United States National Emblem, which features the bald eagle with its wings spread wide and a shield grasped in its talons. The eagle’s head faces towards the right side of the emblem, symbolizing its preference for peace but readiness for war. On the shield, there are thirteen horizontal stripes, which represent the original thirteen states, and it is colored in red and white.

Below the eagle’s head, there is a white banner that contains the Latin phrase “E pluribus unum” which means “Out of many, one.” This phrase was intended to depict the thirteen colonies coming together to form one nation. The eagle also holds in its talons an olive branch on the right and arrows on the left. The olive branch signifies a preference for peace, while the arrows symbolize the defense of the nation in time of war.

Above the eagle’s head, there is a cloud formation with rays of light emanating from it, and thirteen white stars on a blue field surrounding the cloud formation. The light rays represent the glory that surrounds the new nation, while the stars represent the thirteen colonies.

The current design of the emblem is similar to the one used since 1782, with changes being made to the eagle’s positioning and the addition of the banner featuring “E pluribus unum” and a few other details. Congress finalized the emblem in 1885 to prevent any further changes.

It is worth noting that the bald eagle became the national emblem of the United States in 1782. Its selection was due to its strength, longevity, and majestic looks. The eagle is also associated with freedom and independence.

The finalized national emblem in 1885 is still in use today, and it serves as a powerful symbol of the unity of the United States despite its diverse origins. If you want to learn about other national symbols of the US and their significance, you can check out the article on national colors’ significance or national mammal symbol significance for more information.

The Symbolism Behind the United States National Emblem

The United States National Emblem is packed with symbolism, all of which holds significant meaning to the history and culture of the country. The emblem features the Bald Eagle, a powerful and majestic bird, which represents strength and courage, and is surrounded by elements that symbolize important values of the country. The Shield represents the United States and its readiness to defend itself against enemies. The Olive Branch and Arrows in the Eagle’s talons represent the country’s commitment to peace but also its ability to defend itself in times of conflict. The Motto “E Pluribus Unum” means “Out of many, one” which highlights the importance of unity. The Clouds and Glory above the Eagle’s head indicate that there is a higher power at work that guides and protects the country. Finally, the thirteen Stars above the Eagle’s head represent the thirteen original states that formed the United States. All of these symbols have been deeply ingrained in the country’s history and culture and continue to hold significance today.

The Bald Eagle

The bald eagle is perhaps the most recognizable part of the United States National Emblem and has become a symbol of American power and freedom. A fierce predator with sharp talons and hooked beak, the bald eagle was chosen to represent the strength and courage of the American people. Its image is prominently featured on American currency, military insignia, and government documents. The bald eagle is also recognized as the national bird and national animal of the United States. Interestingly, the bald eagle was not the first choice to represent the country. The founders initially considered using the turkey as the national bird but ultimately decided on the bald eagle due to its association with freedom and bravery.

The bald eagle’s significance goes beyond just being a powerful icon. It is also a reflection of the country’s natural beauty and resources. The bird’s habitat is found mainly in North America, and it thrives in the country’s many lakes, rivers, and coastlines. These factors make it a unique and fitting representation of the United States.

However, it’s not all smooth sailing for the bald eagle. Due to habitat destruction and hunting, the bird’s population experienced a significant decline and was even at risk of extinction. This ultimately led to the passing of the Bald Eagle Protection Act in 1940, which helped the bird make a comeback. Today, the bald eagle is no longer considered an endangered species and continues to be an integral part of the country’s national identity.

The bald eagle’s symbolism extends far beyond just being a mere bird. It represents the strength, courage, and natural resources of the United States. Its story of near-extinction and subsequent conservation efforts also show the importance of preserving the environment and protecting the country’s symbols.

The Shield

In the United States National Emblem, the Shield is a key component that symbolizes the strength and protection of the country. The shield is divided into 13 stripes, representing the 13 original states, and is topped by a bar that contains the color blue, which signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice. Within the shield are a number of additional symbols, each representing an important facet of the United States.

One of the most prominent symbols is the red and white stripes, which are reminiscent of the American flag and represent purity and valor. Another important symbol is the blue chief, which contains 13 white stars arranged in a specific pattern that represents a “new constellation” and symbolizes the United States as a unified and strong nation.

Additionally, within the shield are several more symbols, including an olive branch and arrows, which represent the United States’ desire for peace but also its willingness to defend itself when necessary. The motto “E Pluribus Unum”, meaning “Out of Many, One”, which is written on a ribbon at the eagle’s beak, reflects the idea that unity is necessary for a strong and successful country.

The shield in the United States National Emblem is an essential symbol that reflects the values and ideals of the country. It is a visual representation of the strength and protection of the United States, its unity as a country, and its commitment to both peace and defense.

The Olive Branch and Arrows

on the United States National Emblem symbolize the country’s ability to defend itself and its love for peace. The eagle on the emblem clutches the two elements in its talons, showing the duality of the country’s attitude.

The use of olive branches goes back to ancient times, where it’s been a symbol of peace and victory. The Greek goddess Athena was often depicted holding olives. In the Bible, the story of Noah and the Ark features a dove carrying an olive branch- a sign of the end of a flood and the start of a new life.

Conversely, the arrows represent the country’s preparedness for war. They are a reminder that peace is only possible through strength and defense. When the two symbols are brought together, they balance each other, showing the motto of the emblem: “Out of Many, One.”

The combination of the olive branch and arrows has been used throughout art and literature to symbolize peace and war. It’s a contrast of images that adds complexity and depth to the emblem. The olive branch and arrows on the United States National Emblem make a passerby stop and wonder about what this emblem stands for.

The use of the olive branch and arrows is a significant aspect of the United States National Emblem. The symbols work together to represent the country’s balance of peace and defense. It signifies the importance of maintaining peace while being ready to defend it.

The Motto

The Motto of the United States national emblem is “E Pluribus Unum,” which means “Out of Many, One.” It was first used on the Great Seal of the United States in 1782, and it is still used today. The motto was meant to represent the idea that the United States is one nation made up of many diverse peoples and cultures.

Interestingly, the motto was not originally intended to apply to the United States. It was actually borrowed from a popular Latin saying used by Roman statesman Cicero in his book “On Friendship.” The original context was that of a single friendship composed of many individuals, but it was adapted to apply to the United States and its diverse population.

The use of “E Pluribus Unum” has been a source of controversy at times, particularly in the early 20th century when some politicians argued that it should be replaced with “In God We Trust,” which was eventually adopted as the official motto of the United States in 1956. However, “E Pluribus Unum” remains an important part of the national emblem and continues to be used in many different contexts.

In fact, the motto has been used as a symbol of unity in a variety of settings, from schools and universities to social and political organizations. It has also been referenced in popular culture, with appearances in everything from books and movies to music and television.

The motto of the United States national emblem is an enduring symbol of the nation’s diversity and unity, reflecting the idea that out of many different individuals and cultures, a single nation is formed. It is a reminder that the United States is a melting pot of peoples and ideas, and that together, they form a powerful and unified whole.

The Clouds and Glory

Among the several elements featured in the United States National Emblem, the clouds and glory are some of the most captivating symbols. Placed above the bald eagle’s head, the shining glory represents the hope and promise of success for the nation. The clouds surrounding it denote the country’s uncertainties and challenges that await in pursuit of its goals.

The clouds and glory element of the emblem hark back to ancient symbolisms of divinity and power. Picturing an image of the deity with rays of light emitting from their head or hands was a common motif in various mythologies throughout history. In the National Emblem, the shining glory adds a divine symbolism to the United States, suggesting that the country is blessed with an aura of success and destiny.

The clouds, on the other hand, represent the obstacles and tribulations that the United States has and will continue to face on its journey. The inclusion of these clouds in the National Emblem implies that the country understands the challenges before them and is prepared to face them head-on. Consequently, the clouds also indicate that the American people are resilient and determined in the face of adversity.

The clouds and glory elements in the United States National Emblem complement the other symbols, such as the bald eagle, the shield, and the stars, to create a powerful combination of symbolism that embodies the American spirit. The hope and struggles of the nation are encapsulated though the shining rays of the glory and the storm clouds that surround it. These symbols represent the strength and optimism of America while acknowledging that there will always be obstacles that need to be overcome when striving for greatness.

The Stars

The United States national emblem is not complete without its stars. The stars are an essential part of the emblem, which represent the different states in the country. When the national emblem was first introduced, it had 13 stars lined up as a single row. However, as more states were added, the need for more stars arose. Today, there are a total of 50 small stars representing each of the states of the United States.

Each star is arranged in a pattern on the blue portion of the emblem known as the canton. The arrangement of the stars in the canton follows a specific design, which is informally known as the “Betsy Ross Flag.” This design has the stars arranged in a circle with each point touching the adjacent star’s point. This arrangement of stars has remained unchanged since its incorporation in the national emblem in 1960.

The significance of the stars in the emblem is not limited to just the number of states represented. The color of the stars also plays a role in the emblem’s symbolism. The color white in the stars stands for purity and innocence, while the blue canton symbolizes vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

The stars make up a significant part of the United States national emblem, and their arrangement and color have meaning behind them. The emblem representing the country stands as a symbol of the States’ sovereignty and serves as an icon of American identity.

Controversies Surrounding the United States National Emblem

Controversies Surrounding The United States National Emblem
The United States National Emblem has faced its fair share of controversies over the years. One of the biggest controversies surrounding the emblem is its use in politics. Some people believe that the emblem has been overly politicized and used as a symbol of power or control. There have been debates on whether the emblem should be removed from government buildings or official documents. Some groups argue that the emblem no longer represents the values of the United States and that a new symbol should be adopted to better reflect the country’s identity. However, others argue that the emblem is an important symbol of national unity and pride. While controversies have arisen, the United States National Emblem remains a significant part of the country’s history and culture.

The Use of the Emblem in Politics

The United States National Emblem, with its patriotic symbolism and historical significance, has often been used in politics for various purposes. Some politicians have chosen to display the emblem prominently in their campaigns, using it to appeal to a sense of national pride and loyalty among their constituents. Others have used the emblem as a way of advancing their political agenda, linking their policies to the values represented by the emblem.

However, the use of the United States National Emblem in politics has not been without controversy. Some have argued that it is inappropriate to use a national symbol in this way, as it may be seen as exploiting the emblem for personal or political gain. Additionally, some have criticized politicians who have used the emblem in campaigns, accusing them of reducing the emblem to a mere campaign prop.

Despite these criticisms, the use of the United States National Emblem in politics shows little sign of slowing down. As political campaigns become increasingly digitized, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have become popular venues for politicians to display the emblem and promote their policies. Whether this use of the emblem is appropriate or not, it is clear that the emblem holds great power and significance in the American consciousness.

It is worth noting that the use of national symbols in politics is not unique to the United States. Many countries around the world have their own national symbols, which are often used in political campaigns as a way of solidifying national identity and promoting a particular vision for the country’s future. For example, in Japan, the national flag and anthem are seen as important symbols of cultural and national identity, while in India, the national emblem and flag are widely used in political discourse.

The United States National Emblem has been used in politics for various purposes, from promoting national pride and loyalty to advancing political agendas. While there is some controversy over the appropriateness of using national symbols in politics, there is no denying the power and significance of the emblem in the American consciousness. As with other national symbols, its use in politics will continue to be a subject of debate and discussion for the foreseeable future.

Debates on Changing the National Emblem

There have been debates over the years on whether or not to change the United States national emblem. In 1976, there was a proposal to replace the bald eagle with the turkey as the national bird. This proposal was made by Benjamin Franklin, who believed that the turkey was a more respectable bird than the bald eagle. However, the proposal was not taken seriously and was eventually dismissed.

Another proposal to change the national emblem was made in 2019, when a group of designers suggested replacing the bald eagle with a phoenix. The designers argued that the phoenix represented resilience and rebirth, which they believed was more representative of the United States than the bald eagle. However, this proposal was also met with resistance and has yet to be implemented.

Despite these proposals, the national emblem remains unchanged. The emblem represents the history and values of the United States and changing it would be a controversial decision. The debates reflect the ever-changing cultural landscape of the United States and the evolving significance of national symbols. In a similar vein, symbols such as national anthems, national flowers, national aquatic symbols, and national currency symbols have all been subject to debates and changes throughout history. The United States national emblem is no exception, and the debates surrounding it serve as a reminder of the power and significance of national symbols.

The United States National Emblem Today

Today, the United States National Emblem can be found in many places throughout the country. It is prominently displayed on the Presidential Seal, which is affixed to the podium used by the President of the United States during speeches. It can also be found on the seal of many government agencies and on U.S. currency.

The National Emblem has become an important symbol of American patriotism, and it is often used in parades, celebrations, and other events that commemorate the country’s history. For example, it is used in Fourth of July celebrations, Memorial Day parades, and other events that honor the country’s military history.

Many Americans also choose to display the National Emblem in their homes and businesses. It can be found on American flags, as well as on wall decor, t-shirts, and other items. Some Americans even choose to tattoo the National Emblem onto their bodies as a way of expressing their love for their country.

Despite its widespread use, the National Emblem remains a controversial symbol for some Americans. Some consider it to be an outdated symbol that no longer represents the country’s values. Others believe that it is a powerful symbol that should be revered and respected.

Nevertheless, the National Emblem continues to be an important symbol of American identity, and it is likely to remain so for many years to come. Whether viewed as a symbol of patriotism or as a controversial relic of the past, the United States National Emblem persists as a centerpiece of American culture and history.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the United States National Emblem has a rich history and profound symbolism that has evolved over time. It is a symbol of the American spirit and values, which has been used to represent the country since its beginning. The national emblem has been through many transformations since the first creation of the emblem, and each revision has upheld the essential meaning of the emblem.

The bald eagle reflects the strength and independence of the United States, while the shield reminds us of the country’s defense and protection. The olive branch and arrows represent the country’s desire for peace while being ready for war if necessary. The motto “E Pluribus Unum” means “Out of many, one” and highlights the diverse nation of the United States. The clouds and glory signify the country’s divine nature and superiority.

Throughout history, controversies have arisen concerning the use of the emblem in politics, and debates about modifying it have been ongoing. The emblem’s continued use the same form today represents the national pride of the United States and serves as a unifying symbol for Americans.

Overall, the United States National Emblem is a unique symbol of the nation’s values, spirit, and independence. It is a design that has stood the test of time and showed the country’s progression and evolution. The emblem’s grandeur and cultural significance have made it a symbol of pride, patriotism, and dedication to the American way of life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes the United States National Emblem important?

The National Emblem is important because it represents the identity and sovereignty of the United States.

How many versions of the National Emblem were created before the finalized version in 1885?

Two versions of the National Emblem were created before the finalized version in 1885.

What is the Great Seal of the United States and why is it important?

The Great Seal of the United States is a symbol used to authenticate government documents. It is important because it represents the authority and power of the United States government.

Why was the bald eagle chosen as the national bird and symbol of the United States?

The bald eagle was chosen as the national bird and symbol of the United States because it is a symbol of strength, courage, and freedom.

What does the shield on the National Emblem represent?

The shield on the National Emblem represents the United States government’s ability to protect and defend its citizens.

What is the significance of the olive branch and arrows in the National Emblem?

The olive branch and arrows in the National Emblem represent the United States government’s commitment to peace, but also its willingness to defend itself if necessary.

What does the Latin phrase on the National Emblem, “E Pluribus Unum,” mean?

The Latin phrase on the National Emblem, “E Pluribus Unum,” means “Out of many, one.” This represents the unity of the United States despite its diversity.

What is the controversy surrounding the use of the National Emblem in politics?

The controversy surrounding the use of the National Emblem in politics is that some politicians use it for their own gain or to promote a particular political agenda, which some people believe undermines the symbolism and meaning of the emblem.

Who is responsible for deciding on changes to the National Emblem?

Congress is responsible for deciding on changes to the National Emblem.

How does the National Emblem continue to be relevant in today’s society?

The National Emblem continues to be relevant in today’s society because it serves as a symbol of the United States and its values, and is used on everything from currency to government documents to military uniforms.

References

Leave a Comment