The Great Seal

… on its 200th anniversary. It took six years and seven tries—by such men as Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams—to come up with the official symbol of the United States. But what in the world does it mean?

By the eve of the Civil War the prolific American imagination had created a score of major symbols representing the United States. Most of these, like the rattlesnake, the liberty tree, Columbia, Yankee Doodle, and Uncle Sam, had, as symbols do, appeared unconsciously and anonymously. Only two, the flag and the Great Seal, were deliberately created by law.

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