J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

The United States Eagle as It First Appeared

This is Charles Thomson’s sketch of how he pictured the Great Seal of the United States in June 1782. The Continental Congress had asked him, as its longtime secretary, to offer some suggestions. Drawing on the discussions of previous committees, Thomson submitted this written proposal:
On a field Chevrons composed of seven pieces on one side & six on the other, joined together at the top in such wise that each of the six bears against or is supported by & supports two of the opposite side the pieces of the chevrons on each side alternate red & white. The shield born on the breast of an American Eagle on the wing & rising proper. In the dexter talon of the Eagle an Olive branch & in the sinister a bundle of Arrows. Over the head of the Eagle a Constellation of Stars surrounded with bright rays and at a little distance clouds.
The Congress’s seal committee made some changes to the eagle’s wings and the stripes on the shield, resulting in the following design. (Remember that it’s reversed when the seal is used to emboss a document.)
Kind of scrawny by modern standards, wasn’t it? More images and history at GreatSeal.com.

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