The Presidential Seal

A committee was organized to design a presidential seal in 1777. After many ideas and a delay because of the war, it was completed in 1782. The first die, still on display in the National Archives, was cut in 1782 and used until April 24, 1841. Since then, seven dies have been cut, a new one replacing the old when impressions are no longer suitable.

Only the front of the Seal is impressed on documents. It appears officially on medals, stationery, publications, flags, monuments, and architectural decoration. It also appears on the buttons of every soldier's uniform and is on the Army and Air Force officer's service cap. Look on the back of a $1 bill to see how the front and back of the seal look now.

Truman's Presidential Seal Changes

In 1945, Truman ordered the Presidential Seal and Flag redesigned. He did not like the way the eagle's head faced the arrows of war. He believed that the president, although prepared for war, should always look towards peace. He had the head turned toward the olive branches. He added 48 stars to stand for each state in the union at that time. The stars would show that the president had been elected by all people, not just from one group or area. He also felt that no general could ever have that many stars, which would prove once and for all that the president is commander-in-chief.

If your class visits the Truman Library, be sure to point out the seal in the entry hall. It is to the left and over the door to the museum. Also have students locate the seals in the Oval Office replica. Have them note which seal is the "old" way. (One is sitting on a table. One is designed into the carpet on the floor. One is on the ceiling.)