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The shield the eagle bears on its breast, though sometimes drawn incorrectly, has two main differences from the American flag; it has no stars on the blue chief, and unlike the flag has white edges, not red. It is usually blazoned Paly of thirteen, argent and gules, a chief azure. This is technically incorrect blazon, as a shield cannot be paly (vertically striped) of an uneven number; more proper blazon would be argent, six pallets gules... (six red stripes on a white field). But the incorrect blazon is used to preserve the reference to the thirteen original colonies.
Conspiracy theories abound about the significance of the eye of the pyramid and its relationship to Masonicic and Illuminati symbology. While the Masonic origins of the symbol have been debunked, it is interesting that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a 32nd degree Mason, was the one who put the Great Seal on the one-dollar bill. Another controversy is about the stars arranged in the shape of the Star of David on the upper half of the seal.
On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress named a committee to design a great seal for the country. Almost six years and three committees later they could still not agree on a design. They turned the problem over to Charles Thomson, the secretary of the congress. Merging elements from all three previous attempts, Congress finally approved the integrated design that is still in use. The design was carved into a brass cylinder about 2.25 inches in diameter and prepared for use.
On September 16, 1782 Thomson used them for the first time, to verify signatures on a document that authorized George Washington to negotiate an exchange of prisoners. Thomson took care of the seal until the Constitution installed a new American Government in 1789, when he passed it along to the Secretary of State. Thomas Jefferson, and all following secretaries have been responsible for applying the seal to diplomatic documents.
The first seal was replaced in 1841 when it became too worn to be effective. There have been a total of seven editions of the seal since the original, which is now on display in the National Archives in Washington, D.C
The obverse side of Great Seal is used to emboss the design on international treaties and other official US Government documents. It is stored in the Exhibit Hall of the US Department of State inside a locked glass enclosure. An officer from the State Department does the actual sealing of documents after the US Secretary of State has countersigned the President's signature. It is used 2,000 to 3,000 times a year.