Claim: Essay explains the origins of the symbolism on the back of the U.S. one-dollar bill.
|MIXTURE OF TRUE AND FALSE INFORMATION|
Example: [Collected via e-mail, November 2008]
Who was Hayim Solomon?
On the rear of the One Dollar bill, you will see two circles. Together, they comprise the Great Seal of the United States.
The First Continental Congress requested that Benjamin Franklin and a group of men come up with a Seal. It took them four years to accomplish this task and another two years to get it approved.
If you look at the left-hand circle, you will see a Pyramid.
Notice the face is lighted, and the western side is dark. This country was just beginning. We had not begun to explore the west or decided what we could do for Western Civilization. The Pyramid is uncapped, again signifying that we were not even close to being finished. Inside the capstone you have the all-seeing eye, an ancient symbol for divinity. It was Franklin's belief that one man couldn't do it alone, but a group of men, with the help of God, could do anything.
'IN GOD WE TRUST' is on this currency.
The Latin above the pyramid, ANNUIT COEPTIS, means, 'God has favored our undertaking.' The Latin below the pyramid, NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM, means, 'a new order has begun.' At the base of the pyramid is the Roman Numeral for 1776. (MDCCLXXVI)
If you look at the right-hand circle, and check it carefully, you will learn that it is on every National Cemetery in the United States. It is
also on the Parade of Flags Walkway at the Bushnell, Florida National Cemetery, and is the centerpiece of most hero's monuments. Slightly modified, it is the seal of the President of the United States, and it is always visible whenever he speaks, yet very few people know what the symbols mean.
The Bald Eagle was selected as a symbol for victory for two reasons: First, he is not afraid of a storm; he is strong, and he is smart enough to soar above it. Secondly, he wears no material crown. We had just broken from the King of England Also, notice the shield is unsupported. This country can now stand on its own. At the top of that shield you have a white bar signifying congress, a unifying factor. We were coming together as one nation. In the Eagle's beak you will read, 'E PLURIBUS UNUM' meaning, 'one from many.'
Above the Eagle, you have the thirteen stars, representing the thirteen original colonies, and any clouds of misunderstanding rolling away. Again, we were coming together as one.
Notice what the Eagle holds in his talons. He holds an olive branch and arrows. This country wants peace, but we will never be afraid to fight to preserve peace. The Eagle always wants to face the olive branch, but in time of war, his gaze turns toward the arrows.
They say that the number 13 is an unlucky number. This is almost a worldwide belief. You will usually never see a room numbered 13, or any hotels or motels with a 13th floor. But think about this:
13 original colonies,
13 signers of the Declaration of Independence,
13 stripes on our flag,
13 steps on the Pyramid,
13 letters in, 'Annuit Coeptis,'
13 letters in 'E Pluribus Unum,'
13 stars above the Eagle,
13 bars on that shield,
13 leaves on the olive branch,
13 fruits, and if you look closely,
And finally, if you notice the arrangement of the 13 stars in the right-hand circle you will see that they are arranged as a Star of David. This was ordered by George Washington who, when he asked Hayim Solomon, a wealthy Philadelphia Jew, what he would like as a personal reward for his services to the Continental Army, Solomon said he wanted nothing for himself but that he would like something for his people. The Star of David was the result. Few people know that it was Solomon who saved the Army through his financial contributions but died a pauper.
I always ask people, 'Why don't you know this?' Your children don't know this, and their history teachers don't know this. Too many veterans have given up too much to ever let the meaning fade. Many veterans remember coming home to an America that didn't care. Too many veterans never came home at all.
I for one, plan to share this page with everyone, so they can learn what is on the back of the UNITED STATES ONE DOLLAR BILL, and what it stands for!
Origins: This essay on the symbolism of the elements (i.e., the obverse and reverse of the Great Seal of the United States) found on the back of the U.S. one-dollar bill is a mixture of fact and folklore. For those interested in a good historical overview of the origins and symbolism of the Great Seal of the United States, we recommend browsing the site greatseal.com. Below, we'll highlight some of the more folkloric (i.e., false) aspects of the above-quoted account.
As noted on greatseal.com, these elements (i.e., the shading of the pyramid and the number of its steps) are not specified in the original design description of the Great Seal of the United States, and how they are rendered is based solely on the preference of individual artists who create depictions of the seal: "There is no intended significance to the number of stones in the pyramid (nor the shadow it casts). Those details are determined by artists."
The notion that the head of the eagle depicted on the Great Seal of the United States (and/or on the Seal of the President of the United States) changes direction during wartime is a false one which we cover in detail in a separate article.
Although several design features of the Great Seal of the United States incorporate items comprising thirteen elements, none of them has anything to do with the number of signers of the Declaration of Independence. A total of fifty-six delegates, not thirteen, affixed their names to that document.
Again, as greatseal.com notes: "The number of [olives or leaves] are not specified in the official 1782 description of the Great Seal. These details are determined by artists and engravers. They have no intended symbolic significance."
Although both these Latin phrases do comprise 13 letters, that fact is pure coincidence and has no bearing on why those mottoes were selected for the Great Seal.
Hayim Solomon (whose name is also rendered as Haym Salomon) was a real person, a Polish-born Jew who immigrated to the American colonies in the 1770s, joined the New York branch of the Sons of Liberty, and performed many services on behalf of the American independence movement,
most notably helping to provide funding for the colonial war effort during the American Revolution. However, the claim that George Washington
ordered the Great Seal of the United States to incorporate a Star of David element as a token of thanks to Solomon is apocryphal: Washington had no input into the design of the Great Seal, and the
original design specification for the Great Seal included no instructions about how the constellation of 13 stars on the obverse side should be arranged. The reason why artist Robert Scot chose to arrange that constellation of 13 stars into the shape of a hexagram when engraving the first die of the Great Seal in 1782 (a design feature that has been reproduced in all subsequent dies of the Great Seal) is unknown, but the best guess is that he was emulating the arrangement of stars on the first American flag.
Benjamin Goldberg wrote of the Solomon myth in Schmooze magazine that:
So why has this myth captured the imagination of American Jews? Dr. Jonathan Sarna, the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun professor of American Jewish History and Life at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., says it has helped American Jews proudly connect themselves to their country’s formative era. “Since very few Jews actually have Revolutionary roots in the U.S., the story of Haym Salomon helped to legitimize Jews in this country; it proved that they too had played a ‘major’ role in America’s founding,” he says. “At a time when Jews were reviled as immigrants and latecomers to America, this was very important.” Beth Wenger, Director of the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the forthcoming book History Lessons: The Invention of American Jewish Heritage, agrees. “The Haym Salomon myth has persisted because it provides a way for Jews to demonstrate their patriotism and, in particular, it places a Jew in a pivotal role during the moment the nation was created,” she explains. “In other words, the Haym Salomon myth establishes Jews as part of the organic fabric of the country, and offers ‘proof’ of their long-standing loyalty.”
Unfortunately for lovers of National Treasure-style conspiracy theories, there is no evidence that this story occurred. While the stars are in fact arranged in a hexagram (the geometric name of the Star of David), the official State Department document describing the history of the seal makes no mention of any Jewish symbolism. Darlene Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which manufactures paper money, says there is no intentional Jewish symbolism on the dollar bill.
So why has this myth captured the imagination of American Jews? Dr. Jonathan Sarna, the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun professor of American Jewish History and Life at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., says it has helped American Jews proudly connect themselves to their country’s formative era.
“Since very few Jews actually have Revolutionary roots in the U.S., the story of Haym Salomon helped to legitimize Jews in this country; it proved that they too had played a ‘major’ role in America’s founding,” he says. “At a time when Jews were reviled as immigrants and latecomers to America, this was very important.” Beth Wenger, Director of the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the forthcoming book History Lessons: The Invention of American Jewish Heritage, agrees. “The Haym Salomon myth has persisted because it provides a way for Jews to demonstrate their patriotism and, in particular, it places a Jew in a pivotal role during the moment the nation was created,” she explains. “In other words, the Haym Salomon myth establishes Jews as part of the organic fabric of the country, and offers ‘proof’ of their long-standing loyalty.”
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Last updated: 23 July 2014
- Dvorak, John A. and John Petterson. "Chaplain's Prayer Irks Some Lawmakers."
- The Kansas City Star. 24 January 1996 (p. C1).