The History of the Seal of the United States

By United States. Dept. Of State | Go to book overview

VI
THE ILLEGAL SEAL

In ancient times a seal to authenticate a document was always impressed upon wax, or metal, or even upon clay; but this gave place to the more convenient method of impressing the seal directly upon the paper by the use of two faces of a die. It was, presumably, a desire to introduce this improvement which prompted the Department of State in 1841 to discard the seal of 1782 and have a new die cut. The work was ordered without any specific appropriation being made for the purpose by Congress, and was entrusted to Edward Stabler, of Sandy Spring, Md., where he was postmaster from 1828 to 1883, who cut many government seals, and had a reputation as a seal engraver. He was doubtless permitted to design the seal in his own way, and it was accepted without notice being taken of its palpable deficiencies from an artistic and heraldic point of view and its failure to satisfy the plain requirements of the law in the important particular of the number of arrows in the eagle's sinister talon.

In reply to a letter from John D. Champlin, jr., in 1877, the Department of State said of the seal:

-48-

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The History of the Seal of the United States
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Contents 3
  • I - The First Device 7
  • II - The Lovell Committee 18
  • III - William Barton's Designs 23
  • IV - The Secretarys Device 33
  • V - The Arms Adopted 41
  • VI - The Illegal Seal 48
  • VII - The Third Seal 53
  • VIII - The Fourth Seal 63
  • IX - Uses of the Seal 65
  • Glossary of Heraldic Terms. 69
  • Index 71
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