How many of us know the National Motto of the United States? Not many, I’ll bet. But you’ll recognize it the moment you read it. It’s “In God We Trust.” The motto originated during the Civil War, according to The World Almanac and Book of Facts, “as an inscription for U.S. coins, although it was used by Francis Scott Key in a slightly different form when he wrote ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ in 1814. On Nov. 13, 1861, when Union morale had been shaken by battlefield defeats, the Rev. M. R. Watkinson, of Ridleyville, PA, wrote to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, ‘From my heart I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present disasters.’ The minister wrote, suggesting ‘recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.’ Secretary Chase ordered designs prepared with the inscription ‘In God We Trust’ and backed coinage legislation that authorized use of this slogan. It first appeared on some U.S. coins in 1864, and disappeared and reappeared on various coins until 1955, when Congress ordered it placed on all paper money and all coins.”
The designation of “In God We Trust” as our national motto was finally made official by Congress in 1956.
How about The Great Seal of the United States? How many of us can describe what it looks like? Again, not many, I’ll bet. According to The World Almanac and Book of Facts, “On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a committee consisting of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson ‘to bring in a device for a seal of the United States of America.’ The designs submitted by this and a subsequent committee were considered unacceptable. After many delays, a third committee appointed early in 1782 presented a design prepared by William Barton; and Charles Thomson, the Secretary of Congress, suggested certain changes, and Congress finally approved the design on June 20, 1782. The obverse side of the seal shows an American bald eagle. In its mouth is a ribbon bearing the motto ‘e pluribus unum’ (one out of many). In the eagle’s talons are the arrows of war and an olive branch of peace. The reverse side shows an unfinished pyramid with an eye (the eye of Providence) above it.”