This essay has been around the block a few times. But it’s worth sending around again, especially for our younger generation.
Take out a one-dollar bill. Look at it. The one-dollar bill is called paper money. But in fact, it s a cotton and linen blend, with red and blue minute silk fibers running through it to thwart fraud. It is actually material, not paper. We’ve all washed a $1 note without it falling apart. A special blend of ink is used, the contents we will never know. It is overprinted with symbols, and then it is starched to make it water-resistant and pressed to give it that nice crisp feel.
If you look on the front of the bill, you will see the United States Treasury Seal. On the top, you will see the scales for a balanced budget — unfortunately a long-forgotten concept today at the federal level. In the center you have a carpenter’s square, a tool used for an even cut.
Beneath those is the Key to the United States Treasury.
That’s all pretty easy to figure out. But what is depicted on the back of that dollar bill is something we should all learn if we don’t already know it.
Turn the face of the bill over, and you will see two circles. Both circles, together, 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. If you look at the righthand circle, and check it carefully, you will learn that it is represented on the signage of every National Cemetery in the United States. It is also displayed on the Parade of Flags Walkway at the National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida. Moreover, it is the centerpiece of most American heroes’ monuments. Slightly modified, it is the seal of the President of the United States, and it is always visible whenever he speaks. Despite this broad-based exposure, very few people know what the symbols mean.
The Bald Eagle was selected for a couple of reasons as a symbol for victory. First, the Bald Eagle is not afraid of a storm; he is strong, and he is smart enough to soar above the tumult in the clouds. Second, he wears no material crown. That’s because the American colonists had just broken away from the tyranny of the king of England, and they wanted no single individual to ever rule over them again. Also, notice the shield is unsupported, signifying that this nation now can stand on its own. At the top of that shield, a white bar signifies Congress, a unifying factor that today has a wide aisle separating two political sides. But with the advent of the American Revolution in 1776, we were coming together as one nation. And we have somehow held together ever since as one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.
In the Eagle’s beak you will read, “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” meaning, “one nation from many people.”
Above the Eagle, you have 13 stars, representing the 13 original Colonies, and any clouds of misunderstanding are rolling away. Again, we were coming together as one. Moreover, despite the political differences of today and times past, we remain so.
Notice what’s in the Eagle’s talons. He holds an olive branch and arrows. This nation wants peace, but we will never be afraid to fight to preserve that peace. The Eagle always wants to face the olive branch. But in times of war, his gaze turns toward the arrows. Thus, we stand for peace through strength.
Folks 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:
Our history starts with 13 original colonies, 13 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 13 stripes on our flag, 13 steps on the Pyramid, 13 letters in the Latin above, 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 count them — 13 arrows. And then, for minorities, there’s the 13th Amendment, passed by Congress in the wake of the Civil War, abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude except as punishment for a crime.
You might ask: “Why doesn’t everybody know all this stuff?” Your children likely don’t know this. Odds are that history teachers don’t know it either — if the kids are even taught history at their schools.
On the other hand, too many armed-forces veterans have given up too much to ever let the meaning fade. Many veterans — especially those who survived the USA’s 10-year involvement with the war in Vietnam — remember coming home to an America that didn’t care. Too many veterans never came home at all from the battlegrounds in our history. They’re the ones who gave all to preserve peace through strength and to maintain freedom from tyranny.
Feel free to share this with your family and friends, so they can learn what is on the back of the UNITED STATES ONE DOLLAR BILL, and what it stands for. Otherwise, they probably will never know, and that would be a shame, wouldn’t it? Because we can’t know where we’re going — or where we ought to be going — until we know and understand where we’ve been.