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About Traditions & Symbols | Senate Seal

The seal of the Senate includes a scroll inscribed with E Pluribus Unum floating across a shield with 13 stars on top and 13 vertical stripes on the bottom. Olive and oak branches symbolizing peace and strength grace the sides of the shield, and a red liberty cap and crossed fasces represent freedom and authority. Blue beams of light emanate from the shield. Around the seal's border, the words "United States Senate" are inscribed. Indicating official actions of the Senate, the seal is affixed to impeachment documents and resolutions of consent to international treaties. It also appears on presentation copies of Senate resolutions recognizing appointments, commendations, and notable achievements.

This current seal represents the third design since 1789. The first seal showed an eagle with a shield on its breast, olive branches in its left talon, and arrows in its right. Above the eagle were rays of light emanating from clouds, representing the emergence of the new nation. Encircling the design were the words "Senate of the United States." The first known use of this seal was on the March 1798 impeachment summons of Tennessee senator William Blount.

By 1830 the first Senate seal was either lost or unserviceable. A new seal was commissioned from Robert Lanphier, Jr., a Washington, D.C., engraver and jeweler. Following the then-popular neoclassical style, that design featured three goddesses symbolizing justice, liberty, and strength. An eagle perched atop the figures, and 24 links of a chain bordering the seal represented the 24 states then in the Union. During the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, the seal authenticated both the presidential summons and copies of documents submitted in evidence.

When the nation celebrated 100 years of independence in 1876, a new Great Seal of the United States was created and put into use. In 1885 the Senate took notice of that redesign and ordered an updating of its own seal. Louis Dreka, an engraver and stationer from Philadelphia, received $35 to produce a new seal, measuring one-and-a-half inches in diameter. The 1885 design is still in use today. The seal is kept in the custody of the secretary of the Senate, in accordance with a resolution adopted in 1886 that mandates its use to authenticate transcripts, copies, and certificates as directed by the Senate.

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