The Great Seal of the United States features many mysterious symbols and inscriptions that have been the subject of intrigue since the country’s founding. One such element is the Roman numeral ‘MDCCLXXVI’, which is prominently displayed on the banner held in the eagle’s beak on the reverse side of the Great Seal, and by extension, on the back of every US dollar bill in circulation today.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: MDCCLXXVI stands for the year 1776, the year the Declaration of Independence was signed.

In this comprehensive guide, we will uncover the history behind the Great Seal’s design, the meaning of its intricate symbology, and most importantly, reveal the significance behind the prominent date MDCCLXXVI.

The History Behind the Great Seal’s Design

The 1776 continental congress resolution

The design of the Great Seal of the United States, which features the enigmatic phrase ‘MDCCLXXVI,’ has a rich history that dates back to the year 1776. It was on July 4th of that year that the Continental Congress passed a resolution calling for the creation of a seal to represent the newly formed United States of America.

The task of designing the seal was entrusted to a committee, who would go on to play a crucial role in shaping its final form.

The three design committees

Over the years, three different design committees were appointed to develop the Great Seal. Each committee brought its own unique perspective and ideas to the table, resulting in a design that is rich in symbolism and meaning.

The first committee, consisting of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, proposed a design that included a depiction of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. However, this design was ultimately rejected.

The second committee, led by Charles Thomson, proposed a design that featured a shield with thirteen stripes and a crest composed of an eagle, a shield, and a constellation of thirteen stars. This design was also rejected, as it was deemed too complex.

Finally, the third committee, which included Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, among others, proposed a simpler design that incorporated elements from both previous proposals. This design, with its iconic imagery and mysterious ‘MDCCLXXVI’ inscription, was ultimately adopted as the official Great Seal of the United States.

Final design elements and adoption

The final design of the Great Seal features several key elements that hold significant meaning. The front of the seal depicts an eagle with outstretched wings, clutching an olive branch in one talon and a bundle of thirteen arrows in the other.

Above the eagle’s head is a constellation of thirteen stars, representing the original thirteen states.

Beneath the eagle is a shield, which is divided into thirteen horizontal stripes, alternating in color between red and white. The shield is supported by a banner that reads ‘E Pluribus Unum,’ meaning ‘Out of Many, One.’

This phrase serves as a reminder of the unity that underpins the diversity of the United States.

As for the mysterious ‘MDCCLXXVI’ inscription, it represents the Roman numerals for the year 1776, which is the year of the United States’ Declaration of Independence. This inscription serves as a powerful reminder of the country’s founding principles and its commitment to liberty and independence.

To learn more about the Great Seal of the United States and its history, visit the official website of the U.S. Department of State.

Breaking Down the Symbolism of the Great Seal

Symbolism on the obverse side

The obverse side of the Great Seal of the United States features a bald eagle clutching a shield in its talons. The shield is divided into thirteen stripes, representing the original thirteen colonies.

The eagle’s beak holds a ribbon with the Latin motto “E Pluribus Unum,” which translates to “Out of many, one.” This embodies the idea of unity among the diverse states that make up the United States.

The eagle also holds an olive branch with thirteen olives in one talon, symbolizing peace, and a bundle of thirteen arrows in the other talon, symbolizing strength and the defense of the nation. Together, these symbols represent the delicate balance between peace and strength that the United States strives to maintain.

Symbolism on the reverse side

The reverse side of the Great Seal features an unfinished pyramid with an eye above it, commonly known as the “All-Seeing Eye” or the “Eye of Providence.” This eye is surrounded by rays of light, symbolizing enlightenment and divine guidance.

Below the pyramid, the Latin phrase “Novus Ordo Seclorum” is inscribed, which translates to “New Order of the Ages.” This phrase represents the birth of a new era, where the United States, as a young nation, was establishing a new form of government and a new way of governing.

MDCCLXXVI explained

The mysterious inscription “MDCCLXXVI” can be seen at the base of the pyramid on the reverse side of the Great Seal. This is the Roman numeral for 1776, the year of America’s Declaration of Independence.

It serves as a reminder of the birth of the nation and the ideals of freedom and independence that the United States was founded upon.

Why the Year 1776 was Chosen

The year 1776 holds great significance in American history and is prominently featured on the US dollar bill with the inscription “MDCCLXXVI.” This choice was not arbitrary but was carefully selected to represent a pivotal moment in the birth of the United States of America.

Let’s explore the reasons behind why the year 1776 was chosen.

1776 marks American independence

One of the primary reasons why the year 1776 was chosen is that it marks the declaration of American independence. On July 4th, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, severing ties with Great Britain and establishing the United States as a sovereign nation.

This historic event symbolizes the birth of a new nation and the ideals of freedom and democracy that America was founded upon.

Other key events of 1776

Aside from the Declaration of Independence, several other significant events took place in 1776. One notable event was the publication of Thomas Paine’s influential pamphlet, “Common Sense.” This publication played a crucial role in shaping public opinion and garnering support for independence.

Additionally, the year 1776 witnessed the formation of the Continental Army under General George Washington’s leadership. This marked a significant step towards establishing a unified military force to defend the newly declared nation.

Furthermore, the year 1776 saw the writing and adoption of state constitutions by many of the American colonies, further solidifying the structure of governance and self-rule.

The founders’ vision for the future

The choice of 1776 on the US dollar bill not only commemorates a specific year but also reflects the vision of the founding fathers for the future of the United States. The inscription “MDCCLXXVI” serves as a reminder of the principles and values upon which the nation was built.

The founders envisioned a country that would uphold individual freedoms, protect civil liberties, and promote the pursuit of happiness. By prominently featuring the year 1776, the US dollar bill serves as a constant reminder of these guiding principles and the importance of cherishing and preserving the freedoms that were fought for during the American Revolution.

The Legacy of the Great Seal and Its Meaning

The Great Seal of the United States is an enduring symbol of American sovereignty and has a rich history that dates back to the founding of the nation. One of the most intriguing elements of the Great Seal is the Latin inscription that appears on the reverse side of the US dollar bill – MDCCLXXVI.

This inscription, which translates to “1776,” holds great significance and represents a pivotal moment in American history.

Enduring symbol of American sovereignty

The Great Seal was adopted by the Continental Congress on June 20, 1782, and it has since become a powerful representation of the United States’ commitment to freedom and independence. The design features an eagle holding a shield, clutching an olive branch (symbolizing peace) in one talon and arrows (symbolizing war) in the other.

Above the eagle’s head is a radiant halo with thirteen stars representing the original thirteen colonies.

The inscription “MDCCLXXVI” serves as a reminder of the year 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed, officially declaring the United States as an independent nation. It is a testament to the struggles and sacrifices made by the founding fathers and the American people in their fight for liberty.

Interpretations and conspiracy theories

The meaning behind the inscription “MDCCLXXVI” is straightforward, representing the year of America’s independence. However, over time, various interpretations and conspiracy theories have emerged surrounding its significance.

Some individuals believe that the Latin inscription is a secret code or a hidden message, pointing to a deeper meaning or a hidden agenda behind the creation of the United States.

While these theories may be intriguing, it is important to approach them with a critical eye and rely on credible sources for information. The true meaning of “MDCCLXXVI” lies in its representation of the birth of a new nation, rather than any hidden symbolism or conspiracy.

Impact on currency and iconography

The inclusion of “MDCCLXXVI” on the US dollar bill is not only symbolic but also has practical implications. The Great Seal, with its Latin inscription, serves as a unifying element on the nation’s currency, reinforcing the values and principles on which the United States was founded.

Furthermore, the Great Seal has had a significant impact on American iconography, with its imagery and symbolism being used in various official capacities. From government buildings to military insignia, the Great Seal continues to be a prominent representation of American identity and heritage.

For more information on the Great Seal and its meaning, you can visit the U.S. Department of State website, where you can explore its history and significance in more detail.


The year 1776 and the Declaration of Independence marked a pivotal moment in American history and the founders’ aspirations for the young nation. By emblazoning ‘MDCCLXXVI’ on the Great Seal, later adapted to the dollar bill, they cemented the date as an inspiring symbol of freedom, independence, and new beginnings.

Over 200 years later, despite changes in design and counters, every US dollar still features those same Roman numerals as a reminder of our revolutionary origins. Understanding the meaning behind the Great Seal provides insight into the founders’ values and their bold vision for America’s future.

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