National Geographic : 1946 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin as Post master General for a year, and, according to his torian Benson J. Lossing, Franklin issued a circu lar letter "on which there was a rude woodcut of a postrider on horseback, with saddlebags behind for carrying mail matter." In 1789 the Post Office was placed under the National Government, but the Postmaster Gen eral did not have a place in the Cabinet until 1829. Lossing believed that Franklin's postrider continued in use from 1776 until the time he wrote (1869), but there was apparently a period in which a different design was used. The first statutory reference to a Post Office Department seal, under date of March 5, 1825, merely specified that the Postmaster General should procure a seal to authenticate postmasters' commissions and other papers issued by the De partment. Departmental records and files were destroyed by fire in 1836, but old commissions (1824, 1834, and 1835) show a winged Mercury, surrounded by clouds, flying over the world marked "Americas," and the whole encircled by the words "Seal of the General Post Office De partment." The present seal was authorized in 1837 by Postmaster General Amos Kendall to be a "post horse in speed with mail bags and rider." Seal is 24%o inches in diameter. STATE, page 32. The Department of For eign Affairs was created by Congress on July 27, 1789. An act of Congress of the following Sep tember 15 changed the name to "Department of State" and authorized the making and use of a seal. Earliest-known employment of this seal was on May 28, 1790. The design of the first die was patterned after that of the Great Seal of the United States (page 30), but with certain changes. Later dies cut and used in the 19th century, although they differed more or less from the first die and also from one another, likewise bore modified versions of the Great Seal design. The dies in present use reproduce the Great Seal design almost exactly, though in smaller size, and they have around the rim the words "Depart ment of State" and "United States of America." A seal of 24-inch diameter is used in certify ing copies of documents for miscellaneous pur poses; a seal of l1-inch diameter is impressed on all passports issued at the Department of State. TREASURY, page 32. The seal of the Treasury Department is older than the United States Government. The Continental Congress in 1778 appointed a committee of finance, or board of treasury, and John Witherspoon, Gou verneur Morris, and Richard Henry Lee were au thorized to design a Treasury seal. The earliest example of the seal is found on papers dated 1782. When the United States Government was established in 1789, the Continental seal was con tinued in use. In 1849 the Treasury needed to replace its badly worn seal and ordered Edward Stabler (page 37) to make a facsimile. Apparently Mr. Stabler carried out his orders with reserva tions, for his seal showed differences from the original; but they are so minute that a casual observer would not notice them. The dots on the shield are the heraldic way of depicting gold. The 13 stars on the bend on the shield are for the Thirteen Colonies. The scales represent those held by the blind goddess Justice. The key is commonly used in heraldry to denote offices of state. The legend Thesaur. Amer. Septent. Sigil. is an abbreviation of the Latin Thesauri Americae Septentrionalis Sigillum, "The Seal of the Treasury of North America." Seal is 1%7inches in diameter. The Treasury seal should be the most familiar in this series, for it is on all United States paper money: in green on Federal Reserve notes; in red on United States notes; in blue on silver certificates; in brown on national currency notes. Brown seals are also shown on special currency for Hawaii. Special currency issued during the late war for North African military purposes carried the seal in yellow. The illustration in blue is for the silver certificate. War and Victory bonds also show the seal. WAR, page 32. The Continental Congress in 1776 appointed a committee to be called the Board of War and Ordnance. Changes were sub sequently made, and in 1777 a new board was appointed. Soon after its formation the 1777 board adopted a seal. This contained a group of military trophies (coat of mail, gauntlet, flags, and weapons), with a Phrygian cap between a spear and musket. Over the device was a ser pent, a favorite emblem with the colonists. Be neath the trophies was the date MDCCLXXVIII and around the circumference the words "Board of War and Ordnance, United States of America." A glance at the present seal shows only two major differences from the first seal: a streamer inside the loop of the snake carries the words "This We'll Defend," and the words around the rim are "United States of America War Office." The original seal was lost in a fire in 1800, and records of its color and composition were de stroyed in 1814 when the British burned the White House. The present seal was made in 1906. The flag at the left is apparently intended for a regimental flag; it carries no design. Both the impression and departmental pictures of the seal show the stars on the United States flag in rows, not in a 'circle. The seal, 2 inches in diameter, is impressed in a blue sticker with a blue ribbon for commis sions for "top generals." Commissions for other officers merely carry the impression. Colors have not been officially prescribed for this seal. Colors shown in The Society's paint ing, however, have been used for special purposes by the War Department.