Have you ever taken a look at our nation’s money? I mean really given it a close look, close enough to notice some of the intricate details on our bills and coins? What in the world does “E Pluribus Unum” mean, anyway? How did “In God We Trust” come to be the phrase used on every piece of currency? What’s next for U.S. currency? This brief mini-series takes a look at some of these questions and more.
Let’s start with taking a look at the meaning of “E Pluribus Unum.” This is a Latin phrase meaning “Out of Many, One,” or “From Many, One” and describes the action of many uniting into one. This was the phrase suggested on July 4, 1776 by the Congress-appointed committee to design a seal for the United States of America.
The original seal had six symbols in the middle to signify the countries of which the United States originated: England (the rose), Scotland (thistle), Ireland (harp), France (the fleur-de-lis), Holland (the lion), and Germany (the eagle). Around this shield is thirteen smaller shields with the initials of each of the thirteen “independent States of America” (the original thirteen colonies). At the bottom is the phrase “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” again signifying the unification of the colonies into one country.
The original seal wasn’t chosen for the final design, but the phrase stayed on the final design we see today, the Great Seal showing the American bald eagle:
Symbols of unity were common in the 1770’s when this seal and phrase were finalized, and America continues to use it on every piece of currency in circulation today.