- Seal of the United States Senate
The Seal of the United States Senate is used to authenticate certain official documents of the
United States Senate, and its design also sometimes serves as a sign and symbol of the Senate, appearing on its official flag among other places. The current version dates from 1886, and is the third seal design used by the Senate since its inception in 1789. The use of the seal is restricted by Federal law and other regulations, and so is sparingly used, to the point that there are alternate, non-official seal designs more commonly seen in public.
The seal has a shield with thirteen stars on top and thirteen vertical stripes on the bottom, with a scroll inscribed with E PLURIBUS UNUM floating across the top.
Oliveand oakbranches symbolizing peace and strength grace the sides of the shield, and a red liberty cap (above the shield) and crossed fasces(below) represent freedom and authority. Blue beams of light emanate from the shield. Surrounding the seal is the legend UNITED STATES SENATE. Several of the elements are derived from the Great Seal of the United States.cite web|url=http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Senate_Seal.htm|title=Senate Seal|publisher= United States Senate|accessdate=2008-02-11]
The seal is affixed to
impeachmentdocuments and resolutions of consent to international treaties. It also appears on presentation copies of Senate resolutions recognizing appointments, commendations, and notable achievements. Other uses include authentication of senator credentials, and also electoral votesfor President and Vice President.cite book|title=History of the Senate Seals|publisher= Government Printing Office|last=Saltonstall|first=Leverett|authorlink=Leverett Saltonstall|coauthors=Frazier, Emery L.|year=1966|series=Senate document 164 of the 82d Congress, 2nd session] The seal is kept in the custody of the Secretary of the Senate,cite web|url=http://ethics.senate.gov/downloads/pdffiles/manual.pdf|format=PDF|title=Senate Ethics Manual|publisher=Select Committee on Ethics, United States Senate|accessdate=2008-02-11] who also can authorize other specific uses.cite web|url= http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode18/usc_sec_18_00000713----000-.html|title=18 U.S.C. § 713 (c)|accessdate=2008-02-11] In the twentieth century, the Secretary has authorized its official use by the majority and minority leaders.
The seal is depicted in a stained glass window in the
United States Capitol. There are four grand staircases in the building, and all four stairwells contain a large stained glass window, each with a different design. One of these windows, on the Senate side of the Capitol, originally depicted an eagle with a shield and flags of the United States but it was accidentally destroyed in the 1960s. The window was initially filled in with frosted glass, but was later replaced with a colorful design depicting the senate seal. The window is also visible from the office on the other side (room S-210, currently the majority whip's office). [cite web|url=http://mcconnell.senate.gov/whip_facts.cfm|title=Majority Whip Office Historical Facts|accessdate=2008-02-11] An image of this window served as the theme of the Senate's web page from about 2002 to 2006. [This can be seen with snapshots taken at web.archive.org; it first appeared on [http://web.archive.org/web/20021031080017/http://www.senate.gov/ October 31, 2002] and was used until late January, 2006.]
The Senate never had an official flag until the 1980s, even though by then most other government agencies, departments, and offices had one. In April 1984, Senator
Daniel Inouyeof Hawaii proposed that the Senate commission an official flag using the design of the Senate seal. After turning down several submitted designs, the committee turned to the Army Institute of Heraldry, which proposed a navy blue flag with the seal in the center. This was approved in 1987, and the flags were made available in March 1988. Each senator and committee were limited to two flags apiece, and in keeping with the usual limits on the seal use of the flags is restricted to Senate offices only, and commercial use is prohibited. [cite web|url=http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Senate_Flag.htm|title=Senate Flag|publisher=United States Senate|accessdate=2008-02-11] A Senate flag is also hung above the dais of the Hart Building’s central hearing room.
The Senate seal, along with the . [cite web|url= http://www.usmint.gov/mint_programs/commemoratives/index.cfm?action=RFKennedy|title=Robert F. Kennedy Commemorative Silver Dollar Fact Sheet|accessdate=2008-02-11]
When first meeting in
Philadelphiain the 1790s, members of the early Senate admired the visually appealing Great Seal enough that they had it reproduced on a carpet woven for their chamber. They also selected a similar design for the first official Senate seal.cite web|url= http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/Senate_Seal.htm|title=Historical Minutes: 1878-1920: Senate Seal|accessdate=2008-02-11]
This first design had 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 was the legend SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES. While the design was clearly based on the Great Seal of the United States, the engraving was distinctly different. It had a spade shield instead of the more familiar shape on the Great Seal, and the eagle had no scroll in its beak. The design of the clouds and light rays was also different, and the inscription showed it was a seal made specifically for the Senate (the Great Seal has no inscription at all). The design is actually closer to a rendition made by James Trenchard for the September 1786 "Columbian Magazine", [cite web|url=http://www.greatseal.com/committees/realizations.html|title= First Realizations of the Great Seal|publisher=greatseal.com|accessdate=2008-02-11] which was also later used on the reverse side of a few Indian Peace Medals given by President Washington in about the same time frame as the Senate seal was made. [cite web|url=http://www.greatseal.com/peace/indianmedals.html|title=Indian Peace Medals|publisher=greatseal.com|accessdate=2008-02-11]
The first known use of this seal was on the March 1798 impeachment summons of Tennessee Senator
William Blount. Six years later, the seal appeared on another impeachment summons, this time for Federal Judge John Pickering, and other documents during his trial.
By 1830, the first Senate seal was either unserviceable due to wear or simply lost after a period of not being used. A new seal was commissioned from Robert G. Lanphier, Jr., a French artist, engraver and jeweler living in
Washington D.C.at the time. The press and counterseal were made by Edward Stabler, the postmaster at Sandy Spring, Marylandfrom 1830 until his death in 1883. Stabler had engraved the seal for the House of Representatives in 1830, and also would later make the seals for most federal government departments of the time, some states, and several municipalities.
This second design was inspired by the then-popular Greek and Roman models, depicting three female figures which symbolized freedom, justice, and power. An eagle is above the figures, and twenty-four links of a chain bordering the seal represent the number of states then in the Union. The central Freedom figure is standing on a platform inscribed with 4 JULY 1776, and is holding a pole with a liberty cap, a palm branch of victory and rejoicing, and a scroll inscribed with CONSTITUTION, MARCH 4, 1789. She is depicted in the process of walking, with one toe leaving the ground and her weight on her left foot. The Justice figure is holding the scales of justice, and leaning on
fasces, a symbol of authority. The Power figure holds a sword in her right hand, and a caduceusin her left, a symbol of commerce and peace.
The design has some similarities to "Genius of America", the sculpture over the central east pediment of the Capitol building which had recently been completed. Made by Luigi Persico from 1825 to 1828, it also features three female figures, representing America, Justice, and Hope. Elements shared between the two designs include a July 4 pedestal, a scroll with a Constitution inscription, the scales of justice, and an eagle.
During the 1868 impeachment trial of President
Andrew Johnson, the seal was affixed to both the articles of impeachment and copies of documents submitted in evidence. The second seal was used until 1880, when it was discovered "tucked away among some rubbish in one of the subterranean rooms of the Capitol" (apparently left there following heavy use during an 1876 impeachment trial). By this time, the seal was well worn. An engraving of the seal made for the March 26, 1885 edition of the " Daily Graphic" did not show either the 1776 or 1789 inscriptions, the scales of justice, nor a recognizable scroll, all presumably because these were no longer discernible on impressions made by the seal.
United States Centennialrenewed interest in national symbols, which eventually prompted a redesign of the Great Seal in 1885. On March 31, 1885, the Senate ordered an updating of its own seal. During the discussions, many senators did not even know a Senate seal existed. [In 1885, Senator William P. Fryeremarked "The Senate is without any official seal. There is only a legend of one, three women very slightly clothed, but it is only a legend." (noted in the Congressional Record, vol. 17, p. 96.) The final report for the new seal, after the earlier seal had been found, then said "No one has yet ever discovered what these figures were intended to typify, or what relevancy they had to the United States Senate or its proceedings." (Senate Report No. 48, 49th Congress, 1st Session.) This confusion was probably aided by the worn condition of the seal, which obscured several features which would have made the meaning more obvious.]
After considering several submitted designs, the Senate chose one by Louis Dreka, an engraver and stationer from
Philadelphia. He was given $35 to make the press and seal, which measured one-and-a-half inches in diameter. This design is the one still in use today. The physical seal itself is stored in a mahogany cabinet.
Resolved, That the Secretary shall have the custody of the seal, and shall use the same for the authentication of process transcripts, copies, and certificates whenever directed by the Senate; and may use the same to authenticate copies of such papers and documents in his offices as he may lawfully give copies of.
Because the official Senate seal is used only to authenticate official Senate documents, and not normally as a general visual symbol, the Secretary of the Senate has also authorized an alternative, non-official Senate seal. This alternative seal, which features an eagle clutching arrows and an olive branch in its talons, surrounded by the words "United States Senate," is commonly used by Senate offices and is often displayed on items sold in the Senate gift shop. Even more commonly seen perhaps is a version of the
Great Seal of the United States(which also depicts an eagle clutching arrows and an olive branch in its claws) surrounded by a similar inscription. These often appear on Senate web pages, on podiums when senators speak, and other situations. The House of Representatives also uses similar designs for their unofficial seals, and since the United States Congressas a whole does not have an official seal, similar designs are often used with a Congress inscription.cite web|url=http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/politics/cunningham/20050701-259-cunningh.html|title=Cunningham questioned over commercial use of congressional seal|date=2005-07-01|first=Stern|last=Marcus|coauthors=Kammer, Jerry|publisher=Copley News Service|accessdate=2008-02-11]
Both the Senate Seal and the Great Seal are protected by 18 U.S.C. § 713, a criminal statute which restricts the knowing display of the Senate Seal or the Great Seal or any facsimile thereof in any manner reasonably calculated to convey a false impression of sponsorship or approval by the Government of the United States. The Senate ethics manual states that in most cases use of the Senate Seal or the Great Seal for normal official Senate business would be appropriate; however, commercial use, personal use or campaign use by senators would be improper. Additionally, campaign use of any of the unofficial, alternate seals would also be improper. The manual suggests that senators who want to show a symbol of government on campaign material use a depiction of the
United States Capitoldome. In 2005, Representative Duke Cunninghamwas found to be selling items on a personal web site which included the unofficial Congress seal, which were shortly thereafter discontinued. Similarly, Senator Richard Durbinwas dinged by a few bloggers after his campaign site showed a video message where an unofficial Senate seal (the Great Seal variant) appeared in one corner; the video was quickly taken down. [cite web|url=http://www.noagenda.org/2007/08/durbin_netroots_video.php|title=Did Senator Durbin Violate Senate Ethics Rules?|first=Matt|last=Margolis|date=2007-08-05|accessdate=2008-02-11]
Other Senate symbols
Eagle and Shield
The "Eagle and Shield" is a gilded wood sculpture by an unknown artist which is currently on the
daisof the Old Senate Chamber, as it was when the Senate used that room in the 1800s. It dates from at least 1838, when it was referenced in a newspaper article and Daniel Websterspeech, and may be from about 1834. It is 53.5 inches (135.9 cm) high, 72 inches (182.9 cm) wide, and 23 inches (58.4 cm) deep, and the design is derived from the Great Seal of the United States. When the Senate moved to its new quarters in 1859 and the Supreme Court took over use of the room, the shield was placed over one of the outside doors, while the eagle was placed elsewhere in the room. In 1976, long after the Supreme Court moved to their own building, the two pieces were reunited and placed back on the dais when the chamber was restored. It has become an enduring symbol of the Senate. [cite web|url=http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/art/artifact/Sculpture_25_00003.htm|title=Eagle and Shield|publisher= United States Senate|accessdate=2008-02-11]
A stylized version has been used as a logo for the Senate on its website since 2006, and also from 1999 to 2002. In the intervening period, the website used an image of the stained glass window of the official Senate seal. The logo is also used on several online Senate publications. [For example, a PDF document about the [http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/art/resources/pdf/Old_Senate_Chamber.pdf Old Senate Chamber] (PDF).]
gavelis wielded by the presiding officer of the Senate, usually either the Vice President or President "pro tempore", and is used to signify the commencement or adjournment of a Senate session. It is made of ivory, has no handle, and is 2 1/2 inches high by 1 3/8 inches in diameter. The original gavel was in use at least as far back as 1831, and according to one account was used by John Adamsduring the first Senate meetings on March 4, 1789.cite web|url= http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/art/artifact/Other_71_00002.htm|title=Senate Gavel|publisher= United States Senate|accessdate=2008-02-11] [cite web|url= http://www.c-span.org/questions/week108.asp|title=C-SPAN's Capitol Questions|date=2000-07-31|accessdate=2008-02-11]
The gavel deteriorated during the 1940s, and in 1952 silver pieces were attached to try to limit further damage. However, in 1954, Vice President
Richard Nixonpounded it during a heated debate over atomic energy, and it completely came apart. Officials wanted to recreate the gavel exactly, but not enough ivory was available commercially so the Indian government was asked for help. On November 17, 1954, the Vice-President of Indiapresented the assembled Senate with a replacement gavel, which is still in use today. It was a duplicate of the original, with the addition of a decorative floral band around the center. [cite web|url= http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/The_Senates_New_Gavel.htm|title=The Senate's New Gavel|publisher= United States Senate|accessdate=2008-02-11] [cite web|url=http://www.senate.gov/learning/brief_faq.html|title=Senate Briefings: Frequently Asked Questions|archiveurl=http://web.archive.org/web/20011202012516/http://www.senate.gov/learning/brief_faq.html|archivedate=2001-12-02] Both the original and new gavels are stored in a mahogany box; each day a Senate page places the box on the presiding officer's desk.
It has become customary to have new senators preside over the senate (and thus wield the gavel) in one-hour shifts so they can learn Senate procedures. Usually this is limited to members of the majority party, but in periods where the Senate is evenly divided, senators from each party will often alternate. [cite web|url= http://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/Traditions.pdf|title=Traditions of the United States Senate|format=PDF|publisher=
United States Senate|accessdate=2008-02-11] [cite web|url= http://archives.cnn.com/2001/ALLPOLITICS/stories/01/24/hillary.senate/index.html|title=Hillary takes Senate gavel – for an hour|publisher=CNN|date=2001-01-24|accessdate=2008-02-11]
The seal of the President "pro tempore" includes a representation of the original gavel, with several depictions even showing its cracks, along with two quill pens and elements from the official Senate seal.
* [http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Senate_Seal.htm Senate website page on the seal]
* [http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/Senate_Seal.htm U.S. Senate History 1878-1920: Senate Seal]
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