The United States Treasury Seal is the official symbol of the United States Department of the Treasury. It actually predates the department, having originated with the Board of Treasury during the period of the Articles of Confederation. It is used on all U.S. paper currency, and (like other departmental seals) on official Treasury documents. The seal includes a chevron with thirteen stars, representing the original thirteen states. Above the chevron is a balance, representing justice. The key below the chevron represents authority and trust.
The phrase THE DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY is around the rim, and 1789 (the year the department was established) is at the bottom. This inscription is in a Cheltanham Bold font. In 1778, the Second Continental Congress named John Witherspoon, Gouverneur Morris and Richard Henry Lee to design seals for the Treasury and the Navy. The committee reported on a design for the Navy the following year, but there is no record of a report about a seal for the Treasury.
The actual creator of the seal was probably Francis Hopkinson, who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and also contributed to the design of the Great Seal of the United States. He is known to have later submitted bills to the Congress in 1780 seeking payment for his design of flags, currency, and several seals, including one for the Board of Treasury. Although it is not certain that Hopkinson was the designer, the Seal is similar to others he designed. The earliest known usage of the seal was in 1782. When the United States Government was established in 1789, the new Department of the Treasury continued to use the existing seal.
In addition to the elements still found on the current seal, the original featured more ornamentation and the Latin inscription THESAUR. AMER. SEPTENT. SIGIL. around the rim. The inscription is an abbreviation for the phrase Thesauri Americae Septentrionalis Sigillum, which translates to "The Seal of the Treasury of North America". The reason for the original wording that embraced all of North America is unknown, although interestingly the first national bank—chartered in 1781 to help solidify the nation's finances—was named the Bank of North America. After nearly 200 years, Treasury Secretary Henry H. Fowler approved a new, simplified version of the seal on January 29, 1968. The Latin inscription was replaced by the English THE DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, and 1789 was added at the bottom.