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Symbols of the United States: Exploring American Identity

There are many national symbols of the United States, from flora and fauna to monuments and structures that awe and inspire with their majesty and symbolism. While each state of America has its own symbols, the following are the most popular national symbols, representing the cultural heritage, beliefs, values and traditions of the Untied States.

National Symbols of the United States of America  

  • National Day: 4th of July 
  • National Anthem: The Star-Spangled Banner
  • National Currency: United States Dollar
  • National Colors: Red, white and blue
  • National Tree: Oak
  • National Flower: Rose 
  • National Animal: Bison
  • National Bird: Bald eagle
  • National Dish: Hamburger

The National Flag of the USA

USA flag
National Flag of the USA

The American flag, known as the Stars and Stripes, is made up of several elements, each with its own symbolism. The design is comprised of thirteen red and white horizontal stripes, with a blue rectangle in the upper left corner. The stripes stand for the thirteen British colonies which became the first U.S states after declaring independence from Great Britain.

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Fifty white, five-pointed stars can be seen inside the blue rectangle, all arranged horizontally in rows of six alternating with rows of five. These stars represent the 50 states of the country.

The earlier designs of the U.S flag had varying numbers of stars, but then a 50-star flag ordered by President Eisenhower in 1959 was created to mark the addition of Alaska to the union. Eisenhower selected it from a variety of 27flag designs, and since then it’s been the longest-used version, flown for over 60 years.

Great Seal of the USA

Great seal USA
Great Seal of the USA

Designed by the Continental Congress, the Great Seal is the official emblem of the United States of America, a symbol of government authority and a mark of identification. The seal depicts a blue circle with another national symbol, the American bald eagle, holding a ribbon with the motto of U.S.A in its beak.

The bald eagle holds an olive branch in one foot to symbolize peace and a bundle of thirteen arrows indicative of war in the other. The olive branch and the arrows symbolize that while the U.S.A has a desire for peace, it will ever be ready for war. In front of the eagle is a shield with 13 white and red stripes which represent the 13 colonies. The blue bar above signifies the unity of those colonies.

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The Great Seal is a unique symbol found on official documents like the U.S passport and also on the reverse of $1 bills.

North American Bison

Bison in North America
North American Bison

The American Bison is the largest land mammal native to North America. The native Americans shared their land with this majestic animal and to them, it was considered sacred and was highly revered. There are many stories and legends about the American Bison.

The Bison represents abundance, might and freedom. Its symbolic power aligns with the spirit of one’s inner strength and connects one to the Great Spirit and the Great Mother. It was an extremely important animal to the Native Americans which is one of the main reasons why it was sacred to them. The Native Americans honored and used every part of the Bison, letting nothing go waste. It provided them with food, tools and warmth and they were grateful to it for its generosity.

The Bison joined the ranks of the American Bald Eagle when it was declared the national mammal of the United States of America and is now an official emblem of the country.

Bald Eagle

Bald eagle USA
American Bald Eagle

The American Bald Eagle has been famous as the national bird of the US ever since it was officially placed on the Great Seal of the country in 1782. Indigenous to North America, the image of this bird first appeared on the Massachusetts copper cent in 1776 as an American symbol. Since then it has been used on the reverse side of several U.S. coins including the half dollar, quarter and the silver dollar.

The bald eagle has been seen as a symbol of courage, freedom, strength and immortality for many generations. Although it was once plentiful throughout the country, its population has declined greatly over the years. Many were killed by farmers and fishers for getting too close to their fishing nets or poultry and many more were killed by gamekeepers.

Washington Monument

Washington monument
Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is a 555-foot tall, obelisk-shaped structure, built to honor the first U.S. President, George Washington. Completed in 1884 and opened to the public four years later, it was the tallest building in the world and still remains the tallest in the District of Columbia, U.S.A.

The original plan for the Monument was to have a prominent statue built near the White House to honor the President. However, the National Monument Society decided to have a design competition instead which was won by architect Robert Mills with his winning obelisk design.

The Monument symbolizes the respect, gratitude and awe felt by the nation for its Founding Father. Hence, no other building in the district is allowed to be taller. Its obelisk shape evokes the symbolism of ancient Egypt and the timelessness of the ancient civilizations. Today, it remains one of the most impressive and important symbols unique to America.

White House

White house

The construction of the White House began in October of 1792 and was overseen by President Washington, although he never lived in it. The building was only completed in 1800. President Adams moved into the White House with his family and since then every President of the United States has resided in the White House, each adding his own alterations to it.

For over two hundred years, the White House has been a symbol of the American people, the government of the United States and the Presidency.  It’s also known as ‘The People’s House’.. It’s the only private residence of any head of state that’s open to the public, completely free of charge.

Statue of Liberty

Statue of liberty

The Statue of Liberty, standing in the Upper New York Bay, U.S.A, is a universally recognized symbol of freedom. It was originally an emblem of friendship between France and U.S., indicating their mutual desire for freedom. However, it’s become so much more over the years.

In addition to the name ‘Statue of Liberty’, it’s also known known as the Mother of Exiles, greeting thousands of immigrants from all over the world. The Statue signifies hope and the opportunity for people seeking a better life in the U.S. It gives people the desire for freedom and is representative of the United States of America itself.

Liberty Bell

Liberty bell
Liberty Bell

Previously called Old State House Bell or State House Bell, the Liberty Bell is a famous symbol of freedom and of the American independence. It was used to call lawmakers to legislative meetings and other people to public meetings. It was called the ‘Liberty Bell’ by people in the early 1800s who used it as a symbol against slavery.

The Liberty Bell is known for its famous crack. The first bell, cast in England in 1752, was made for the State House of Pennsylvania. Upon its arrival in Pennsylvania, it cracked and a new one had to be cast from the same metal as the first. Later on in 1846, another crack began to form in the bell. The crack was repaired, and the bell was rung for George Washington’s birthday that year, but it cracked once again and hasn’t been rung since then for fear that it would be damaged irreparably.

The world-famous Liberty Bell is kept on display next to the Independence Hall in a visitor center where millions of people visit it each year. It continues to be one of the most famous symbols of justice and freedom.  


Rose flower

Named the national flower of the U.S.A in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, the rose has been around for over 35 million years, growing naturally all throughout North America. Available in various colors, roses have a rich aroma and the petals and rose hips have been used for medicinal purposes since the ancient times not only by Americans but all over the world.

In the hearts of Americans, roses are held dear as symbols of love, life, devotion, eternity and beauty. The White House boasts a gorgeous Rose Garden and rose bushes are grown in each of the fifty states. Parades and celebrations are decorated with these beautiful flowers and they’re also placed on graves or coffins as a way of honoring the dead.

Oak Tree

Oak tree
Oak Tree, national tree of the USA

The Oak Tree is the official national tree of the U.S.A as declared by Senator Nelson in 2004. It’s one of the newer additions to the list of national symbols in the United States of America. The Oak Tree was chosen to represent the strength of the nation since it grows from just a tiny acorn into a highly powerful entity with many branches that continue to increase in strength, reaching towards the sky over time.

There are about 50 different species of oak in the U.S.A which are extremely popular due to their beautiful foliage and strong wood. The Oak tree stands for moral, strength, knowledge and resistance, considered a storehouse of wisdom which is why it was the most obvious and popular choice for the national tree of the U.S.

Wrapping Up…

The above is only some of the most famous and instantly recognizable American symbols. These symbols represent the ideals and values that America is known for, including strength, freedom, liberty, power and patriotism.

American symbols list
American symbols list
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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.