Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Governing Commercial Reproduction and Use of the Great Seal of the United States.

November 12, 1966

I HAVE today signed S. 2770.

This law gives us for the first time in our history new and needed criminal sanctions against the unauthorized use and commercial exploitation of the Great Seal of the United States.

The Great Seal is the proud and enduring symbol of the dignity and honor of America. It is as old as the history of our Republic. One of the earliest concerns of our Founding Fathers was to develop a seal. Work on the Great Seal began on July 4, 1776, the same day Congress agreed to the Declaration of Independence.

It took almost 6 years to perfect that Seal. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson were among those great Americans whose genius and inspiration brought forth the Great Seal as we know it today.

But for many years there has been a need for legislation governing the commercial reproduction and use of our Great Seal.

Up to now we have had to use our powers of moral suasion to discourage uses of the Seal that were undignified or sought to convey the false impression that the Government was endorsing a particular book or activity.

Moral suasion has not always been sufficient. Now we have a new law to give the Great Seal of our country some of the protection it deserves.

I regard this law as a first step. It has fallen considerably short of our expectations and our recommendations. It just does not go far enough.

--By specifically listing the prohibited uses of the Great Seal, it narrows greatly the scope of protection under the law.

The bill, for example, may not control the use of Great Seal designs on objectionable salable souvenirs.

--It fails to provide for injunctive relief when that approach in certain cases may be preferable to criminal proceedings.

--And nowhere does it protect the Presidential Seal against unauthorized use and commercial exploitation. The symbol of the highest office in the land must surely deserve the protection of law.

The Great Seal of the United States together with the Presidential Seal are part of the priceless heritage of a free people and a free country. Their worth and their dignity must be preserved.

I have asked the Secretary of State and the Acting Attorney General to review the new law and to prepare a far broader proposal for submission to Congress next year.

I have asked them to develop a proposal that will give the full and fair protection of the law to the Great Seal of the United States and the Presidential and Vice Presidential Seals as well.

Note: As enacted, S. 2770 is Public Law 89-807 (80 Stat. 1525).
The statement was released at San Antonio, Texas.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Governing Commercial Reproduction and Use of the Great Seal of the United States. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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