NEWS ADVISORY: URI researchers to analyze, authenticate rare Great Seal die found in Tiverton

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Local antiques dealer discovered unusual artifact identical to one owned by George Washington

WHO: John Pierce, a Portsmouth antiques dealer and amateur historian; Otto Gregory, URI engineering professor; Michael Platek, URI electrical materials engineer; and Dennis Hilliard, director of the Rhode Island State Crime Laboratory, which is based at URI.

WHAT: Pierce discovered an engraved metal die at a Tiverton estate sale last March, which appears identical to the die of the Great Seal of the United States that once belonged to President George Washington. Until now, it was believed that the former president’s seal was a one-of-a-kind item, but that belief is now in question, especially since the seal Pierce found has the same flaws as the original. To authenticate the seal found by Pierce, engineers and forensics experts at the University of Rhode Island will analyze its metal composition using an environmental scanning electron microscope. Additional background on the two seals and the debate it has raised may be found online. (

WHEN: Friday, October 26 at 10:30 a.m. The complete analysis is expected to take less than one hour.

WHERE: Room 211 of the Kirk Center for Advanced Technology, 90 Upper College Road, on the URI Kingston campus.

CONTACT: For information about covering this event, please contact Todd McLeish in the URI Department of Communications & Marketing at 401-874-7892 or

October 24, 2007