Sunday, November 14, 2010

Eagle Vs. Turkey: America's National Symbol

We all know that the bald eagle is America's National Symbol…a proud and majestic bird. And turkey is what we serve every year at Thanksgiving…a tasty bird made all the more appetizing when accompanied by dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy.

But did you know if Benjamin Franklin had gotten his way, the turkey would have been our national symbol?

In 1776, right after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress appointed a special committee to select a design for an official national seal. This committee consisted of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin. They each had their own ideas, none of which included the bald eagle. They finally came to agreement on a drawing of a woman holding a shield to represent the states. However, the design did nothing to inspire the members of Congress.

So Congress consulted a Philadelphia artist named William Barton who created a new design that included a golden eagle. At the time we were still at war with England and the fierce looking bird was deemed an appropriate symbol…with one small change. The golden eagle also flew over Europe so the federal lawmakers declared that the bird in the seal had to be an American bald eagle.

On June 20, 1782, they approved the design that we recognize today.

From the start, the eagle had been a controversial choice. Benjamin Franklin was quite vocal in his objection to the selection of the eagle. He considered it a bird of "bad moral character." A year after the Treaty of Paris officially ended the war with Great Britain, Franklin argued that the turkey would have been a more appropriate symbol. "A much more respected bird and a true native of America."

Unfortunately for Franklin, Congress was not convinced and the bald eagle remained our national symbol.

Whereas both the bald eagle and the turkey are native to America, we can't lay exclusive claim to either species since both were traditionally found in Canada and Mexico as well as the U.S.

And all of this leads us to one important question. If the turkey had been chosen as our national symbol, what would we serve as our traditional Thanksgiving dinner?


Maeve said...

I definitely prefer the eagle -although a wild turkey charging your vehicle on a gravel road is definitely a sight to see. Stubborn birds!

Samantha Gentry said...

Maeve: I would think that any "wild" something charging a vehicle would definitely be an attention grabber. :) A turkey doesn't seem to have the same "regal" presence as a bald eagle which makes the eagle a more impressive symbol (in my humble opinion).

Samantha Gentry said...

(Tess was unable to get this to post here, so she left it for me and I'm posting it for her)

Why we would have had ham, of course. LOL I knew about the turkey-eagle debate. Franklin was obviously a practical kind of man and in championing the turkey for our national symbol
probably thought of bountiful goodness. He wasn't much when it came to public relations and branding, though. A country can't simply flap its wings and never get off the ground. It needs
to soar! It's really a good thing that we ended up with the eagle rather than the turkey because I have a kid who has been talking about my turkey, dressing, and giblet gravy since August. lol He would not have felt the same way about ham.

Samantha Gentry said...

Tess: I like that description. "A country can't simply flap its wings and never get off the ground. It needs to soar!"

Tess MacKall said...

Whoo hooo, you changed the formatting of comments. And yep, I'm able to comment now. I don't know why I can't comment otherwise. Makes absolutely NO sense. I guess my keyboard won't talk to the Blogger keyboard for some reason. lol

I love that description, too, Samantha. It's kind of Marketing 101, isn't it? I don't think a turkey would have lasted long in this world. But that eagle and its talons and arrows has come in right handy in my opinion.

Love the blog!

Samantha Gentry said...

Thanks, Tess. Glad the format change works for you. Hope it also works for any others who have had problems leaving a comments.