The bald eagle is a winged patriot in the United States. He is omnipresent. It adorns the Great Seal of the United States and with it much of what surrounds the President, but also banknotes. But even a majestic eagle doesn't just soar to national bird status. The founding fathers promoted him to the Great Seal in his day.
The origin goes back to the Continental Congress, the delegates of the then 13 colonies of North America. They also wanted an official seal with the signing of the Declaration of Independence for their newly founded nation. Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were tasked with designating one.
However, the first ideas that circulated were not animal, but biblically inspired. The National Museum of American Diplomacy quotes from a letter John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail on August 14, 1776.
Benjamin Franklin suggested that Moses lifted his staff and parted the Red Sea while the waters overwhelmed Pharaoh. The motto of this depiction: rebellion against tyrants as obedience to God. Thomas Jefferson's approach was also biblical. According to this source, he imagined the Americans as the children of Israel in the desert, being led by a pillar of fire at night. Adams, in turn, referred to mythology and Hercules "leaning on his club" and gazing at a figure of virtue.
To this day, one can read again and again that Benjamin Franklin advocated a turkey as the national bird. "That's just a myth," clarifies the Franklin Institute. However, the fact that he persists and is not entirely implausible has to do with a letter that Franklin wrote to his daughter. In it, Franklin criticized the original design of the eagle for the Great Seal for looking more like a turkey. In the letter he writes that the bald eagle is a bird of bad moral character. "He doesn't get his living honestly...[he] is too lazy to fish for himself."
In comparison, the turkey is "a much more respectable bird", a "true, original Native American". He is also, if a little vain and silly, a bird of courage. The Franklin Institute concludes: "Thus, while Benjamin Franklin defended the honor of the turkey over the bald eagle, he did not propose making it one of America's most important symbols."
The turkey, on the other hand, has become a kind of national bird without making a big appearance on seals and banknotes. For the animals, on the other hand, their popularity is usually not very pleasant: On Thanksgiving, they are an integral part of many family tables. After all, there was traditionally good news this year for two specimens named Chocolate and Chip: President Joe Biden pardoned the two animals on Monday.
Quellen: The Franklin Institute, Live Science, National Museum of American Diplomacy, Yahoo