Turkey or eagle?

Turkey or eagle?

By Robert Crowe

(Picture is the cover of The New Yorker Magazine in 1962.)

There is a persistent belief that Benjamin Franklin proposed that the national bird be the turkey instead of the eagle. That belief is a myth.

Franklin never publicly advocated the turkey as a national symbol. At the time the National Seal was being proposed, there was widespread comment that the designs being circulated looked more like a turkey than an eagle. Some observers believe that Franklin did not want any animal as part of the Great Seal of the United States.

However, regarding national chatter about the eagle being on the Great Seal, he did have a few comments about the turkey. These comments were made to his daughter in a personal letter.

In a letter from Europe in January 1784 to his daughter, he said, in part: “For, in truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America. Eagles have been found in all countries, but the turkey was particular to ours. He is, although a little vain and silly, a bird of courage and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on.”

We keep running into the truth about some long-held ideas. So … another myth debunked. Next, I suppose someone will try to tell us that the Great Pumpkin is fictional.

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