A common question that many have about the mighty and majestic bald eagle is how and when it became the National Bird and symbol of the United States of America. Not long after the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776, the newly formed Congress gave Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin the task of designing an official seal for the United States. After much deliberation, they failed to produce an acceptable design…as did two more committees that were given the same task after them. Several years later, in 1782, Secretary of Congress Charles Thomson picked out what he thought were the best elements of each design, with the American bald eagle being the dominant feature that would eventually appear on official government-related items such as currency, passports, and other official documents.
The bald eagle was specifically chosen for a number of reasons: It has been a symbol of governmental power since the times of ancient Rome, and it’s a bird that’s native to America and soars high above all others with great majesty, beauty, and strength. At the time the eagle was chosen, America was still a newly formed, battle-worn nation, so the fierce-looking demeanor of the bald eagle also seemed to be an appropriate theme. After the eagle’s initial acceptance as the symbol of America, an olive branch and arrows…representing war and peace…were pictured in the eagle’s talons as part of the design, which became the official emblem of the United States of America in 1787.
The bald eagle wasn’t accepted by all, however. Benjamin Franklin, for example, harshly criticized the eagle as being a bird of “bad moral character” and he thought that the wild turkey would be a better choice as, according to Franklin, it’s a “bird of courage!”
No matter the criticisms though, the bald eagle remained the official symbol and national bird of the United States as decided upon in 1787 and it proudly remains so still today. Check out the video below to see more…