Read more at the bottom to know why?
Hey, turkey is a gamefowl just like pheasant, quail, and many others including chicken. 🙂
Our athletes are gamecock strain of chickens. Gamecock egg, gamecock chick, gamecock hen, and gamecock rooster.
– Gameness til the End
A year and a half after the Great Seal was adopted by Congress on June 20, 1782 – with the bald eagle as its centerpiece – Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter and shared some thoughts about this new symbol of America. He did not express these personal musings elsewhere, but they have become legendary.
Writing from France on January 26, 1784 to his daughter Sally (Mrs. Sarah Bache) in Philadelphia, Franklin casts doubt on the propriety of using the Bald Eagle to symbolize the “brave and honest Cincinnati of America,” a newly formed society of revolutionary war officers.
The society’s insignia had a eagle that looked more like a turkey, which prompted Franklin’s naturally inquisitive mind to compare and contrast the two birds as a symbol for the United States.
Franklin previously suggested other symbols.
In his 1775 letter published in a magazine, he made a good case for the Rattlesnake as an appropriate symbol of “the temper and conduct of America.”
In 1776, he made an official suggestion while on the committee Congress appointed on July 4th to design the Great Seal. His idea was an action scene with Moses and Pharaoh, which the committee recommended for the reverse side of the Great Seal.
Birds found in preliminary Great Seal designs:
a two-headed eagle, a rooster, a dove, and a “phoenix in flames.”
“Because of their size, bald eagles are not concerned about threats from other birds. However, eagles are often chased by smaller birds, who are trying to protect their young. . . It was Benjamin Franklin’s observations of a bald eagle either ignoring or retreating from such mobbing that probably led to his claim of the bald eagle’s lack of courage.” – baldeagleinfo.com
By Gary Clark | November 20, 2009
Had it been up to Benjamin Franklin, the turkey we carve for Thanksgiving dinner might have been our national bird.
After the bald eagle won the honor instead, Franklin wrote to his daughter that the turkey was “more respectable” than the eagle, which he thought was “of bad moral character.”
Franklin expressed admiration for the pugnacious way barnyard turkeys defended their territory, a trait he liked in Americans, too. It’s not clear, however, whether Franklin knew much about wild turkeys, which ran and hid from intruders instead of defending their turf. Indeed, some Apache Indians thought turkeys were so cowardly that they wouldn’t eat them or wear their feathers for fear of contracting the spirit of cowardice.
So Franklin probably wasn’t thinking about the wild turkey when he considered possible symbols of American courage. But the domestic or barnyard turkey he admired did have its origins in America’s wild turkey population.
Aztec Indian tribes had long domesticated wild turkeys for food. Early Spanish explorers discovered these domesticated turkeys and took a few of them back to Europe, where the birds were bred into yet another variety of domestic turkey.
Those European turkeys came to North America with English colonists and were used for food. They are the birds Franklin seems to have preferred over the native bald eagle for our national symbol.
On June 20, 1782, the Continental Congress adopted the design of the Great Seal of the United States, which includes our national bird, the bald eagle, holding 13 arrows and a 13-leaf olive branch in his talons. The decision to make the bald eagle the national bird took nearly six years; it was ultimately chosen because many of the Founding Fathers compared their new republic to the Roman republic, which featured the eagle in its symbols.
There was one Founding Father who was not happy about the choice of the bald eagle as our national bird, however. Benjamin Franklin felt that the turkey should be the nation’s symbol. In a letter to his daughter a year and a half after the decision, Franklin wrote:
“For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.
“With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Birdnot bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country …
“I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America … He is besides, though a little vain & 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.”
Although Franklin makes his argument here, it is unclear whether he ever actually said this to the Congress, as no records exist of his dissention. Still, his thoughts on the subject, through this letter, have become legendary.