Benjamin Franklin Loved the Turkey, Hated Bald Eagle as Natl Bird

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, turkeys are being bought across the country as the bird will be the main dish for most Thanksgiving lunches and dinners.

Immigrant families celebrate Thanksgiving in Connecticut

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

One of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, was very fond of turkey. Legend has it that Franklin wanted the bird to be featured on our national seal. But according to, that’s not true.

According to, the bald eagle has actually been the national bird of the United States since it appeared on the Great Seal of the United States in 1782. The white eagle was supposed to appear on the original design – remember, America declared independence from Britain in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence. But Charles Thomson, the secretary of Congress, actually recommended that Congress use the American bald eagle instead.

(Photo by Rischgitz/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rischgitz/Getty Images)

Interestingly, Franklin — who was part of the original committee selected by the Continental Congress to design the national seal — wasn’t too keen on the bald eagle, calling it “a bird of poor moral character.”

Here is an excerpt from a letter Franklin wrote to his daughter, as quoted by

“For my part, I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen to represent our country.” The Founding Father argued that the eagle was “a bird of poor moral character” which “does not earn its living honestly” because it feeds the fish hawk steals and is “too lazy to fish for myself”.

As time passed and the design appeared on official documents, currency, flags, public buildings, and other government-related items, the bald eagle became an American icon, according to

In the same letter, Franklin also wrote about how much he liked the turkey. Phrases such as “a far more respectable bird,” “a true Native American,” and “a brave bird” who “would not hesitate to attack a British Guard grenadier who should presume to raid his yard with a red coat on.” were used by Franklin to describe the turkey, as highlighted by

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