How the American Bald Eagle Became Our Nation’s Emblem
The United States of America has many national symbols. From the American flag to the red, white and blue motif, you can associate a wide variety of visions with America. The American Bald Eagle is one symbol that signifies the spirit of the nation and those who live here.
Now, every time we’re lucky enough to see a bald eagle, whether in person or on a design, we are sure to feel a strong sense of pride in our country. So, when did the American bald eagle become a symbol for America and why was this majestic bird chosen?
The history and significance of the bald eagle is as old and storied as our country itself. It didn’t come to be a symbol overnight. In fact, none other than Benjamin Franklin wanted our national bird to be a chicken! Here’s the history of the American bald eagle and how it became so closely tied to all things American.
Who Decided the American Bald Eagle Was Ideal as a National Emblem?
The Second Continental Congress decided the American bald eagle would represent this nation as its prominent emblem. Not all members of the Second Continental Congress agreed that this bird would be the best symbol, including Benjamin Franklin who wanted a turkey to be named as the American symbol. But, eventually, enough members voted to designate the bald eagle as the national bird and American symbol.
When Did the American Bald Eagle Emerge as a National Symbol?
The American bald eagle was chosen as a symbol for this country in 1782. At that time, the American bald eagle was placed on the seal of our country. In addition to appearing on the one-dollar bill, the American bald eagle symbol can also be seen on the president’s flag, placed on military insignia, and as part of the House of Representatives mace.
Before it was adopted by the highest office in the land, the bald eagle as a symbol had much simpler origins. The American bald eagle saw its first appearance on the Massachusetts copper cent back in 1776. Since then, it has appeared on many U.S. coins, including the quarter, silver dollar, and half dollar.
Even though the American bald eagle was used as a symbol in America since 1776, it wasn’t until 1782 that the Second Continental Congress selected this bird as the nation’s representative symbol. It was, of course, a much more regal selection than Ben Franklin’s suggestion of a chicken.
Why Was This Symbol Chosen?
The American bald eagle was chosen as the nation’s symbol for what this bird represents. Eagles have long been known to represent courage, strength, freedom and immortality for generations. The American bald eagle was specifically selected as the primary U.S. symbol due to it being the only eagle indigenous solely to North America.
Beyond a symbol of strength, the bald eagle itself has a long and storied history within the Americas. Native Americans held this bird in high regard, and incorporated it into many stories, symbols and rituals. They prized its tailfeathers and used them in everything from headdresses to jewelry, and even to fletch their arrows.
Even explorers found the eagle a majestic sight. Historical figures Lewis and Clark wrote extensively on bald eagles in their journals, describing the birds with awed words.
A Few Interesting Bald Eagle Facts
Despite their prominence as a symbol of American culture, many people actually know very little about these birds! Here are a few interesting facts worth noting.
- Bald eagles, like many predatory birds, mate for life. Once they’ve found a mate, the female tends the nest while the male hunts and provides for the chicks.
- Bald eagles live significantly longer than most other birds—especially birds of their size. Most wild eagles will live for more than two decades! Some can live beyond 30 years!
- A bald eagle nest is massive! They’re usually between two and four feet deep, and about four to five feet wide. Even more impressive? The nests weigh hundreds of pounds!
- Female bald eagles are bigger than males—as much as 25% bigger in many cases. Scientists still aren’t sure why there’s such a size discrepancy.
- Bald eagles can actually swim and will do so when they’ve caught a fish that’s too large to pluck out of the water. Instead, they’re known to drag their kills to shore first.
The most interesting fact about bald eagles? They’re not bald! In fact, young eagles have full-feathered heads that are brown. It’s not until they reach maturity that the features turn white, giving them the “bald” appearance.
Show Your American Pride by Wearing Patriotic Bald Eagle Shirts
Now that you know why the American bald eagle is symbolic for our nation, you may want to wear this patriotic symbol on your clothing. Check out our full selection of eye-catching eagle clothing, including t-shirts, lounge pants, face masks, and more!
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