When anyone thinks about Thanksgiving, multiple things come to mind like Pilgrims, Native Americans, and being thankful for our blessings. Although those things represent thanksgiving, the turkey is the ultimate icon of the holiday. But what if the turkey wasn’t the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table? What if.. It was an eagle!
There is an old wive’s tale about Benjamin Franklin wanting the national bird to be a turkey instead of an eagle. After the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson had the task of choosing the new national symbol. Adams and Jefferson urged for the bald eagle to be the nation's symbol while Franklin fought for the turkey
to be the national symbol. Although this tale is interesting and the thought of the turkey being our national symbol is laughable, is the story true?
No, sadly this funny story isn’t true. Franklin never officially stated that he wanted the turkey to be the national symbol, but his letters to his daughter made it seem like he wanted it to be. He wrote in the letters the following critiques of the two birds, “For my own part I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country.” Franklin argued that the eagle was “a bird of bad moral character” that “does not get his living honestly” because it steals food from the fishing hawk and is “too lazy to fish for himself.” He then stated that the turkey was, “a much more respectable bird” and “a true original native of America.”
The story of Benjamin Franklin wanting the national bird to be a turkey is one of the most popular Thanksgiving myths in American history. It makes you wonder if we would be eating eagles for Thanksgiving if Franklin had spoken up on his beliefs about the turkey and eagle.