Imagine the turkey as our national emblem

Photo credit: Lupin

Tomorrow is turkey day, but what if everyday was turkey day in the USA?

This almost became reality years ago when Congress was in the process of designing a national seal. Benjamin Franklin happened to be a strong proponent for the wild turkey to serve as the national emblem.

I first came across this bit of trivia while researching the bald eagle. It’s the first fact mentioned in the introduction to bald eagles on the Birds of North America database website: “Selected as the national emblem of the United States in 1782 by Congress, in spite of Benjamin Franklin‚Äôs arguments that the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) would serve better in that capacity.”

Very interesting I thought…and then forgot about it, but then I was reminded of this fun fact yesterday when a co-worker showed me this cool Thanksgiving quiz. Question #5 is, “What great American statesman lobbied to make the turkey the national symbol?” Answer is: Benjamin Franklin.

Congress doesn’t agree on anything these days and it turns out that members of Congress in 1782 didn’t agree on much either, not even what bird should be the national symbol. But at least their disagreement didn’t prevent them making a decision. (For more detailed information on how the bald eagle became the national symbol and other fascinating historical facts, check out this cool website You’ll have the chance to read a pretty funny quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin explaining why he thought the bald eagle was a terrible choice.)

At first I was puzzled by Benjamin Franklin’s choice…I mean the turkey is a cool bird, but a national emblem? I just don’t see it. Then suddenly it made perfect sense! Benjamin Franklin and the turkey look alike, they’re both stout and portly.

Photo credit: Lupin

Benjamin Franklin

Based on a brief review of information on the internet, it’s not clear if Thomas Jefferson was a proponent of the bald eagle. He did serve on the first committee tasked with designing a national seal, but very little from that committee actually went on to become a part of the seal approved three committees later. But guess who else was on that first committee? John Adams and…Benjamin Franklin.

Photo credit: Paul Friel

Thomas Jefferson

Need I say more?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


  1. JNapoli says

    Nice one, great photos and comparisons! Love that Ben Franklin anti-eagle quote, too! We’re all turkeys, so let’s do it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *