History Of The Eagle - An American Symbol

CULTURE | October 8, 2019

Visions of America Joe Sohm. Source: (Collection: DigitalVision, Creative #:73069138, Getty Images)

The Bald Eagle became a national seal for the United States just a few years (1782) after the Declaration of Independence in 1776. But why a bald eagle?

Like the Roman Empire and some other countries, the Founding Fathers considered the United States an independent nation and have used the eagle to represent this. It was the job of Charles Thomson, who was the secretary of Congress, to come up with a national seal for the new country after ideas were rejected by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. He did receive inspiration from some of the previous ideas such as William Barton’s idea of a small white eagle. Instead of the white eagle, he completed the design with the Bald Eagle instead.  

Protecting The Nest. Source: (Wikipedia)

Humans could learn a lot from the Bald Eagle. They are birds of commitment. When they mate, they mate for life and both mother and father take care of their babies. The nest is protected by one or the other at all times. Fish is their preferred food of choice but they will eat small mammals and snakes as well.  

Eagle’s Wings. Source: (commons.wikimedia.org)

Eagles are also powerful birds with a wingspan of about 7 feet. Being the masters of the sky, they can fly as fast as 35 miles per hour. They are quite confident in their abilities and do not fear becoming a victim of predators.

Eagle Feather. Source: (Wikipedia)

North America is their normal habitat and they generally stay in one place. The Native Americans are very fond of the eagle and their feathers. In fact, feathers are of such importance that it is illegal to be in possession of them unless you can prove you are a Native American and part of a federally recognized tribe.   

Bald Eagle Carrying A Heavy Load. Source: (buzzghana.com)

Bald Eagles can carry large loads. In fact, it may be hard to imagine but the largest recorded load carried by an eagle was a 15 lb. mule deer fawn carried by a Bald Eagle.  

The Seal of the American Bald Eagle. Source: (Wikipedia)

As significant as the eagle is not everyone was on board with the idea of the Bald Eagle as the choice for the American seal, but it did get officially approved and has stood the test of time. Despite the fact that for a number of years it was considered “an endangered species” literally and symbolically, it survived. The government made it a protected bird. As of 2007, it was removed from the “endangered species” list but still considered to be a protected bird.

Throughout America’s history, the symbol of the Bald Eagle has been used for all kinds of things such as money, official documents, flags, public buildings, and more. 

American Bald Eagle. Source: (buzzghana.com)

Although the Bald Eagle is the official seal for America, America is not the only country who has adopted the eagle. There are 25 other countries that have used the symbol of the eagle in their coats of arms. Germany, Austria, Mexico, and Kazakhstan are some of the countries that have also adopted the eagle as their national bird.

For America though, the eagle represents much more. It represents the right of its citizens to be free and independent – “The Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free.”

Tags: An American Symbol | The Eagle

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