USA's National Emblem: The Bald Eagle

The head is white, the beak yellow and its piercing eyes can spot a fish a half-mile away. The American bald eagle, unique to North America, became the U.S. national seal in 1782. The eagle’s prowess, size, stellar looks, strength and exclusivity to the United States made it a perfect symbol for a new nation getting its sea legs in the spirit of liberty and freedom. Benjamin Franklin preferred the turkey as the national symbol of the United States. Good thing, since the eagle flies tall and free and the turkey graces our Thanksgiving tables. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, along with Franklin comprised the team that selected the seal.

The only part of the seal’s design to be initially approved was the words “E pluribus unum” meaning “out of many, one.” It wasn’t until two committees later, in 1787 that the bald eagle landed as the official emblem of the new United States of America. The emblem featured the eagle, a cluster of arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other talon. Across its chest were red and white stripes and 13 stars, each representing one colony. The designers added a crest atop its head and a scroll in its beak. The words E pluribus unum strongly proclaimed that we were one nation, no longer under Britain’s control. The colonies used the design as their coat of arms so often that the Second Continental Congress decided to establish the design as the U.S. official emblem.

The Bald Eagle

Cultural Significance

Educator Materials