If Ben Franklin had had his way, the turkey might be more than the centerpiece of America’s Thanksgiving menu – it might be our national bird as well.
Franklin thought the bald eagle was for the birds. At least that’s what he told his daughter Sarah.
“I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country,” Franklin wrote in a humorous letter in 1784. “He is a bird of bad moral character.”
Eagles were too lazy to fish for themselves. They just loitered about on some dead tree until some hawk made a catch. “When that diligent bird has at length taken a fish . . . the bald eagle pursues him, and takes it from him,” Franklin wrote.
In contrast, Franklin found the turkey “a much more respectable bird” and “a true original native of America.”
Thanks to historian Dana Ste.Claire of St. Augustine for telling me about Franklin’s view of turkeys several years ago.
Like Florida sometimes, turkeys don’t get much respect.
In a typical 1950s ad for a Florida attraction, Rainbow Springs, the noble bird even had to pose being carved underwater.
That’s a fine way to treat such a respectable piece of poultry, Franklin might say.