Franklin’s Turkey

By Robbie Perdue

When I was growing up I was told that Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird in place of the bald eagle but was outvoted by Thomas Jefferson and others. Well, it turns out that is just not true at all. 

After the Declaration of Independence, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams were tasked with designing a national seal. Franklin proposed a biblical scene from Exodus, featuring Moses, which did go on to become the reverse of the seal, and in 1782 the seal with a bald eagle on the front was approved. There never seemed to be any “turkey business”.


John James Audubon - Wild Turkey Cock, Hen, and Chicks

The turkey did finally raise it’s colorful head in 1784. Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter, Sarah, in which he complained about the design of a new medal issued by a Continental Army veteran’s society. Here he states “for my own part I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country,” and that the eagle was “a bird of bad moral character” that “does not get his living honestly” because it steals food as it is “too lazy to fish for himself.” Franklin even writes that he considered the eagle “a rank coward” as it is often driven off by smaller birds. 

Franklin goes on to describe the turkey as “a much more respectable bird,” “a true original native of America,” and describes the turkey to be “a bird of courage.” While these remarks were never intended to be public, we can agree on how great the turkey really is. 

Turkey hunters understand the virtue of these creatures. They can fly over 50 mph and run up to 20 mph, they have incredible eyesight, a wily sense for survival, and an uncanny ability to be completely unpredictable. They might not be the smartest creature god made, but often enough they are smarter than you.


is a native North Carolinian who enjoys cooking, butchery, and is passionate about all things BBQ. He straddles two worlds as an IT professional and a farmer who loves heritage livestock and heirloom vegetables. His perfect day would be hunting deer, dove, or ducks then babysitting his smoker while watching the sunset over the blackwater of Lake Waccamaw.