The Bald Eagle: What a Joke

Americans are known for their daring and bold sense of humor, which is epitomized in the Seal of the President of the United States.

Seal of the President of the United States

In 1780, Joseph Priestley began to poke fun at Benjamin Franklin’s balding head, going so far as to compare Franklin to a bald eagle. This enraged Franklin but he tried to endure it.

On June 19, 1782, the Continental Congress was told to adopt a national symbol and Seal of the President of the United States on the following day. Joseph Priestley, never one to pass up on a good joke, began to bribe members of the Congress to adopt the bald eagle as the national symbol.

The following day, the Continental Congress convened and, true to their word, they adopted the bald eagle as the national symbol of the United States of America.

Franklin immediately launched a campaign against the bald eagle. Franklin described the eagle as “a Bird of bad moral character,” “too lazy to fish for himself,” and “a rank Coward.” He argued that the Turkey was “a much more respectable Bird” although “a little vain and silly but a Bird of Courage.”

Despite Franklin’s protests, Joseph Priestley’s joke went through and has never been changed.

Author’s Note: Read more about Joseph Priestley and his pranks involving Benjamin Franklin!

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