SAINT PAUL -- On Thanksgiving Day, we celebrate the Turkey. It's been that way for centuries.
But centuries ago, Ben Franklin wanted us to celebrate the Turkey on July 4th, thinking it was more noble and patriotic than the now time-honored eagle. Folks at the Minnesota History Museum in St. Paul discussed this old spirited, feathered debate on Wednesday.
Legend has it, Big Ben received a picture of a military logo in the mail in 1784; a logo where an eagle was depicted.
"He thought it looked like a turkey and it got him thinking about how disappointed he was in the fact that the bald eagle had been chosen as our national symbol when it really should have been the turkey," Franklin expert and impersonator Shawn Hoffman said. Hoffman is a historian at the History Center, which will open a Franklin exhibit on Friday.
Back in 1784, Franklin argued the eagle was an unworthy symbol, calling it "a scavenger and a ranked coward" because it feasted on dead fish.
"Well the turkey is perhaps a bit vain and silly at times but they are a very, very brave bird," Hoffman said, in character.
Hoffman was joined on stage by Bucky Flores, an education specialist with the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. Flores argued on behalf of the eagle's regal prowess. "You see her talons? That's the real power of this bird, 2 to 4,000 pounds per square inch," Flores explained.
Hey Mr. Turkey, ever heard of "eagle eye?" "She can see a rabbit at approximately 2 or 3 miles away," Flores pointed out.
Here are a few arguments for both birds. Eagles; they make for well-prepared and well-educated scouts, they make for tough and skilled professional football players, and they have the ability to soar. "Generally (they fly) at close to a mile up; between 5,000 and 10,000 feet," Flores will tell you.
Turkeys have a tough time getting too far off the ground, but at 101 proof, "Wild Turkey" produces a pretty stiff drink. It is also widely known that a big, juicy turkey makes for a tasty and bountiful feast.
Hoffman makes another compelling argument on Tom's behalf. "Of course, Tom is a native of North America, but you can find eagles anywhere," he said.
Way back when, Franklin lost his argument, and so did Hoffman. Eagle gets the nation; turkeys, well, they have their day.
(Copyright 2009 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)