A quiz for eagle-eyed visitors
July 4, 2013 - Esther Harper
Benjamin Franklin famously favoured the turkey (“a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on…“ ), but since 1782, the Bald Eagle has been the national bird of the United States, when it was adopted by Congressional resolution. As a result, the eagle is a common figure on American money and stamps, as well as furniture, quilts, rugs, and advertisements, to name but a few. Today, you’ll often see the bald eagle during TV coverage of state visits or during a press conference, where the eagle adorns the coat of arms and the Presidential Seal. The eagle’s head is turned towards its own right, and holds arrows in its left talon and an olive branch in its right one. A popular myth is that the eagle faces the olive branch during peace and the arrows during war. When I spotted that a late 18th century plate in Deer Park Parlor had the eagle facing the arrows, I was instantly delighted by my find. While there are many pre-20th century examples of the eagle facing the arrows, the myth probably started in earnest because, from 1916 to 1946, the eagle’s head really did face the arrows on the Presidential seal ( you can see a photograph of a Presidential flag from this period here http://www.rareflags.com/images/RareFlags_IAS_00187.jpg). President Harry Truman officially changed the presidential seal in 1946. With the timing of his decision coinciding so closely with the end of World War II, it’s easy to see how this myth began. More recently, it has been propagated by pop-culture, with screen writer Aaron Sorkin referencing the eagle myth as fact in the popular TV series The West Wing. It may be fiction, but it’s such a great story that a little part of me can’t help but wish it were true.
In celebration of 4th of July, here are an assortment of objects in our collection that feature eagles. Can you guess which room they’re in?
1. Textile Room 2. Folk Art Gallery 3. Trade with Asia Gallery 4. American Heritage Exhibition 5. Deer Park Parlor 6. Greek Revival Room 7. Deer Park Parlor
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