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Despite what you may have heard, Benjamin Franklin never pushed for the turkey to be America's national symbol. In fact, after being asked to design a seal for the newly-established United States, Franklin wrote that an image of "Moses standing on the shore" would be ideal.
The rumor about Franklin and the turkey came from a letter he wrote to his daughter, Sarah, in 1784, two years after the bald eagle had been chosen for the Great Seal of the United States. In the letter, Franklin wrote that he didn't like the choice of the bald eagle because he saw it as “a bird of bad moral character” that “does not get his living honestly” because it steals food from the fishing hawk and is “too lazy to fish for himself.” He went on to say that he thought turkeys were much more respectable, hence the origins of an amusing yet ultimately untrue urban legend.
The best of Ben Franklin:
- Franklin was largely self taught, having spent only two years in school.
- Bothered by problems in the English language, Franklin created a phonetic alphabet; it never caught on.
- Franklin helped make chess popular in America and was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1999.