America’s Bird

A history of Turkey in America

For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America. Eagles have been found in all Countries, but the Turkey was peculiar to ours, the first of the Species seen in Europe being brought to France by the Jesuits from Canada, and serv’d up at the Wedding Table of Charles the ninth.


Benjamin Franklin letter to his daughter Sarah Bache, Jan 26, 1784
from the FranklinPapers.org

The turkey is native to America, descended from the turkeys gathered as part of the feast at the First Thanksgiving, as described by Plymouth Plantation.

Turkey feathers have been used in the traditional regalia of many tribes, particularly the feathered cloaks of eastern Woodland Indians like the Wampanoag (of Plymouth and the First Thanksgiving) and the feather headdresses of southern tribes like the Tuscarora and Catawba. The Turkey Dance is one of the most important social dances of the Caddo tribe, associated with songs about war honors and tribal pride. Some other eastern tribes, such as the Lenape, Shawnee, and Seminoles, have turkey dances as well. (from Native Languages of the Americas)

With President Reagan

President Ronald Reagan’s first political campaign literally took off in 1966 with the help of turkeys, as a turkey farmer flew California gubernatorial candidate Reagan to campaign stops on The Turkey Bird.  (White House Photo: Ronald Reagan Library) 

Turkeys on the Loose

NEWS NOTE: White House dog releases Thanksgiving turkeys

The Coolidge family dog creates a big problem as Thanksgiving approaches. The dog lets the Thanksgiving turkeys free, resulting in a wild chase by White House guards to recapture the tricky birds as Coolidge watches from the porch. Coolidge’s comment “As hard to land as farm relief” refers to a major political issue regarding financial relief for farmers. –  Artist Clifford K. Berryman November 18, 1926.