The bald eagle feels like the ideal symbol of America. Strong, bold, majestic, and faithful, it has been a national symbol since 1782.
In another example of our founding fathers’ incredible vision for this country, the Continental Congress gave Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin the task of designing an official seal. They were commissioned with this job shortly after the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, but they couldn’t come up with a design that Congress approved of.
Two later committees took over the task; they, too, could not create one everyone liked. So, in June of 1782, the secretary of Congress, Charles Thomson, took over the job. He combined what he felt were the best of the previous three designs. The third committee had introduced the eagle into the symbol, and Thomson made the eagle more prominent in his plan. According to History.com, Thomson replaced the original small, white eagle with the bald eagle.
It was a big decision that the founding fathers wanted to make sure they got right because the design would appear on official documents and currency.
Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act in 1940, making it a federal crime to possess, kill or sell a bald eagle. In 1978 the bald eagle was put on the endangered species list, but by 1995 the species had recovered enough for it to be changed from endangered to threatened, and 15 years ago, it was entirely taken off the list.