Symbolism of the American Eagle in Trivet Designs


I recently received the following question from a fellow WorthPoint member:

I have a couple Wilton trivets (eagle in wreath w/heart) and I’m interested in the history of the eagle/wreath/heart symbol. Do you have any information on this?

What a great question! The American bald eagle has been prominently featured in many different trivet designs. Eagle and Heart or Eagle is probably the most familiar and often reproduced eagle trivet design. That pattern features an eagle and heart within a circular laurel leaf wreath. According to Rob Roy Kelly & James Ellwood in their 1994 book A Collector’s Guide To Trivets & Stands, the original design dates to the 1860s and can be attributed to the Community of Zoar, Ohio. Reproductions of this design were mass-produced in the 1950s through 1960s by American foundries such as Wilton and John Wright, both of which are still active today.

Let’s consider the subtle message of the American bald eagle. In June of 1782, the Continental Congress adopted the eagle as its national symbol. Later that same year, the Great Seal of the United States was designed and first used. The eagle on the Great Seal has always faced towards the olive branch. However, the eagle on the Presidential Seal, designed in 1880, originally faced the arrows! On Oct. 26, 1945, at the conclusion of World War II, Harry Truman had the Presidential Seal redesigned so that the eagle was facing the olive branch of peace.

What is the significance of direction? When a design features an eagle holding a bundle of arrows and an olive branch in its talons, be sure to note which direction the bird faces. If it faces towards the bundle of 13 arrows, it symbolizes the power of war. If it faces towards the olive branch with thirteen leaves, it symbolizes the power of peace. The number 13 in each symbolizes the original thirteen colonies.

Keep those great questions coming!

Lynn Rosack is a Worthologist who specializes in trivets and kitchenalia.

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