As you gaze up to admire the American flag, something other than the Stars and Stripes themselves may catch your eye. Above the flag, at the very top of the flagpole, a metallic eagle catches a ray of sunlight and shimmers in the sky.
What does an eagle at the top of a flagpole mean? Is this ornamentation fraught with meaning, simply aesthetic, or something in between? We’ll explore these meanings in this feature that may help you perfectly top off your own American flag.
The Flagpole Eagle Defined
The ornament you see atop a flagpole is a finial, a name it shares with other decorative pieces, such as those that rest at the ends of curtain rods, bedposts, and lampshades. Flagpole finials come in a variety of shapes—not only the eye-catching eagle but also more austere alternatives such as a brass ball, spear tip, or five-pointed star. Finials offer function as well as form. Finials prevent rainfall from pooling within a hollow pole and causing corrosion.
Why the Eagle?
With several options for capping a flagpole, what makes the eagle a good choice? In a nod to the Roman Republic they sought to emulate, our Founding Fathers selected the eagle as our country’s national bird, which had long been a symbol of freedom, strength, and integrity in ancient Rome. By topping your flagpole with an eagle, you’re adding an extra note of patriotic spirit to your decor.
Spread Wings, Not Lies
It’s a myth, albeit a compelling one, that Benjamin Franklin advocated for the humble turkey to be America’s national bird. It’s hard to imagine a turkey finial, even in November.
What Does the Flag Code Say About the Eagle?
The United States Flag Code governs the American flag rules and etiquette that we should all seek to observe. However, despite everything the Flag Code has to say, it’s conspicuously silent on the matter of finials and their semiotic value. It neither prescribes nor prohibits our national bird as ornamentation. Much like the gold fringe on select American flags, these finials simply add another level of symbolism and beauty to a flag that already means so much. Therefore, the eagle is an acceptable finial for military and civilian use on indoor and outdoor flagpoles alike.
With a clearer idea of what an eagle on top of a flagpole means—as well as what it doesn’t mean—you should seek to upgrade your flagpole with a bald eagle finial from Federal Flags. We offer a variety of flags, flagpoles,and flagpole accessories that will help you display your patriotism proudly, tastefully, and gorgeously.