Tavern Sign

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This inn owner took visible pride in his country’s new national identity. The image displayes a bald eagle with a puffed chest displaying the Great Shield of 13 red, white and blue stripes representing the unified states of the young nation. One talon holds an olive branch; the other talon holds 13 arrows. His beak holds a scroll inscribed “E Pluribus Unum” (out of many, one). The original artistic rendering proposed by William Barton to Congress met disapproval by Benjamin Franklin and other political leaders. But following congressional approval in 1782 of the image as the Great Seal of the United States, images of bald eagles and colorfully striped shields could be found everywhere in the nation’s visual landscape, from coinage to ships’ figure heads, furnishings to textiles, and on signs such as this one.
Taverns were not new to this country at the time this sign was painted. Puritans had first sought to regulate consumption of liquor in the 17th century through building of “Ordinaries” or “Public Houses.” By the 18th century, such inns were known as “Taverns,” a familiar and welcome sight for travelers traversing coach, or post, roads. Such “Houses of Entertainment” not only provided comfort and convenience to long-distance travelers but sociability for locals. Not only were food and liquor sales offered, but also a variety of music, games, stories, humor, as well as more serious news and opinion-sharing, providing a sense of home beyond the home as well as mental escape.
Currently not on view
Date made
1800 - 1830s
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
paint (overall material)
overall: 39 3/4 in x 21 in; 100.965 cm x 53.34 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Folk Art
Cultures & Communities
Artifact Walls exhibit
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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