WABASHA, MN. — “This is a magnificent eagle,” Preston Cook says, patting the grayish head of a plaster of Paris bird measuring 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide. “It was used on a viewing stand in front of the White House during Franklin Roosevelt’s third inauguration in 1941.”
Cook is showing visitors around his warehouse in Wabasha, Minn., temporary home to his American Eagle collection of 25,000 eagle-related items. It is the largest collection of its kind in the country, including paintings, textiles, works of art on paper, photographs, magazines, books, toys, jewelry, sculpture and stamps. Even hockey pucks.
Now, after 50 years of collecting, Cook has donated his unique collection to the nonprofit National Eagle Center in Wabasha, a Mississippi riverfront town of 2,500 about 80 miles southeast of the Twin Cities.
On this weekend before July 4, what could be more appropriate to celebrate than the iconic eagle that has been a national symbol since it was adopted by the newly formed Congress in 1782 to grace the Great Seal of the United States?