The History of the Georgia Berrien Eagle

“The History of the Georgia Berrien Eagle” By Dominick M. Valencia

The Eagle has been the official insignia of The Society of the Cincinnati from its founding. Since the first Cincinnati Eagles were produced in 1784, numerous variations of the Eagle insignia have been made by different jewelers and manufacturers in the United States and France.

There is a growing trend among constituent Societies to create and maintain their own distinctive Eagle insignia.  The Georgia Society is one of eight State Societies to have its own individual Eagle.

The “Georgia Berrien Eagle” is a replica of the actual Eagle purchased and worn by Major John Berrien, who served with distinction for 20 years as President of the Georgia Society from 1795 until his death in 1815. Major Berrien’s Eagle still remains in the Berrien family. 

There are several traits of Major Berrien’s Eagle that make it unique among the Eagles produced in France and in the United States.  These traits are:

1. A center medallion featuring a very large figure of Cincinnatus.

2. Distinctive eye, beak, and tail feathers

3. The abbreviation of the Latin word “Societas” as “STAS in the Latin motto surrounding the center medallion.

Original Eagle owned by Major John Berrien and produced by Jeremiah Andrews.
Photos courtesy of The Society of the Cincinnati and Mr. Jan Burroughs.

The original Eagle owned by Major Berrien was made sometime in the mid to late 1780s or early 1790s by itinerant jeweler, Jeremiah Andrews.  Andrews specifically designed and produced the first American-made Eagle insignia for members of The Society of the Cincinnati.  Up until Andrews began producing his Eagles, all previous Eagles purchased by members of The Society of the Cincinnati had been produced in France.

Andrews sold his first Eagles to members of the Georgia Society, including Major Berrien, beginning in Philadelphia in December 1784.  By December 1788, Andrews had moved to Savannah and throughout the rest of 1788 and 1789 advertised the sale of Eagles for The Society of the Cincinnati in both Savannah and Augusta, Georgia.   

Sometime after January 1791 and after the sale of his last Eagle, Andrews left Savannah and moved to Norfolk, Virginia where he died in 1817.  There is no evidence that after Andrews left Savannah he continued to make and sell Eagles to members of The Society of the Cincinnati.

After disbanding in the 1820s, the Georgia Society was revived in 1899. One of the first projects of the reconstituted Georgia Society was the production of a Georgia Eagle. In 1902, the Georgia Society engaged Baltimore jewelry manufacturing company, A.H. Fettig, to produce an Eagle based on the Berrien Eagle, though not an exact copy. These Fettig-made Eagles were sold to Georgia Society members from 1902 to 1904. Unfortunately, the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 destroyed Fettig’s factory and no further Georgia Eagles were produced.  

Because very few of such Georgia Society Eagles were produced in the short time before Fettig’s factory fire, it has become one of the most valuable Eagles produced in the twentieth century. The Georgia Society is proud to own a 1902 Georgia Society Eagle that is worn by the President of the Georgia Society to official functions.

Georgia Society Eagle produced by A. H. Fettig Company from 1902-04.
Photos from the Collection of The Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Georgia

In early 2018, an ad hoc committee of the Georgia Society, chaired by Nick Valencia Jr., began its efforts to create a new Georgia Eagle modeled exactly on Major Berrien’s Eagle made by Jeremiah Andrews.  After receiving the approval of the General Society to proceed, the Georgia Society contacted the owner of an authenticated Andrews-made Eagle, identical in every respect to the original Berrien Eagle.  

The owner, himself a member of the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Connecticut, graciously agreed to allow his Eagle to be used as the model for the new Georgia Berrien Eagle.

Original Andrews-produced Eagle, identical to the original Berrien Eagle, used as the model for the new Georgia Berrien Eagle. Photos courtesy of Mr. Richard Breithaupt.

In late 2018, the Georgia Society engaged CityPride, Ltd., the official jeweler of The Society of the Cincinnati, to produce the new Georgia Berrien Eagle.  Using the authenticated Andrews-made Eagle, CityPride painstakingly created an exact replica of the Eagle owned by Major John Berrien.  

The new Georgia Berrien Eagle reflects all the unique traits, noted above, of Major Berrien’s original Eagle.  The Georgia Berrien Eagle is available only to members of the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Georgia.   

The Georgia Berrien Eagle produced by CityPride Ltd., for the Georgia Society in 2018. Photos courtesy of CityPride, Ltd.

Sources and for further reading:  

Cutten, G.B. The Silversmiths of Georgia: Together with Watchmakers and Jewelers, 1733-1850. Oglethorpe, 1998.

Myers, M.  The Insignia of the Society of the Cincinnati. The Society of the Cincinnati, 1998.

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