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George Washington’s diamond eagle on view in Philly

Emblem of famed Cincinnati Society has never previously been on public display in Philly.
The original Diamond Eagle of the Society of Cincinnati presented to George Washington is on display at Philly's Museum of the American Revolution. (Courtesy of the Society of Cincinnati)

A more than 200-year-old Revolutionary War treasure has returned to Philly.

The Museum of the American Revolution (MOAR) in Philadelphia this week put on display a treasured emblem of our nation’s history: the Diamond Eagle originally presented to George Washington in Philadelphia in 1784.

Studded with 160 diamonds, 28 marquis-shaped emeralds and 10 rubies, the Diamond Eagle was originally given by the French Navy to Washington as a surprise at Philadelphia’s City Tavern in honor of his being the first president general of the Society of Cincinnati, an organization founded by Continental Army officers, which still exists and is loaning the Eagle to MOAR. It has been passed down from president to president of the Society.

The name “Cincinnati” was taken from the heroic Roman general Cincinnatus, the subject of an immensely popular play during the Revoluntionary War era, which Washington viewed and read repeatedly and organized performances for his soldiers to view. Cincinnatus was a general who, after saving Rome, refused the powers of a dictator.

“The Diamond Eagle epitomizes the idea of Washington as the ‘American Cincinnatus,’” said MOAR President Michael C. Quinn, “the ultimate citizen-solider who put the good of the nation ahead of his own and returned his power back to the people.”

“Extraordinary security provisions” will be in place for the Eagle’s display at MOAR next to Washington’s war tent inside a “specially designed, high-security case.”

Last seen in Versailles, France, the Eagle has never been publicly displayed in Philly, and its value is estimated as “priceless.”

“For security reasons, the Museum is not able to discuss the monetary value of artifacts,” MOAR said.

The Eagle will be on display at MOAR through March 3.

Visit AmRevMuseum.org for more information.