“The Eagle has Landed” (and what a chase it was!!!)

February 20, 2011
Here are the three appearances the American Eagle Print made on the 1960's TV series, "The Invaders".

Here are the three appearances the American Eagle Print made on the 1960's TV series, "The Invaders".

Here is the family photo taken at my Aunt & Uncle's house from Thanksgiving 1965 with the American Eagle Print partially visible above us

Here is the family photo taken at my Aunt & Uncle's house from Thanksgiving 1965 with the American Eagle Print partially visible above us

The thrill of the chase…….that’s what a nice antique dealer from Easton, PA told me about searching for a long sought after item.  She also told me that once you find the item, the chase and the thrill is over and time to start a new conquest.  It was last summer when I ended my chase and realized the nice antique dealer was right on the money, but it was fun while it lasted.  My particular “chase” started about 2 years ago when I was enjoying a marathon of the old TV series “The Invaders” which Helen & I purchased on DVD.  While watching one particular episode, I noticed hanging on the wall in the background of an Army General’s office, a patriotic print of an American Eagle with four U.S. flags, a shield with the stars & stripes on it and a gold ribbon on the bottom with “E Pluribus Unum” written on the gold ribbon.  Now of course I was not aware of all this detail at that point, but the Eagle itself looked very familiar.  I paused the episode and thought about it intensely and then…it hit me.  I remembered seeing this exact American Eagle print numerous times at my Aunt & Uncle’s house during my childhood years.  I quickly began going through all of our family photo albums to see if by chance we captured that Eagle in a picture.  Success!!!  (well, sort of)……I found an old family photo with the entire family sitting on the sofa at my Aunt & Uncle’s house and above us on the wall was the same exact American Eagle print.  Unfortunately, it was only the bottom portion of the Eagle Print.  Visible was the bottom portions of the flags, the olive branches, arrows, and the gold ribbon.  But this was enough for me to remember that the Eagle print on “The Invaders” was the same exact print that I remembered as a youngster.  At this point begins the “chase”.  I asked my Mom a few questions regarding the photo and she remembered that it was a Thanksgiving at the Aunt & Uncle’s house and by judging at my size, I was about 1 year old, so we concluded that the picture was taken in November 1965.  Mom even contacted my Aunt & Uncle.  They moved away from New Jersey and retired to Florida, and unfortunately the exact whereabouts of that Eagle were unknown, but all we knew is that it was gone.  At this point, I was just looking to get a decent picture of the Eagle to get a photo of it made.  I began an on-line letter writing campaign to anyone that I thought would have information on locating another copy of this eagle print.  Unfortunately, no leads turned up from this letter writing effort.  Then, one evening, a break!!!  It was a few minutes after 11PM and I was getting ready for bed and I had Action News on when they were reporting about a meeting in Pennsylvania about the possibility of cutting back on the Police Force.  I noticed it was a heated debate as many officials and citizens expressed their views from a podium.  And then, I noticed, hanging on the wall behind the podium, could it be?  Yes, it appeared to be the exact eagle that I’ve been searching for.  I sprung up for a closer look and screamed at the top of my lungs, “Helen!!!!”…..come here!!!  She was in the kitchen just about ready to come to bed as well and came in to see what I was screaming for.  Luckily we have a DVR in our bedroom so I was able to rewind the story so Helen could see it as well.  I had already made a small 5 X 7 photo of the eagle from the Invaders episode and quickly grabbed it and held it up to the TV for a side by side comparison.  Although the eagle on the news report was on an angle, enough of it was visible that Helen & I thought it could be the eagle we were looking for.  After reviewing the entire story again, I took note that this was located in a meeting room in Upper Merion Twp., PA.  This possibly could be the lead we were looking for.  I made a few phone calls and I was able to speak to someone who was very friendly and granted me permission to come and see the eagle print and take as many photos as I wanted.  This was the week between Christmas and New Years and Helen & I had taken a few days off so one of those days we drove to that meeting house in Upper Merion Twp., PA.  It was kind of funny that when we arrived, the woman took us into the meeting room, but she couldn’t find the light switch to light up the room.  I remembered exactly where the eagle was from the news story, right behind the podium.  The woman went to get someone from the maintenance staff to turn the lights on and Helen and I headed over to the eagle…..totally in the dark!!  Although, we could hardly see it, Helen took a picture of me standing by the eagle totally in the dark, and it turned out pretty good!!!  The woman returned to the meeting room with a gentleman who turned on the lights.  And there it was!!!  The exact eagle we were looking for.  I also noticed that there was a small crack on the frame that the eagle was in.  I took many photos but there was a glare problem.  The maintenance man even took it down and allowed me to move it to different areas to get a better picture.  I put in on a table, on an easel, and even on the floor, but there was still a glare problem with every shot.  I also noticed the more we moved it around, the more the crack “spidered” across the whole frame.  I really felt bad but the maintenance man reassured me that it was okay since they were going to have to replace it anyway.  After spending a few minutes taking many photos and chit-chatting with the staff there, Helen & I were ready to leave.  Later that day, when we got home, I ran upstairs to check out the photos.  I was mildly disappointed in the photos because of the glare and crack issues.  But it was certainly a much better image than the one I captured from the TV episode.  I applied my limited photo tweaking skills and was able to get a half decent image of the eagle.  At this point, I decided to step up my search and see if I could find an exact copy of this eagle for our home.  I figured there were at least 3 of them on the planet, the TV episode one, the one my Aunt & Uncle use to have, and the one in Upper Merion Twp.  So, somewhere there was probably another one.  And now I was armed with a much better image to aid in my search.  I again launched an on-line search for this eagle and posted the newly improved image to assist in this search.  I also decided to expand this search to sending letters in the mail as well with printed copies of this image.  I sent these requests to many antique stores, dealers, publications, historical collectors, etc.  I even sent letters to the manufacturers of the DVD set to forward to the family of Quinn Martin, the executive producer of the series.  Additionally, I sent the letter and photos to Roy Thinnes, the star of the series, “The Invaders”.  To my pleasant surprise, Mr. Thinnes wrote back to me and sent me an autograph photo and a note that he had no information on the eagle print.  As I intensified this search, I was getting some responses from various experts and collectors that what I was looking for was not a print, but actually an embroidery.  It was explained to me that these embroideries were made from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s in the orient, (China, Japan, etc.) and they were made with the intention of selling them to American sailors that were out on service to take them back to the United States as souvenirs of their journeys.  And looking more into this I learned that there were many different versions and variations of this eagle print/embroidery.  My “chase” became more and more confusing.  I even had experts tell me that there were no prints of this but all were hand-made silk embroideries.  Nonetheless, Helen & I continued with our search.  Whenever we would come across an antique store/dealer, we stopped by and left the picture of the elusive eagle.  At that point, I made a batch of cards with the eagle on one side and my contact info on the other side and left them at many different antique shops, museums, libraries, etc.  We continued in our spare time looking and looking, but no more leads on our eagle.  Occasionally I would get an email from someone with an eagle but it was a variation of the one we were looking for.  Some antique folks told me sometimes it takes years and years to find a desired item.  I was beginning to lose hope that I would find one and then…….another break!!!  I received a telephone call from the “Maine Antique Digest”.  I spoke with the publisher who was very intrigued with the whole story of my quest for this eagle.  He told me he would include a photo a brief synopsis of my story in their next issue.  Wow, what a break!!!  The publisher assured me that I will get some responses.  As it turned out, Helen & I already had an upcoming trip planned around Labor Day to visit different parts of Maine.  Now, the eagle and the story was published in the September issue of the “Maine Antique Digest”.  And, as the publisher promised, I began to get some responses.  Unfortunately, these responses were all variations of the eagle design we wanted and they usually included a mini-lesson that I was looking for an embroidery, not a print.  Again, I was starting to doubt that I would ever locate the exact print that I remembered as a youngster.  And then I received another email from a rare book, print, & map store in New York City.  In the email the owner told me he had what he thought was the exact eagle, but he had it in a storage area outside of the city and would get it over the weekend and send me a photo.  I really wasn’t expecting much and after the weekend, I received another email with an attached photo, and I was expecting it to be another “close call” and not what I was looking for.  Then it hit me……I opened up the attached photo and……..there it was!!!!  The exact, I mean exact eagle that I’ve been looking for.  I was totally excited and read through the email to find out that it was a framed print and all he was asking for including shipping was $200.  I promptly responded back and was in communication with them and luck struck again that they took paypal payments.  I quickly authorized the $200 payment and received confirmation of the payment.  They packed it up and shipped it to good old Mount Holly where I was greeted by its arrival a few days later after we got home from work.  I carefully unopened the package from “Donald Heald Rare Books, Prints & Maps” like it was a mummy.  Helen documented the whole opening of the eagle by taking numerous photos of this event.  Finally, I pulled it out and it was in beautiful condition.  It was mounted beautifully in a large frame.  My original plan was to hang it in my upstairs office, but it was much larger than I imagined, so Helen graciously allowed me to hang it in the living room.  And that is where it hangs today.  The next month was September and during our trip in Maine, we went to a news stand in the local grocery store to pick up a copy of the “Maine Antique Digest”.  As it turned out, it was not a magazine but more like a thick classified newspaper type of publication.  We got back to our hotel room and opened it up and there it was, a short article and a small photo of the eagle.  It was a wonderful feeling that this small photo and article is what led to me finally obtaining this eagle that is now hanging on our living room wall.  And as a note of fact to all the experts that insisted that there were no prints and that they were all embroideries, at the bottom of the print in small writing it states “Reproduced from An Early 19th Century Embroidery.”  And now when I sit in the living room and look at the eagle and smile, not only do I think back to my childhood days, but I think of “the thrill of the chase” that we went through to obtain this eagle print.  While Helen & I are out running around, I still keep my eye out.  You never know, maybe one day I’ll pick up another eagle!!!

Johnny standing next to the American Eagle print in a meeting room in Upper Merion Township, PA.  This picture was taken in the dark!!!

Johnny standing next to the American Eagle print in a meeting room in Upper Merion Township, PA. This picture was taken in the dark!!!

Johnny next to our very own American Eagle print!!!  Woo-Hoo!!!

Johnny next to our very own American Eagle print!!! Woo-Hoo!!!

Our American Eagle Print as it hangs in our Living Room today.

Our American Eagle Print as it hangs in our Living Room today.

At the very bottom of the American Eagle print in small writing it states, "Reproduced from An Early 19th Century Embroidery"

At the very bottom of the American Eagle print in small writing it states, "Reproduced from An Early 19th Century Embroidery"