The Frankfurt Eagle


In the changing history on its way to becoming Frankfurt's heraldic animal the city eagle has repeatedly taken on new guises. In the twenties of the last century, however, it underwent a revision that provoked commotion in the City. When Ernst May commenced work for the Frankfurt Structural Engineering Department to newly design the profile of the City of Frankfurt, he included not only city planning but naturally also the emblem of the City in his proposals. He commissioned the graphic artist Hans Leistikow, who was also committed to the idea of new objectivity, to completely rework the eagle.

Leistikow's designs related more to areas and proportions than to the natural form of an eagle. His City Eagle, which he submitted in 13 variations, was more of a symbol than an image – an unloved »plucked sparrow«, as the horrified press proclaimed. In defiance – as so often – of the outraged public, May nonetheless selected one of the designs and used it for official purposes, despite the fact that the City Council had rejected the designs. However, the opponents of the cubist heraldic creature were not prepared to remain passive, then the May concept of the eagle hardly conformed to the eager national awareness in Germany. It was criticized and debated until the Housing Department again revised the eagle. But this new variation likewise failed to appease the city fathers. Thus is was not surprising that the national Socialist Mayor Krebs banned the eagle from Frankfurt departments shortly after coming to office. The drawing and designing commenced anew but a real breakthrough was first achieved when Adolf Gloyr, an employee of the City History Museum, took over the bird. Gloyr resorted to an original version of the eagle by Launitz dating back to 1841 and modified it. With his naturalistic eagle design of 1935 he obviously appealed to the zeitgeist, because Mayor Krebs had the new City coat of arms sanctioned by the Hessen-Nassau Supreme President. In October 1936 the »City of German Handicrafts Frankfurt am Main«, as it was nominated by Adolf Hitler, was granted for the first time the right to bear a coat of arms.