The Trump campaign is selling t-shirts with an eagle for $30. The eagle is perched on a ring containing the American flag, its wings outstretched and head cocked to one side. The words “America First” are emblazoned in red above the head of the eagle. But the eagle’s image, which has stirred controversy because of its similarities to fascist iconography, isn’t a custom design for the Trump campaign. It’s a piece of stock art that anyone can license for $15 per use.
According to the Forward, Twitter users have sourced the image to the stock image website Vectorstock, though it’s also available on Shutterstock. The artist has a lot of artwork up for licensing, including a Holocaust memorial image.
Above the eagle is the slogan “America First,” the political catch phrase used by both Trump and an isolationist political party that opposed America’s entry into World War II and harbored pro-Nazi sympathies.
Eagles are an American symbol, but the specific design of the eagle on the Trump campaign evokes its use in fascist Italian and Nazi imagery. A fascist eagle is always seen perched on the symbol of the party it’s protecting, its wings outstretched and its head cocked to one side.
The Reichsadler, or Imperial Eagle, is an old German heraldic symbol, but the Nazis added the specific tweak of the eagle clutching a wreath encircling the swastika. The Trump campaign’s t-shirt shows a Reichsadler clutching a circle containing the American flag.
It’s similar to the Eagle that’s on the seal of the President of the United States, but different in a few key ways. The U.S. Seal depicts the American flag as a shield over the heart of the Eagle, and the Eagle’s talons clutch an olive branch and thirteen arrows, to represent peace and war respectively. The design of the Presidential seal has changed over the years, but the shielded heart, the olive branch, and the bundles of arrows have remained constant. Those unique and specific heraldic indicators are absent on the Trump t-shirt.