Join or Die Flag History

join or die flag

Join or Die Flag History

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join or die

What’s the meaning of it?

This ‘Join or Die’ flag along with the Gadsend/Don’t Tread On Me flag were the two popular symbolic pieces at that time. The Join or Die flag shows a timber rattlesnake, cut into eight pieces, each piece signifying the British colonies. The snake is dead, and the cartoon implies that the Thirteen Colonies would also die if they did not unite to face the French and Indian War.

Okay, so why are there 8 sections & not 13?

This flag only contains eight sections instead of thirteen. This is because each section is labeled with their respective colonies, moving in order from south to north as they’re listed from tail to head. They include South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and New England.

New England was shown in one segment, but it had four colonies within it, and Delaware was a part of Pennsylvania, so that’s why it wasn’t shown on the cartoon. And finally, Georgia was not included in the list, and many speculate it’s because Georgia was the last of the colonies to form, and it was the southernmost colony and would have had the least contact with the French and Indian War.

join or die flag

Ben Franklin isn’t just famous for the $100 bill

In 1754, Benjamin Franklin published one of the most famous cartoons in history – the ‘Join or Die’ piece. His art showed a significant importance at that time and is still considered an early masterpiece regarding political messaging. This was during the French and Indian War. The Albany Congress were going to meet and discuss the French threat and start working on a treaty with the Iroquois Confederacy. The Albany Congress was made up of representatives from the seven colonies of Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

A few days after a small military defeat, Benjamin Franklin published an article about the loss, and with the article was the ‘Join, or Die’ cartoon. Many said that Franklin’s cartoon was also a symbolic map, with the initials next to a snake’s segments in the same order of the colonies and a rough closeness of a coastline. Years later, the Join or Die cartoon showed up on important occasions. It reappeared in newspapers during the Stamp Act crisis in 1765. Different versions of the snake appeared during the American Revolutionary War and it was used by both sides during the Civil War.

join or die

Did you know??

  • New Hampshire’s state motto is currently ‘Live Free or Die’, which is likely directly derived from the message ‘Join or Die’
  • In 1774, a new image of the ‘Join, or Die’ snake appeared in the New York Journal, including the Georgia colony on it.
  • Throughout the years before Franklin created the cartoon, there was a superstition among the British colonies that a cut serpent (snake) would come alive if the pieces were joined back together before sundown.

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What did the Join, or Die snake mean?
The ‘Join, or Die’ flag shows a timber rattlesnake, chopped into eight pieces, each piece signifying one of the existing colonies. The snake is dead, and the image implies that the Thirteen Colonies, too, would die if they didn’t unite to face the French and Indian War.

Why does Join, or Die have 8 pieces?
The woodcut drawing pictures a divided snake in eight pieces representing as many colonial governments. The drawing was based on the popular superstition that a snake that had been cut in two would come to life if the pieces were joined before sunset.

What is the symbolism of the Join or Die flag?
Join, or Die. by Benjamin Franklin (1754), a political cartoon commenting on the disunity of the Thirteen Colonies during the French and Indian War. It was later used to encourage the colonies to unite for the cause of independence during the American Revolutionary War.

What was the point of the Join, or Die cartoon?
Franklin’s goal was to unite the colonists to combat the French and their Native American allies, and to convince the British government to support a unified colonial government in America. He didn’t achieve that goal, but the image was so powerful and persuasive that it took on a life of its own.


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