The Join or Die cartoon, a memorable post in Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette represents the 13 original colonies
On this day in history, May 9, 1754, a now well-known political cartoon was run in Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette. The “Join, or Die” political cartoon shows a snake divided into eight ‘pieces,’ each of which are labeled with the initials of a colony or region established in America to date – New England, at the time, was a region of four colonies – differing from the number of colonies you find represented on the Betsy Ross Flag.
Accompanying the political cartoon, Franklin also ran an editorial warning of the suggested danger of a disunited state; he stated how imperative a colonial union was for their safety and survival against the French and Native Americans.
A month or so later on June 24, 1754, delegates of the American colonies agreed that some semblance of a colonial union was needed. At the time of its first run in the press, the “Join, or Die” campaign to was used to rally against the French and to manage Native American relations. However, in 1765, the meaning changed, now urging colonies to unite against Great Britain.
The cartoon continued to symbolize colonial freedom through the American Revolutionary War against Great Britain, which led to the Declaration of Independence, declaring the 13 American colonies were now independent states from Great Britain. The Betsy Ross Flag, designed and sewn for adoption by the states in 1777, represents the 13 American colonies to emerge from the British Empire as the beginning of the United States of America.