JOIN, or DIE. is a political cartoon, attributed to Benjamin Franklin
and first published in his
Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1754. The
original publication by the Gazette is the earliest known pictorial
representation of colonial union produced by a British colonist in
America. It is a woodcut showing a snake cut into eighths, with
each segment labeled with the initials of one of the American colonies
New England was represented as one segment, rather than
the four colonies it was at that time. Delaware was not listed
separately as it was part of Pennsylvania. Georgia, however, was
omitted completely. Thus, it has eight segments of a snake rather than
the traditional 13 colonies. The two northernmost British American
colonies at the time, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, were not
represented, nor were any British Caribbean possessions. The cartoon
appeared along with Franklin's editorial about the "disunited state"
of the colonies, and helped make his point about the importance of
colonial unity. It became a symbol of colonial freedom during the
American Revolutionary War.
1 Role during the Seven Years' War
2 Role prior to and during the American Revolution
3 Legacy of the cartoon
4 See also
6 Further reading
Role during the Seven Years' War
Further information: Great Britain in the Seven Years War
Also known as the French and Indian War, the seven years were a war
(and choice) for the colonies against Britain, France, and their
native allies. They wanted to fight for the land west of the
Appalachian Mountains. At that time, the colonists were divided on
whether to fight the French and their Native-American allies for
control of the land west of the Appalachian Mountains. It became a
symbol for the need of organized action against an outside threat
posed by the French and Native-Americans in the mid 18th century.
Writer Philip Davidson states that Franklin was a propagandist
influential in seeing the potential in political cartoons. Franklin
had proposed the
Albany Plan and his cartoon suggested that such a
union was necessary to avoid destruction. As Franklin wrote:
The Confidence of the French in this Undertaking seems well-grounded
on the present disunited State of the British Colonies, and the
extreme Difficulty of bringing so many different Governments and
Assemblies to agree in any speedy and effectual Measures for our
common defense and Security; while our Enemies have the very great
Advantage of being under one. Direction, with one Council, and one
Role prior to and during the American Revolution
Massachusetts Spy, July 7, 1774
Franklin's political cartoon took on a different meaning during the
lead up to the American Revolution, especially around 1765-1766,
during the Stamp Act Congress. British colonists in America protesting
British rule used the cartoon in the Constitutional Courant to help
persuade the colonists. However, the Patriots, who associated the
image with eternity, vigilance, and prudence, were not the only ones
who saw a new interpretation of the cartoon. The Loyalists saw the
cartoon with more biblical traditions, such as those of guile, deceit,
and treachery. Franklin himself opposed the use of his cartoon at this
time, but instead advocated a moderate political policy; in 1766, he
published a new cartoon MAGNA Britannia: her Colonies REDUCED,
where he warned against the danger of Britain losing her American
colonies by means of the image of a female figure (Britannia) with her
limbs cut off. Because of Franklin's initial cartoon, however, the
Courant was thought of in England as one of the most radical
The difference between the use of Join or Die in 1754 and 1765 is that
Franklin had designed it to unite the colonies for 'management of
Indian relations' and defense against France, but in 1765 American
colonists used it to urge colonial unity against the British. Also
during this time the phrase "join, or die" changed to "unite, or die,"
in some states such as New York and Pennsylvania.
Soon after the publication of the cartoon during the Stamp Act
Congress, variations were printed in New York, Massachusetts, and a
couple of months later it had spread to
Virginia and South Carolina.
In some states, such as New York and Pennsylvania, the cartoon
continued to be published week after week for over a year. On July
Paul Revere altered the cartoon to fit the masthead of the
Legacy of the cartoon
The cartoon has been reprinted and redrawn widely throughout American
history. Variants of the cartoon have different texts, e.g. "Unite or
Dead", and differently labeled segments, depending on the political
bodies being appealed to. During the American Revolutionary War, the
image became a potent symbol of Colonial unity and resistance to what
was seen as British oppression. It returned to service, suitably
redrawn, for both sides of the American Civil War.
The Latin translation of
Join, or Die
Join, or Die (Jungite aut Perite) is used as
the official motto of the
Philadelphia Union soccer team. A snake is
also featured in their logo as an allusion to this cartoon.
A flag featuring this cartoon was prominently displayed in the opening
credits of the TV miniseries John Adams and was the title for the
first part of the miniseries.
The Late Late Show former host
Craig Ferguson has this cartoon
tattooed on the inside of his right forearm reaching his wrist, to
commemorate becoming an American Citizen. Ferguson also named
his comedy-talk show on the History Channel, Join or Die with Craig
Ferguson, after the cartoon. The show began airing in February
An image of the
Join, or Die
Join, or Die snake was delivered as a threat to a
victim in the NCIS episode "Dead Air". It was used as a symbol for a
Military At Home terrorist group.
"Join Or Die" is the name given to the special edition of the video
game Assassin's Creed III, it being set during the American
The cartoon is on a T-shirt worn by Justin Walker (Dave Annable) in
episode 4 of season 4 ("From
France with Love", 2009) of the American
television series Brothers & Sisters.
In the TNT show Falling Skies, when Pope and his gang of outlaws are
cornered at gunpoint by Tom Mason, Pope asks Mason for options, to
which Mason replies "Join, or Die!". Part of Mason's backstory
included him being a
Boston University history professor who taught
American Revolution as part of his curriculum.
On the Fox show Sleepy Hollow in the episode "Magnum Opus" in Season 2
Episode 10, the original Join or Die cartoon is shown and described as
being drawn by
Benjamin Franklin to secretly indicate an actual river.
Looking at actual map, the place where the mouth of the snake is
located is where the main characters find an enchanted sword.
A Poster with the Join or Die cartoon on it appears inside the "Red
Rocket Station" and in the cellar of the "Gorsky Cabin" in Fallout 4.
Kinda Funny cofounder Colin Moriarty has the "JOIN, or DIE." text
tattoed on his left forearm.
United States portal
Live Free or Die
^ "Join, or Die".
Pennsylvania Gazette. Philadelphia. May 9, 1754.
p. 2. Retrieved January 19, 2014 – via Newspapers.com.
^ Margolin, Victor. "Rebellion, Reform, and Revolution: American
Graphic Design for Social Change". Design Issues Vol. 5, No. 1, 1988
^ "Join or Die
Snake Historical Flag". Flags Unlimited. Archived from
the original on July 26, 2011. Retrieved May 13, 2011.
^ a b c Olson, Lester C. Benjamin Franklin's George Washington Vision
of American Community. University of
South Carolina Press, Columbia,
^ "The Writings of Benjamin Franklin: Philadelphia, 1726 - 1757".
historycarper.com. Archived from the original on May 12, 2006.
Retrieved May 1, 2006.
^ "Political cartoon: MAGNA Britannia : her Colonies REDUC'D".
Library Company of Philadelphia. Retrieved April 29, 2007.
^ "A More Perfect Union: Symbolizing the National Union of States".
Library of Congress. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
^ "'Join, or Die' - the Political Cartoon by Benjamin Franklin". BBC.
2003. Retrieved December 13, 2006.
Major League Soccer
Major League Soccer Team Reveals Identity to the
World". Major League Soccer. May 11, 2009. Retrieved November 3,
2010. [permanent dead link]
^ "22 September 2009". The View. September 22, 2009. ABC. Retrieved
November 3, 2010.
^ "The Rallying Cry of the Robot Skeleton Army". Plixi. February 11,
2010. Archived from the original on July 13, 2012. Retrieved November
^ "History Channel Shows".
^ "NCIS Recap: Dead Air". CBS. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
Copeland, David. "'Join, or die': America's press during the French
and Indian War." Journalism History (1998) 24#3 pp: 112-23 online
Olson, Lester C. "Benjamin Franklin's pictorial representations of the
British colonies in America: A study in rhetorical iconology."
Quarterly Journal of Speech 73.1 (1987): 18-42.
January 6, 1706 – April 17, 1790
Pennsylvania (1785–1788), Ambassador to France
Second Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress (1775–1776)
Founding of the
Join, or Die
Join, or Die (1754 political cartoon)
Albany Plan of Union
Hutchinson Letters Affair
Committee of Secret Correspondence
Committee of Five
Declaration of Independence
Treaty of Amity and Commerce
Treaty of Alliance
Staten Island Peace Conference
Treaty of Paris, 1783
Delegate, 1787 Constitutional Convention
Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly
Franklin's electrostatic machine
Gulf Stream exploration, naming, and chart
Pay it forward
111th Infantry Regiment
American Philosophical Society
Library Company of Philadelphia
Academy and College of Philadelphia
University of Pennsylvania
Union Fire Company
Early American currency
United States Postal Service
Pennsylvania Abolition Society
Master, Les Neuf Sœurs
Other social contributions and studies
Silence Dogood letters (1722)
A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain (1725)
The Busy-Body letters (1729)
Pennsylvania Gazette (1729–1790)
Poor Richard's Almanack
Poor Richard's Almanack (1732–1758)
The Drinker's Dictionary (1737)
"Advice to a Friend on Choosing a Mistress" (1745)
"The Speech of Polly Baker" (1747)
Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of
Countries, etc. (1751)
Experiments and Observations on Electricity
Experiments and Observations on Electricity (1751)
Birch letters (1755)
The Way to Wealth
The Way to Wealth (1758)
Pennsylvania Chronicle (1767)
Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One (1773)
Proposed alliance with the Iroquois (1775)
A Letter To A Royal Academy (1781)
Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America (1784)
The Morals of Chess (1786)
An Address to the Public (1789)
A Plan for Improving the Condition of the Free Blacks (1789)
The Autobiography of
Benjamin Franklin (1771–90, pub. 1791)
Bagatelles and Satires
Bagatelles and Satires (pub. 1845)
Franklin as a journalist
Benjamin Franklin House
Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology
Benjamin Franklin National Memorial
Benjamin Franklin Medal
Depicted in The Apotheosis of Washington
Benjamin Franklin statue, Washington D.C.
In popular culture
Ben and Me (1953 short)
Ben Franklin in Paris
Ben Franklin in Paris (1964 musical play)
1776 (1969 musical
Benjamin Franklin (1974 miniseries)
Liberty! (1997 documentary series)
Liberty's Kids (2002 animated series)
Benjamin Franklin (2002 documentary series)
John Adams (2008 miniseries)
Sons of Liberty (2015 miniseries)
Sons of Ben (supporters group for the
Philadelphia Union soccer club
Franklin half dollar
One-hundred dollar bill
Cities, counties, schools named for Franklin
State of Franklin
Ships named USS Franklin
Ben Franklin effect
Age of Enlightenment
The New-England Courant
The American Museum magazine
Deborah Read (wife)
Sarah Franklin Bache
Sarah Franklin Bache (daughter)
Francis Franklin (son)
William Franklin (son)
Richard Bache Jr. (grandson)
Benjamin F. Bache (grandson)
Louis F. Bache (grandson)
William Franklin (grandson)
Andrew Harwood (great-grandson)
Alexander Bache (great-grandson)
Josiah Franklin (father)
Jane Mecom (sister)
James Franklin (brother)
Mary Morrell Folger (grandmother)
Peter Folger (grandfather)
Richard Bache (son-in-law)
Ann Smith Franklin (si