The “Join or Die” political cartoon is the work of Benjamin Franklin-- American founding father, intellectual, and patriot. Originally designed and intended to unify the disjointed thirteen colonies in wartime, the art quickly became a call to arms and freedom for the 20+ years during and following the French and Indian War and American Revolution from the British Empire.
Origin - French Indian War
In 1754, the colonies were split under whether to fight against the French and their Native allies, who occupied most of the land West of the Appalachian mountain range. Many colonists desired expansion but were unwilling to risk their lives in war. Ben Franklin was a leading figure in American newspaper publications at the time and was a rising giant in the political sphere. He saw the colonies’ division and lack of unified government a particular threat in comparison to the French. He feared that each colony could be individually conquered by France without a unified colonies, and no formal plan of defense. Thus, Franklin was inspired to design and publish the “Join or Die” cartoon, largely thought to be based on the superstition that if a cut up snake was joined together before sunset, it would return to life. With each segment representing a region/colony, it was a precise call for unification amongst the colonists to prevent “death” of their colonies and future. After publishing the artwork in his newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, it quickly took off and became massively popular-- surely inspiring the colonists to unify for their common good and security against the French.
Repurpose - American Revolution
Around a decade after its original conception and purpose of unifying the colonies against the French and regulating Indian relations, “Join or Die” took on new life as a symbol of revolution against British rule. As tensions rose in the colonies over British taxation and proposed reparations for the French Indian War, the cartoon was repurposed by many as a call to formally revolt against Great Britain, and succeed from the British Empire. In New York and Pennsylvania, the text was often changed to “unite or die” to further emphasize it’s new purpose-- being published week after week in papers across the colonies in the time leading up to war. The cartoon was more popular and widespread than ever, and somewhat against Franklin’s will-- as he feared this more radical view of revolution. Regardless of Franklin’s fears-- the cartoon was destined to become the embodiment of American unification and freedom.
The cartoon has survived the centuries that followed, still being used today to symbolize patriotism and the common goals and values of American patriots -- freedom, unification, the right to maintain militias and bear arms, etc. It is widely seen in popular culture to this day, appearing in many television shows, films, and video games.
At Buffalo Reclaimed, we’re proud to share in these classic American ideals, and our goal is to promote them from sea to shining sea. Through unparalleled craftsmanship, our flags are beautiful, authentic, one of a kind works of art through patriotism. Every strip of wood is meticulously hand-carved to reveal it’s natural beauty and character, before being charred and enhanced through our proprietary aging process, all with intense attention to detail. After assembly, we carve the flags in a process that makes each and every flag one of a kind. We pioneered a hybrid method that is both computer-aided and traditionally hand-carved. Our unique process of transforming real American lumber into our flags takes hard work, callused hands, and American pride to achieve the pristine quality of every flag produced.
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