Join Or Die


Originally a political cartoon by Benjamin Franklin, the "Join, or Die" image came to symbolize the perils of disunity to the early American colonists. Our Join or Die collection pays homage to Franklin, whose message of banding together is no less important today.

Way back in the day a certain fella wanted to drum up support among the American colonies in favor of fighting for the British during the Seven Years' War. He drew a clever political cartoon of a snake, chopped into pieces, with the message “Join, or Die” written beneath it. This cartoon was the first time an American depicted the colonies as a union, and it was effective at its purpose.

A little while later that same fella wanted the colonies to fight against the British for American independence. So what did he do? He brought out the snake again because its symbolism had become no less poignant. And the American colonies united once more to fight a common enemy, get rid of the British, and establish a representative government that would eventually become overrun by violent psychopaths.

You may have heard of that fella. Does the name Benjamin Franklin ring a bell? Because it was him.

Why did Franklin pick a rattlesnake of all animals? Because the rattlesnake, in spite of its reputation for surliness, is a peaceful critter. Heck, it’ll even alert you to its presence so you can give it as wide a berth as possible. But the rattlesnake’s not afraid to stand its ground, either. Harass the little beast and it’ll treat you to such a venomous assault that you’ll be lucky to make it to the hospital.

Plus the snake’s anatomy makes it pretty easy to draw one all cut up into pieces, and people would have wondered what the heck Franklin was smoking if he’d chosen a parakeet or a giraffe.

We need old Ben’s symbol of state unity these days more than ever before. As the federal government threatens to lump everything together into a bland, homogenous blob, we have to put our collective foot down and say “No way, José.” And supporting states' rights begins with something as simple as a pair of socks or a phone case.