At the onset of the Revolution, standards were not so standardized. One of the most popular, however, was the one that rebel marines began to fashion featuring the Eastern rattler over the motto "DONT TREAD ON ME" on items like drums. The true derivation of what has come to be known as the "Gadsden flag" gets a bit murky from there, however. By 1775 the image of a coiled snake ready to lash out was fairly ubiquitous in the colonies. It was seen on buttons, money, standards, and newspapers. In fact, the snake had been used for well over a decade as an icon of colonial aspirations toward independence.
What we do know is that the standard's namesake, Colonel Christopher Gadsden, was indeed a member of the Marine Committee. He presented this flag to Commodore Esek Hopkins. At least one that looks like the one we've all come to recognize - a snake above the motto on a yellow field.
For this colonial flag reimagining, we looked at a number of different accounts from historians and vexillologists about what other versions may have looked like throughout the colonies. In a land of merchants, we assume craftspeople would have created all sorts of handmade "Don't Tread On Me" images in their dissent and sold or gave them to their neighbors. So we created this Gadsden image as a stamped image much like would be published in a press or woodcut in a workshop.
Dan wanted to create a distinctive way to show authentic patriotism that might have been seen in the late 18th Century, and offer a whole line of flag products as unique as the people that would put them in their homes.
The Gadsden Flag design is a classic emblem of independence and liberty. Ben Franklin himself noted how the rattlesnake was a perfect emblem of the American Spirit and vigilance against tyranny with its eyes never shut by lids and “She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders.”
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