Bring history to life with the original symbol of American independence.
Leading up to the American Revolution, the timber rattlesnake had taken significance as a symbol of the American colonies. 10 years before the celebrated "Don't Tread on Me" banner flew, Franklin popularized the snake in the form of his "Join or Die" print, which was initially meant as a rallying cry for unity amongst the colonies in defending themselves during the French and Indian war.
The snake image took off, and by the time the colonies began protesting the Stamp Act ten years later as the tax was levied to pay for the war, the snake had taken on even greater social significance. It was now something dangerous. It was a national icon.
Paul Revere began to publish the snake on the masthead of his Massachusetts Spy, fighting the British dragon. It began popping up further amongst the most radical Sons of Liberty on all sorts of items from money to buttons, banners, and flags. By the time the British occupation of Boston began in the fall of 1775, it was war. The Continental Congress authorized the raising of five companies of Continental Marines. Unsurprisingly the new Marines adopted the rattlesnake with thirteen noisy rattles as their emblem with the motto "Don't Tread on Me."
Reports in the Philadelphia press - likely by Benjamin Franklin himself, were that the Continental Marines boarded their ships sporting drums painted yellow with rattlesnakes and the defiant slogan that we admire today.