‘Don’t Tread on Me’ Inspired by Drummer’s Artwork

SKF NOTE: Reading Water Isaacson’s biography of Benjamin Franklin, I was pleasantly surprised to learn the famous Gadsden Flag (“Don’t Tread on Me”) was inspired by a drummer’s artwork. Read on.

“Back in Philadelphia, a group of Marine units were being organized to try to capture British arms shipments. [Benjamin] Franklin noticed that one of their drummers had painted a rattlesnake on his drum emblazoned with the words ‘Don’t tread on me.’ Franklin suggested that this should be the symbol and motto of America’s fight.

“Christopher Gadsden, a delegate to the Congress from South Carolina, picked up the suggestion…and subsequently designed a yellow flag with a rattlesnake emblazoned ‘Don’t Tread On Me.’ It was flown in 1776 by America’s first Marine units and later by many other militias.”

Source: Benjamin Franklin – An American Life, by Walter Isaacson, Simon & Schuster 2003

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