Title: Join or Died
Creator: Benjamin Franklin
Date: May 9, 1754
Originally Published: Pennsylvania Gazette
Where it is Now: Library of Congress
In 1754 Benjamin Franklin ran the Pennsylvania Gazette, a newspaper he had started in the hopes of making the colonists more informed regarding the political climate of the time. His Join or Die cartoon was one of the first of its kind to be published in the colonies, and has been redrawn on multiple occasions since its debut. In this illustration, Franklin’s opinion on solidarity as a necessity for the survival of the colonies becomes very clear. In the 18th Century, it was superstition that a snake diced into pieces, when reunited, would return to life; hence, the inspiration behind this cartoon. Franklin understood that the colonies were each their own separate entity and neither wanted to become reliant on another, but in this illustration he emphasizes that they must “Join, or Die”: death referring to the loss of freedom at the hands of the British or French. It may be argued that the cartoon itself is of cartographic significance, as the colonies are organized in geographical order. In comparing the snake to a map, the gaps between the colonies are emphasized to an even greater extent, showing how invaluable solidarity truly is.