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City bars 'Don't Tread on Me' flag on public land
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In , during the French and Indian War , Franklin published his famous woodcut of a snake cut into eight sections. It represented the colonies, with New England joined together as the head and South Carolina as the tail, following their order along the coast. Under the snake was the message " Join, or Die ". This was the first political cartoon published in an American newspaper. As the American colonies came to identify more with their own communities and the concept of liberty, rather than as vassals of the British empire, icons that were unique to the Americas became increasingly popular.
The rattlesnake, like the bald eagle and American Indian , came to symbolize American ideals and society. As the American Revolution grew, the snake began to see more use as a symbol of the colonies. The rattlesnake symbol was first officially adopted by the Continental Congress in when it approved the design for the official Seal of the War Office at that time and for many years thereafter, the War Office was a term associated with the Headquarters of the Army.
At the top center of the Seal is a rattlesnake holding a banner which says: "This We'll Defend". According to the US Army's Institute of Heraldry, "'This We'll Defend', on a scroll held by the rattlesnake is a symbol depicted on some American colonial flags and signifies the Army's constant readiness to defend and preserve the United States.
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As such, the rattlesnake symbol has been in continuous official use by the US Army for over years. The Navy began with seven ships, often called "Washington Cruisers", that flew the " Liberty Tree Flag ", depicting a green pine tree with the motto "Appeal to Heaven". Those first ships were used to intercept incoming British ships carrying war supplies to the British troops in the colonies both to deprive the British of the supplies and to supply to the Continental Army.
One ship captured by Captain John Manley had 30, pairs of shoes on it. To aid in this, the Second Continental Congress authorized the mustering of five companies of Marines to accompany the Navy on their first mission. The first Marines enlisted in the city of Philadelphia and carried drums painted yellow and depicting a coiled rattlesnake with thirteen rattles along with the motto "Don't Tread on Me.
He was one of seven members of the Marine Committee who were outfitting the first naval mission. Before the departure of that first mission in December , the newly appointed commander-in-chief of the Navy, Commodore Esek Hopkins , received the yellow rattlesnake flag from Gadsden to serve as the distinctive personal standard of his flagship. It was displayed at the mainmast. The flag of the Providence Train of Artillery's featured a coiled timber rattlesnake and the motto "Do Not Tread on Me" along with an anchor, cannons and the motto "In God We Hope" on a gold background.
This was recorded in the South Carolina congressional journals on February 9, Gadsden presented to the Congress an elegant standard, such as is to be used by the commander in chief of the American Navy; being a yellow field, with a lively representation of a rattlesnake in the middle in the attitude of going to strike and these words underneath, "Don't tread on me.
The Culpeper Minutemen flag has a coiled rattlesnake and the same motto as the Gadsden flag. It has a white field, rather than yellow, and the additional motto "Liberty or Death" and the name "The Culpeper Minute Men". It is the flag of Virginia volunteers from the Culpeper area. All four of the American-designed "Rattlesnake Flags" show a coiled rattlesnake. The only other rattlesnake flag, the First Navy Jack , was "designed by" the English artist Thomas Hart as background art. The traditional version of the First Navy Jack has an uncoiled rattlesnake and the same motto as the Gadsden flag, on a field of 13 horizontal red and white stripes.
Flag experts vexillologists speculate that the English artist Thomas Hart either did not know about the practice of rattlesnakes to coil in defense, or did, and intended to insult the fledgling American Navy as a weak and vulnerable creature as a rattlesnake is when not coiled and ready to strike, slithering on the ground, trying to escape, with its motto "[Please] Don't Tread on Me! Hence the warning, "Don't tread on me [or I will strike]". Considered one of the first flags of the United States, the flag was later replaced by the current Stars and Stripes or Old Glory flag.
Since the Revolution, the flag has seen resurgences as a symbol of American patriotism , disagreement with government, or support for civil liberties. The First Navy Jack , which was not directly related to the Gadsden flag, has been in use by the United States Navy since its beginnings. Unlike the Liberty Tree Flag with the letter by Colonel Joseph Reed that describes it, there is no document that describes the Snake on Stripes flag, only an image by English artist Thomas Hart in the background of a portrait of Commodore Esek Hopkins.
In that same painting is a round "tree flag". The triangular Liberty Tree flag is derived from the only surviving tree flag from the Revolution, found in an old trunk in on Long Island, the 5th Regt. Connecticut Militia. The Snake on Stripes flag was included in a book of flags by Admiral Preble, but later Preble determined the flag not valid, so he removed it from his text.
However, the book publisher used the old color plates, so the image was continued in the new edition and subsequently picked up by other publications and Webster's Dictionary. In preparation for the bicentennial year, staff officers in the Secretary of the Navy's office sought a powerful image for the Navy's Bicentennial. One Navy officer saw the Snake on Stripes Flag in Webster's Dictionary , so the staff officers ordered a large number to give away as Navy promotional items and then turned to the Naval Historical Center to "get the history". They were told that the flag had probably never flown during the Revolution, based on Admiral Preble's later discoveries, but a decision was made to use the Snake on Stripes Flag, or the "Fake Snake Flag", anyway.
Beginning in , commissioned Navy ships flew this Jack in place of the Naval Jack officially known as the Union Jack, not to be confused with the United Kingdom's flag at the bow. In , the Secretary of the Navy directed that the ship in active status with the longest total period of active service shall display the First Navy Jack until decommissioned or transferred to inactive service, at which time the flag shall be passed to the next ship in line with appropriate honors.
The display of this jack by the oldest ship in the fleet is intended as a form of recognition to promote pride of service, enhance morale, and contribute to the tradition of naval service. Enterprise is only the third aircraft carrier ever to hold the honor of flying the First Navy Jack. Since the first Patriot Day on September 11, , which commemorates the lives lost in the September 11 attacks , the rattlesnake from the flag is also shown on the US Army 's Drill Sergeant Identification Badge.
After the Snake on Stripes Flag became the Navy's symbol for the Global War on Terrorism, flag history professionals [ vague ] vexillologists have done extensive research papers that further question the claim that the flag ever flew during the American Revolution, yet it continues to fly at the bow of American warships today. For historical reasons, the Gadsden flag is still popularly flown in Charleston, South Carolina, the city where Christopher Gadsden first presented the flag and where it was commonly used during the revolution, along with the blue and white crescent flag of pre-Civil War South Carolina.
The Gadsden flag has become a popular specialty license plate in several states.
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As of [update] , the following states offer the option of obtaining a Gadsden flag specialty license plate: Alabama , Arizona , Maryland ,  Missouri , Montana ,  Oklahoma , South Carolina , Tennessee ,  Texas , and Virginia. The city ordered its removal, fearing that the flag would be seen as political.
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Athletic apparel company Nike uses the image of a rattlesnake coiled around a soccer ball for an ongoing, patriotic "Don't Tread on Me" campaign in support of the United States men's national soccer team. The phrase has become a rallying cry for American soccer fans and the Gadsden flag can occasionally be seen at national team games. A representation of the rattlesnake is contained on the inside of their uniforms, over the heart, with the initials "D.
In Hideo Kojima 's video game Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty a variation of the flag can be seen on one of the connecting bridges of the "Big Shell" facility, in a reference to both the original meaning and usage of the flag. In the apocalyptic CBS TV drama Jericho , the flag makes several appearances, most notably in the series finale as Jericho's acting mayor takes down the flag of the "Allied States of America", which had been flying at the town hall following a federal coup. He replaces the red, white, and blue flag of the central government with a Gadsden Flag which the previous mayor had kept framed in his office.
The scene depicts a once- collaborationist character as finally having summoned the courage to be in open defiance against a supreme government. American heavy metal band Metallica recorded a song called " Don't Tread on Me " on their self-titled fifth studio album , released in The album cover features a dark grey picture of a coiled rattlesnake like the one found on the Gadsden Flag.
The song's lyrics refer to political phrases from the American Revolutionary War. In addition, in the hit series The West Wing , Sam Seaborn's office displays the flag hanging above his cabinet. This hints at possible conservative views for Ziggler, but this has never been made clear.