Benjamin Franklin owned and ran the Pennsylvania Gazette, a Philadelphia-based newspaper that featured the “Join, or Die” cartoon on May 9, 1754.
The Pennsylvania Gazette “is widely considered to be the first American publication to illustrate news stories with cartoons and [the ‘Join, or Die’] political cartoon is believed to be the first of its kind in America.”
The cartoon depicts the early American colonies as a snake divided into eight segments. Toward the head of the snake, “NE” represents New England, followed by “NY” (New York), “NJ” (New Jersey), “P” (Pennsylvania), “M” (Maryland), “V” (Virginia), “NC” (North Carolina) and “SC” (South Carolina). Even though there were four “New England” colonies, Franklin lumped them into one category to stress the need for colonial unity. At the time, the colonists fiercely debated expanding west of the Appalachian Mountains and fighting the French and their Indian allies.
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