Don’t Tread on Me

Nobody knows for sure, but it has been believed that the First Navy Jack, then a custom flag, was flown by Commodore Esek Hopkins on the Alfred, flagship of the Continental fleet, in January of 1776, and was first used as a signal to engage the enemy.

The First Navy Jack is shown as having 13 alternating red and white stripes with an uncoiled rattlesnake and the “Don’t Tread on Me” motto.
The rattlesnake has, for a very long time, been an important American emblem. Benjamin Franklin published an article in his Pennsylvania Gazette in 1751, suggesting the colonists send rattlesnakes to Britain in return for the convicts they sent to America. Native to America, rattlesnakes produce a loud rattling noise when threatened. Rattlers will not attack unless they are stepped on or provoked. With needle-like fangs and deadly toxic venom, rattlers are truly dangerous animals to entice. Also, rattlers do not surrender in an attack. Using the rattlesnake image on a flag shows unity and power or it can be conceived as a threat. The image was meant as a warning that America will attack when provoked and won’t give up, just like the rattlesnake.
During the French and Indian War, in the Pennsylvania GazetteFirst Navy Jack, a political cartoon was published, a cartoon that is believed to be the first to be printed in an American newspaper. It depicted a drawing by Franklin of a snake cut into eight pieces, with each piece representing a colony. Below the cartoon the motto read: “Join or Die”, showing the importance of unity among the colonies.
Beginning in 1977 the ship with the longest period of active service was to fly the First Navy Jack until it was decommissioned or inactive. The flag would then be passed to the next ship with the longest period of active service.
On September 11, 2002, all Navy ships began flying the First Navy Jack and continue to do so throughout the global war on terrorism. Whether on a flagpole or a Naval ship, the First Navy Jack is a flag steeped in American history and has been a source of inspiration in every war and serves as a reminder of our nation’s origin.
Come to Colonial Flags for a First Navy Jack flag or a custom flag or your own. Let us help outfit you for a flagpole for your home as well.

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