The Gadsden Flag


As most of you know, I love research and when I come across something unusual I always try to add it to my blog file to share.  Today is one of those blogs where I knew nothing about the subject and was certainly excited to learn more and share.

The Gadsden Flag is a historical American flag with a bright yellow field depicting a rattlesnake, coiled and ready to strike.  Printed under the snake are the words “Dont Tread On Me” (and I didn’t make a mistake by leaving the apostrophe out). This flag was named after its designer, American statesman Christopher Gadsden.

Benjamin Franklin first used the rattlesnake in 1751 when he referenced it in a satirical commentary that he published in his Pennsylvania Gazette.  As the American Revolution approached, the snake became a symbol of the colonies and the American spirit.

The United States Navy was established in 1775, and before ships departed for their first mission, Gadsden presented the commander-in-chief of the Navy, Commodore Esek Hopkins, with the “Dont Tread On Me” flag to serve as his personal standard.

The Gadsden flag is considered to be one of the first flags of the United States, and has been reintroduced many times since the American Revolution as a symbol of American patriotism.


Many variations of the Gadsden flag exist:

  • The motto sometimes includes an apostrophe in the word “Dont” and sometimes does not.  Early written discussions uniformly included the apostrophe; however, as early as 1917, a flag reference book includes a picture of a version without the apostrophe.
  • The typeface used for the motto is sometimes a serif typeface and other times sans-serif.
  • The rattlesnake sometimes is shown as resting on a green ground, presumably grassy, and sometimes not.  The green grass seems to be a recent addition; representations dating from 1885 and 1917 do not display anything below the rattlesnake.
  • The rattlesnake usually faces to the left, and the early representations mentioned above face left.  However, some versions of the flag show the snake facing to the right.

If you wish to learn more about the various “Snake Flags” representing the United States, there’s a great explanation on Wikipedia:

I’m interested in knowing how many of you previously had heard of the Gadsden flag, or for that matter, any U.S. snake flag.



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A native Texan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Phyliss Miranda still believes in the Code of the Old West and loves to share her love for antiques, the lost art of quilting, and the Wild West.

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18 thoughts on “The Gadsden Flag”

  1. Hi Phyliss, I have heard of the Gadsden flag before but I never heard it referenced as the Gadsden flag. It was always referred to the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.

    I would love to be tossed into your giveaway.

    Be blessed,
    Cindy W.
    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

    • Hi Cindy, I think many of us had seen or heard of the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag as it’s used in modern times. The link to Wikipedia has some great information on the flag, and especially towards the bottom, it has movies and other modern times it’s been used in movies, theater, and songs. There was no way I could get all the info in one blog, therefore, the link. I’m glad to see you here and you are definitely in on the drawing! Big Texas hugs, Phyliss

    • Hi Debra. Glad you left a comment. Like you, I think many people knew of the flag but didn’t know the history. Glad it was of interest to you. Big Texas hugs, Phyliss

    • Hi Janine, glad you stopped by. As I mentioned above, it’s one of those things that slipped over to modern usage, but many folks didn’t know the history. I sure didn’t. If you’ll go to the link, it has some modern day usages, such as movies, songs, etc. Have a great day. Big Texas hugs, Phyliss

  2. Phyliss does this have any connection to the Gadsden Purchase? I know it’s a century apart but i’s an unusual name. I’ve done a bunch of Gadsden PURCHASE research recently. Land purchased from Mexico north of the Rio Grande River to form New Mexico and Arizona

    • Hi Sister Filly, Mary. Good to see you here!!! I did a little research, basically rereading Wikipedia, but with a cursory read, I didn’t find a mention of the Gadsden Purchase being a part of the flag. But, with such a distinctive name, I’m bettin’ it’s involved in some way. I thought it was interesting how it’s being used today in movies, etc. I think bike riders use it a lot. Thanks for stopping by; and a big Texas hug to you, Phyliss

  3. Interesting post! I have learned something today. Thank you for sharing, Phyliss. Have a great day!

    • Hi Melanie, good to see you today. I know all of the Fillies are pleased when we can provide a piece of history that is relatively unknown to our readers. It sure was to me; therefore, the reason I wanted to share. I hope you have a great day. Big Texas hugs, Phyliss

  4. Terrific post. I knew about the flag but not its name or some of the background. Thank you. Have a great day, Phyliss.

  5. Hi my precious friend. You have no idea how thrilled I am for you taking the time to read my post and leave a comment. I’m glad I added to the history of the flag. I bet you’ll go into the link to learn more. Wikipedia is a great source for research. Again, I’m so happy to see you back on your feet. I’ve seen earlier posts, so I knew you were better. Have a great day and a big Texas hugs to you, Phyliss

    • Hi precious friend, who I already miss as a Filly! Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. I’m thrilled that I put out something that explained where the “don’t tread on me” theme comes from. I also love the NH theme! Take care of yourself, and I’ll be hollering for your help when we get closer to the September Special Week. You might be off the Filly list officially, but you’re still in our hearts, as are the rest of the Fillies now and then! Big Texas hugs, P

  6. I had seen the “don’t tread on me” with the Snake but had never heard it referred to as the Gadsden flag. The Navy began on Lake Champlain at Whitehall, NY. We learned that in our state history class in Jr. High, probably because it was less than an hour away, but we didn’t learn about the flag. I’ve always thought it was a strange place to start the Navy since to get to anywhere else in the Colonies they would have to sail North to the St. Lawrence River and out to the sea through Canada. There were British forts along the way and maybe that is what they were after.

    I always enjoy the history lessons here.

  7. Hi Alice. So glad you stopped by. Isn’t it funny what we learn in school, depending on what part of the country you are from. Being a Texan, of course, we learned about the Alamo, Adobe Walls, and lots of Texas history, but something like the Gadsden flag isn’t taught. By the way, I love New York! It’s a beautiful part of our country and believe it or not … New York isn’t comprised of NYC only. Right, Alice? I love to travel up there. Since my hometown of Amarillo was originally named Oneida, I became very interested in the Five Nations and spent several days in Sarasota and Oneida. I used to know the history behind the Oneida Community, but it’s in a file somewhere. I do remember visiting the beautiful Oneida Indian Nation building and also the Oneida (as we know it today silverware) building and recall a little of the history about it came into being with a split of the Oneida Community in the late 1800’s (I think). Anyway, I got all carried away but I absolutely love New York, but not the winters! Again Alice thanks for stopping by and giving me a lesson on the British forts and the St. Lawrence River. Have a great day and hope this isn’t too long for you to read! I do get carried away when a subject interests me. Big Texas hugs, Phyliss

    • A small correction for you….Sarasota is in Florida, Saratoga —County, township ,battlefield,and the city of Saratoga Springs are in NY. When you visited Saratoga did you taste the mineral water? I grew up with it but my kids thought it was awful.

  8. Phyliss hello my sweet fellow Texan. I loved your blog. I’ve always wondered about this flag and I’ve seen it many times in my life. What a wonderful history lesson you gave us. Thank you so much. You have a fabulous day and I can’t wait until your next release.
    Love & hugs: Tonya

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