What Does the Snake Represent in American History?

The snake has been a prominent symbol in American history since the country’s early days. It has been used in various contexts, from political cartoons to flags, and has even inspired famous quotes and sayings.

So, what does the snake represent in American history? Let’s take a closer look.

Origins of the Snake Symbol

The use of the snake as a symbol dates back to ancient times when it was associated with various beliefs and cultures. In Greek mythology, the god Hermes carried a staff with two intertwined snakes, known as the caduceus. This symbol is still used today as an emblem of medicine.

In American history, however, the snake symbol has its roots in one of the most iconic events in U.S. history – the American Revolution.

The Gadsden Flag

In 1775, as tensions between Great Britain and its colonies grew, a group of colonists led by Christopher Gadsden designed a flag featuring a coiled rattlesnake on a yellow background. The snake was positioned above the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me,” which quickly became associated with the American Revolution.

The Gadsden flag was used by many colonial militias during this time and became an enduring symbol of American patriotism and resistance against tyranny.

The Culpeper Minute Men

Another group that incorporated snakes into their symbolism during this time were the Culpeper Minute Men from Virginia. Their flag featured a coiled rattlesnake with thirteen rattles (representing each of the thirteen colonies) and the motto “Liberty or Death.”

The Culpeper Minute Men were known for their bravery and fighting spirit during battles against British forces. They were also one of the first groups to use camouflage during combat – another nod to their resourcefulness and ingenuity.

The Boston Tea Party

During one of the most famous events leading up to the American Revolution, the Boston Tea Party, a group of colonists disguised themselves as Native Americans and dumped crates of tea into Boston Harbor.

One of the symbols they used on their clothing was a coiled snake with the words “Join or Die” written underneath. This image was created by Benjamin Franklin and was meant to encourage unity among the colonies.

The Rattlesnake as a Symbol of American Values

The snake has come to represent many American values over the years, including freedom, independence, and resilience. Its association with the American Revolution and its use in various contexts throughout history have made it an enduring symbol of patriotism and pride.

In fact, one of America’s most famous sayings – “Don’t Tread on Me” – is still used today as a reminder of our country’s commitment to individual liberty and resistance against tyranny.


In conclusion, the snake has played an important role in American history and has come to symbolize many values that are still cherished today. From its use in flags and political cartoons to its association with famous events like the Boston Tea Party, the snake is a powerful reminder of our country’s past and its enduring spirit.