What Was the First Political Cartoon in American History?

Have you ever wondered what the first political cartoon in American history was? Political cartoons have been a powerful way of communicating political messages since the 18th century.

They are used to express opinions, comment on current events and highlight social issues. Political cartoons are often humorous and satirical, but they can also be serious and thought-provoking. Let’s take a closer look at the first political cartoon in American history.

The First Political Cartoon in America

The first political cartoon in America was created by Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States. The cartoon was published in his Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1754.

The cartoon was titled “Join or Die,” and it depicted a snake cut into eight pieces, each piece representing a British colony. The message was clear: if the colonies didn’t unite against their common enemy (the French and their Native American allies), they would be conquered one by one.

The Symbolism Behind “Join or Die”

The “Join or Die” cartoon was a powerful symbol of unity. It showed that the colonies needed to work together to defeat their enemies.

The snake represented the colonies, which were vulnerable when they were divided but strong when they were united. The message was not lost on the colonists; within months, representatives from seven colonies met at the Albany Congress to discuss a unified defense against French aggression.

The Legacy of Political Cartoons

Benjamin Franklin’s “Join or Die” cartoon set a precedent for political cartoons in America. It showed that cartoons could be used as a powerful tool for communication and persuasion. Over the years, political cartoonists have used their art to comment on everything from wars and elections to social issues like racism and inequality.


In conclusion, Benjamin Franklin’s “Join or Die” cartoon was not only the first political cartoon in American history, but it was also a powerful symbol of unity during a critical time in American history. The message behind the cartoon still resonates today: that we are stronger when we work together and that political cartoons have the power to communicate important ideas and messages.