Original copy of Benjamin Franklin’s most famous artwork: a woodcut of a snake chopped into eight pieces, representing colonies unwilling to collaborate, and captioned JOIN, or DIE will be offered for the first time at Heritage Auctions on September 13 for the Signature Historical Manuscripts Auction. The piece originally appeared in The Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1754 as a call for colonial unity before the French and Indian War and is expected to bring in more than $100,000.
There’s no way to overstate just what this cartoon means to American history, Pop Culture history and comics history, said Ed Jaster, Senior Vice President of Heritage Auctions. It’s important on so many levels, to collectors of all kinds, across many genres, that there’s no telling where the bidding for this could go.
The movement for unity among the colonies, begun so earnestly by Benjamin Franklin through this newspaper, would have to wait for the American Revolutionary War to be fulfilled, said Jaster. The image of the severed snake remained important in eighteenth-century America and was later reused and slightly modified as a symbol of colonial unity against British oppression during the years leading up to the American Revolution.
Heritage’s auction-lot description has long stated that we know of only one other surviving copy, which is held at the Library of Congress. [Heritage Auctions]