Benjamin Franklin's famous "Join, or Die" political cartoon offered at auction


An original copy of the May 9, 1754 edition of The Pennsylvania Gazette, featuring noted zine publisher Benjamin Franklin's famous "Join, or Die" political cartoon, is up for auction. Estimate: $100,000 – $200,000

One of only a handful of known existing original copies of Benjamin Franklin's celebrated "Join, or Die" editorial cartoon, from the May 9, 1754 edition of The Pennsylvania Gazette – the single most famous and important American editorial cartoon in existence, and one of the most famous ever printed – will be offered for the first time at auction and is expected to bring well in excess of $100,000+ when it crosses the block  as part of Heritage Auctions' Sept. 13 Signature Historical Manuscripts Auction.

"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."

Benjamin Franklin's woodcut illustration of a snake severed into eight sections, each one representing one of the colonies, is the stuff of legend, burned into the collective American consciousness from the time most citizens were in grade school. The appearance of this copy at auction – the only other known copy is in the Library of Congress –constitutes a major event in the annals of American auction history.

"Franklin used the illustration, along with his accompanying editorial, to vividly explain the importance of colonial unity in 1754 shortly before the French and Indian War," said Jaster. "Its prescient call for American unity may not have worked the way Franklin planned it in 1754, but it plainly sowed the seeds of the need for unity in the face of the looming American Revolution, some 22 years in the future."

First publication of the "Join, or Die" editorial cartoon