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I wrote an e-mail to Jim Gaines regarding his article, "Rep. Boehner's brother loves pasta, not policy" that appeared in The Times on Monday. I was curious why he referred to the "Gadsden Flag" as the "tea party" flag.
I doubt this was not news to him, and please forgive me for repeating the history. The commonly referred to Gadsden flag with the (timber) rattlesnake was based, in part, on a political cartoon, that became an often used symbol of the colonies, was created by Benjamin Franklin. However, Franklin is not associated with development of the rattlesnake flag.
Christopher Gadsden led the Sons of Liberty in South Carolina starting in 1765, and was later made a colonel in the Continental Army. In 1775, he represented South Carolina in the Continental Congress. He was on the congressional Marine Committee who decided to outfit and man the ship, Alfred and its sister ships.
Gadsden and Congress chose a Rhode Island man, Esek Hopkins, as the commander-in-chief of the Navy. The flag that Hopkins used as his personal standard on the Alfred is the one now considered the Gadsden flag. It's generally accepted that Hopkins' flag was presented to him by Christopher Gadsden. Gadsden also presented a copy of this flag to his state legislature in Charleston.