Social Studies – Cultural Myth From Lin Kuzmich Spring 2012
Understanding the Roots of “Cultural Myth” Facts about the actual event: • The text for this document was ratified by the delegates on July 4, 1776 • The U. S. Revolution began more than a year before the signing of this declaration. Therefore the signing of the Declaration was not the start of the war or the precipitating event • There was a war going on when this was signed • The men in the painting stopped by individually or in small groups to sign this document • Many came from their states, property and businesses, or assisting with the organization of war efforts. Most of the 56 were wealthy, however some fought in the revolution, many of their sons fought and only a handful died as a direct or indirect result of these events Questions: • So, why did such well known events turn into this “cultural myth” and are now regarded by most Americans as the truth as if it were a photo? • What do you think John Turnbull was told when he was commissioned to paint this scene? Why? How did the times (early 1800’s) influence this painting? • How has photography in 2012 and Facebook changed or increased the idea of visual cultural myths?
What did the original depiction imply when printed in the Pennsylvania Gazette?
From the work of David Copeland, who studied newspaper accounts of this period of U.S. History • In the May 9 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, a woodcut of a disjointed rattlesnake, whose parts represented the separate colonies, appeared. It was preceded by the observations that "the present disunited State of the British Colonies, and the extreme Difficulty of bringing so many different Governments and Assemblies to agree in any speedy and effectual Measures for our common Defense and Security" almost surely ensured "the Destruction of the British Interest, Trade and Plantations in America." • The "JOIN, or DIE" snake, the work of Gazette printer Benjamin Franklin, quickly appeared in other newspapers. The New-York Mercury produced its own woodcut of the disjointed snake to run with the call for a united British America on May 13. Boston Gazette printer Samuel Kneeland recreated the snake and added the words, "Unite and Conquer," coming from the snake's mouth. Other papers described the snake and its calls for unity but did not create a woodcut.