The Second Continental Congress authorized the mustering of five companies of Marines to accompany the Navy on their first mission. The first Marines enlisted in the city of Philadelphia, and they carried drums painted yellow, depicting a coiled rattlesnake, and the motto "Dont Tread On Me." This is the first recorded mention of the Gadsden flag's symbolism.
At the Second Continental Congress, Continental Colonel Christopher Gadsden represented his home state of South Carolina. He was one of seven members of the Marine Committee who were outfitting the first naval mission.
Before the departure of that first mission in December 1775, the newly appointed commander-in-chief of the Navy, Commodore Esek Hopkins, received the yellow rattlesnake flag from Gadsden to serve as the distinctive personal standard of his flagship. It was displayed at the mainmast.
Gadsden also presented a copy of this flag to the Congress of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina. This was recorded in the South Carolina congressional journals on February 9, 1776:
Col. Gadsden presented to the Congress an elegant standard, such as is to be used by the commander in chief of the American Navy; being a yellow field, with a lively representation of a rattlesnake in the middle in the attitude of going to strike and these words underneath, "Dont tread on me."
The flag is 3'x5' and made from a premium 100 denier polyester. It has a white header with two grommets. There are four rows of stitches on the fly and two rows on the top, bottom, and header side. The image is screen printed and appears on both sides. Writing will be reversed on the back.
3'x5' flags are 3 feet x 5 feet, 36 inches by 60 inches, 91 cm by 152 cm, 1 yard by 1.7 yards. This is the most common size flag you see hanging on porches, small flag poles, hanging at festivals, and inside of bars and restaurants.