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The "Whiskey Rebellion" was the first major protest against taxes levied by the United States.

( The more famous Boston Tea Party protested taxes imposed by the British )

At issue was a tax on whiskey that had been established as a way to pay off debts from the Revolutionary War. The Rebellion ocurred primarily in Western Pennsylvania and involved many demonstrations, protests and skirmishes with authorities. Some of these turned violent, including tax agents being tarred & feathered, buildings set afire and several deaths. Many of the most significant events ocurred in and around Pittsburgh. In 1794, George Washington sent 12,500 troops to suppress the Rebellion, personally leading them as far as Bedford, PA. By the time the federal army arrived in Pittsburgh an advance delegation had met with rebel leaders to negotiate an end to violence and the troops withdrew without firing a shot. Two historic sites from the Whiskey Rebellion still exist in the Pittsburgh area, within a few miles of The Flag Factory:  (1) Oliver Miller Homestead ( where the first shots of the Whiskey Rebellion were fired ) and (2) Woodville Plantation ( owned by tax agent John Neville, whose other home was burned to the ground by an angry mob ).

We offer two interpretations of the flag of the period that has come to be known as the "Whiskey Rebellion Flag".


Tea Party or Whiskey Rebellion ?

Taking their name and inspiration from the Boston Tea Party of 1773, “Tea Party” rallies have become  popular as a way to express disagreement with taxes and various government programs. Although it was created a few years after the actual Boston Tea Party, the “Dont Tread on Me” Gadsden flag (shown here) is usually seen in great numbers at the modern rallies and seems to be the de facto flag to represent the movement. 

Dont Tread on Me Flag

Gadsden Flag

However, it could be argued that another historical event and its associated flag might be a more appropriate symbol for tax protesters. The Boston Tea Party was staged to protest taxes on tea that the British goverment had levied on the American colonies despite the colonies having no one to represent them in Parliament.  But The Whiskey Rebellion was the first major protest by U.S. citizens against taxes levied by the U.S. government. In 1791, Congress imposed a tax on whiskey as a way to help pay off the debts the new government has incurred in fighting the Revolutionay War.  The tax was very unpopular and sparked many localized protests and rallies over the next few years, particularly in western Pennsylvania. Some of these turned violent, involving tarring & feathering of tax agents, burning of buildings and several deaths. The Rebellion reached its peak in and around Pittsburgh in 1794 with the death of a local farmer and the narrow escape of a tax collector from his burning home that had been set ablaze by an angry mob. President George Washington dispatched an army of over 12,000 troops to quell the revolt and personally led it halfway to Pittsburgh. By the time the army arrived, a peaceful end to the rebellion had been negotiated by an advance delegation of government representitives and the army withdrew without firing a shot.

A flag of the period displayed in a local inn has come to be regarded as the “Whiskey Rebellion Flag” . Although it is unclear if this flag had any actual connection to the historical event.  The Flag Factory offers two interpretations of the Whiskey Rebellion flag.

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