Naval ships use many ways to communicate their origin and intentions, but the most commonly used techniques that were in regular use during the height of the era known today as the Golden Age of Piracy was the simple raising of the flag on the highest position of the ship. Privateers and pirates of those years became famous for showcasing ominous-looking flags that clearly showcased their intentions.
Those flags, later known under the name “Jolly Rodger”, were often black or red with clear markings that were associated with death, devil or warfare – devils, skeletons, spears, swords, daggers, classes, hearts, blood, skulls, and bones. The pirate flags of such design were mostly hidden away, enabling pirate ships to retain an aura of authenticity while sailing near unsuspecting merchant ships or when close to the populated areas and ports. But as soon the pirate ships were ready to pounce in an attack, the pirate flag would rise.
Because of his popularity, Blackbeard’s flag remained a point of contention among many historians who tried to determine exact design of the flag that chilled the blood in the veins of his victims.
However, history is not entirely clear on the exact design of his Jolly Rodgers flag. Two designs compete for one against other, with conflicting reports describing a situation in which is even possible that Blackbeard had more than one flag design in use. The most widely accepted pirate flag design used by Blackbeard has the black background on which skeleton toasts the devil with one hand, and spears the bleeding heart with another. This design and variations of it were very popular among pirate crews of the early 1700s, and it is possible that this design gave birth to the term “Jolly Rodger flag”.
The other design that Blackbeard most likely used more than this one has the most famous pirate flag design of all time – a black background, white human skull and two crossed bones below it. This pirate flag design was originally popularized bu the pirates such as "Black Sam" Bellamy and Edward England, but writer pseudonym Charles Johnson mentioned several times in his extremely famous 1724 book “A General History of the Pyrates” that Edward Tech’s flag was also of that identical look. The same book also popularized many stylized elements that would later become an integral part of the popular notions of piracy and romanticized view of the entire age of Caribbean piracy such as Jolly Rodger flags, pirates with one leg or eye, buried pirate treasures and almost mythical pirate captain abilities in combat and plunder.