The peace symbol has become the universally recognized icon of peace. Though most Americans identify it with the Vietnam War protests of the 1960s, it was originally designed and used in Great Britain.
In 1958, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament wanted a symbol to be used at marches and sit-downs (which came to be known in the USA as sit-ins). As it happened, Gerald Holtom, a professional graphic designer and member of the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War, had already created the symbol to be worn as a badge during a demonstration against Aldermaston, a British research center and manufacturer of nuclear weapons. Ironically, the CND was already planning an anti-nuclear march from London to Aldermaston during Easter weekend of that year. The two got together and it was during that march that the peace symbol made its first appearance.
Many have speculated about the origin of the design itself. As with most things, it's much simpler than most try to make it. The vertical bar and shorter bars are found in the alphabet of Navy Semaphore flags. The letter “N" is represented by holding a pair of flags down and outward at a 45 degree angle, one flag in each hand. The letter “D" is signified by holding both flags in a vertical position, one flag directly overhead, the other straight downward. So the vertical bar of the peace symbol represents the letter “D" while the two lower bars form the letter “N". The letters themselves stand for “Nuclear Disarmament".
As it happened, an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. attended the London-to-Aldermaston march and carried the peace symbol back across the Atlantic with him. Thanks to that man, Bayard Ruston, the peace symbol quickly made its appearance at civil rights marches in the USA. Its popularity spread and was used from the very beginning of our own anti-war movement that swept across the nation from college campuses to Washington, D. C. during the Vietnam War. It also became a fashion statement of the time and was often found embroidered on denim, splashed on posters, and crafted into jewelry.
While doves and olive branches are also associated with peace, Holtom's design endures as the iconic universal symbol of peace. Today, the peace symbol is enjoying a resurgence of popularity in the field of fashion. While some people still wear it as an anti-war statement, others wear it as a symbol of universal brotherhood or a touchstone for tranquility. The classic design of the peace symbol will endure for generations to come, because the desire for peace never goes out of style.
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Sue A. Richardson is owner of Giving Angels , an online store which offers angel gifts, as well as items with animal and nature, peace, and celestial sun, moon, and star themes. In addition, you'll find a wealth of angel lore, angel recipes, and resources to nurture your spirit. A portion of every item sold (whether or not it's an angel) is donated to charity.