Monday, May 23, 2011

The History of the Peace Sign

Throughout history, numerous visual images have symbolized peace. These include images of doves, olive branches, broken rifles and the sign language V used by Sir Winston Churchill during World War II. Later signaled by hippies to represent both peace and love.

One peace sign that is recognizable to many is the peace sign designed by Gerald Holtom. It is the familiar round circle with a line down the middle and two slanted lines, about half the length of the vertical line. The slanted lines attach to the vertical line, slightly below its direct middle, and continue to the perimeter of the circle.

This particular peace sign is also called the peace symbol, and it can be referred to as the CND. Initially, Holtom designed the sign in 1958 for the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC). During the early '60's British 'Ban the Bomb' advocates for nuclear disarmament formed the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), and used Holtom’s sign as a badge. While the sign initially stood for nuclear disarmament, it quickly became a symbol for peace, adopted in the 1960s by the strong anti-war and counterculture movements occurring in both England and the United States. Buttons with the peace sign first made their way to the US in 1960.

If you’re familiar with semaphore, the use of flag movement and hand positions to signal letters that can be understood from a distance, the peace sign makes sense. It incorporates the semaphore positions for the letters N and D and stands specifically for nuclear disarmament. Additionally, Holtom suggested the interior lines were that of a person, standing with arms down in a despairing pose.

Now known as an international sign for peace, it is very common to see people wearing clothing, flying flags, holding placards and banners proudly displaying the symbol.

Worldwide millions of people have demonstrated against war. How sad that this is still needed today. Here are the latest statistics on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars:

Casualties in Iraq
and Afghanistan -
The Human Cost of Occupation

Total # U.S. Military Deaths - 6,034

US Military Deaths - Iraq


US Military Deaths - Afghanistan


Long may we remember them



1 comment:

Suze said...

Strange to think that something so profoundly embedded in modern consciousness had an entry point in history that was not that long ago.