Happy birthday peace symbol

The peace symbol is turning 50 this year. It was designed by Gerald Holtom for the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC), in Britain, and completed February 21, 1958, in time for the Easter march planned by DAC from Trafalgar Square, London, to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in England. Of course it later became the internationally recognized icon for the 1960s anti-war movement and the general counterculture of the time.

A bit of geeky trivia: The symbol does not represent a bird’s foot as is often suggested. It’s actually semaphoric signals (flag signaling) for the letters “N” and “D,” standing for Nuclear Disarmament.

Semaphore November Semaphore ‘N’

Semaphore Delta Semaphore ‘D’

These two signals imposed over each other, surrounded by a circle, form the shape of the peace symbol.

Holtom later told the editor of Peace News that there was also an intent to convey despair through the symbol. “I was in despair. Deep despair,” he wrote. “I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya’s peasant before the firing squad. I formalised the drawing into a line and put a circle round it.”

Peace out.