Where did the peace sign come from?

(Photo: Getty Images)

(Photo: Getty Images)

By Melissa Breyer
More from Care2 Green Living blog

It is instantly recognizable as a sign of peace, but what is the symbolism behind the peace sign?

The olive branch came from ancient Greece, the dove from the Bible … but where did that circle with the chicken-footprint come from?

Rewind back to 1958 when London textile designer, Gerald Holtom, wanted to create a symbol for marchers to carry on banners and signs at a "Ban the Bomb" march planned by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC). The event was Britain’s first major demonstration against nuclear weapons -- a 52-mile march from London to the town of Aldermaston, home to an A-bomb research center.

Members of the DAC came to the march emblazoned with Holtom’s circle-with-lines symbol; but to bystanders, its meaning was a mystery.

Nowadays we all know what the symbol stands for, but what is the meaning behind the design? Holtom created the symbol by combining flag semaphore signals, an alphabet signalling system where flags are waved in a particular pattern to symbolize different letters. The system was used in the maritime world in the 1800s to convey information at a distance.

Holtom used the signals for the letters "N" for nuclear and "D" for disarmament and put them in a circle. The symbol is essentially a logo for the concept of nuclear disarmament! Such graphic elegance.

Later the symbol was adopted by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). In 1960, the peace sign was imported to the United States via a peace sign button brought from the U.K. to the U.S. by Philip Altbach, a freshman at the University of Chicago.

The symbol had shown up here and there in the U.S. prior to that, but when Altbach convinced the Student Peace Union to adopt the sign as its symbol, the popularity of the peace sign grew immensely. By the late 1960s, the peace sign had become an international symbol adopted by anti-war protesters, and it doesn't seem to be losing steam any time soon.

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Comments 1-10 of 652
  • amber's Avatar
    Posted by amber Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:17pm PDT

    Cool :)

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  • MoneyBagz480's Avatar
    Posted by MoneyBagz480 Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:19pm PDT

    its actually DN for "disarm now" but close enough...

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  • Smiley's Avatar
    Posted by Smiley Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:20pm PDT

    I will continue to let my Freak Flag Fly.

    And Give A Peace Sign With My Hand.

    Peace and Blessings to all,All the time.

    Not Just in The Cold Winter:)

    Peace be unto all.

    Report Abuse
  • joe j's Avatar
    Posted by joe j Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:21pm PDT

    Well someone had to take credit i guess. this seems as good as explaination as any. seems kind of far out, but ok.

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  • Kat in TX's Avatar
    Posted by Kat in TX Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:25pm PDT

    as a former flower child no it is a peace sign, and yes i've heard of the nd, for nuclear disarmanet

    have no idea where you got your info petrovich but it is wrong

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  • Christian's Avatar
    Posted by Christian Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:25pm PDT

    you idiot the jewish faith dosent hate christianity they are a branch of christians so yeah besides why would the peace sign mean hate makes no sense baka

    Report Abuse
  • what about us's Avatar
    Posted by what about us Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:27pm PDT

    I think that I need to revisit the 50's 60's and part of the the seventies again for my own sanity, as todays world seems to be monotimus and going nowhere. Time to relive the good ole days. I think retro is going to be very big in the upcoming years. Maybe even make some money at it. Live on Ed "BIG DADDY" Roth! Oh, did I forget to mention I still drive a 1971 VW VAN. People are always stopping me or giving me the peace sign. I love it! What the heck a lot of us have to start over again anyways, might as well enjoy it, no matter what anyone thinks. Ha!, so there you have it, like it or not.

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  • Jeffery's Avatar
    Posted by Jeffery Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:29pm PDT

    Being of military upbringing, and having several relatives who served in Vietnam Ive always heard it referred as the footprint of the American Chicken,...hmmm peace sign you say,..whatever

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  • TellTruth's Avatar
    Posted by TellTruth Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:29pm PDT

    In the early 70's, after it being a logo for peaceniks for a decade, the peace sign was said to be an evil symbol. Why didn't some signal corpsman speak out before now? Oh yeah because it was also displayed by many pot smoking beatniks and hippies of which that use of is now nearly legal. I guess that is enlightenment- sometimes it's in a flash sometimes it has to wait a long time to be seen. The peace sign never insulted the Cross of Jesus Christ.

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  • Brian's Avatar
    Posted by Brian Thu Sep 30, 2010 4:31pm PDT

    I agree with St. Petrovich. Yahoo had an article within a year ago that said some woman designed the peace sign in the 60's. I wish I can remember her name. It was a ridiculous story also. This symbol is much older than both stories portray... like ancient. Some say satanists, as part of an initiation ceremony, turn a wooden cross upside down and break down the arms signifying a renunciation of Christ and God. This story is another attempt by the liberal media to blur history and dumb down the masses.

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Comments 1-10 of 652

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