A peace symbol ( ☮ ) is a representation or object that has come to symbolize peace. The dove and the olive branch, or a dove carrying an olive branch in its beak, are ancient symbols of peace; in the latter part of the twentieth century, the peace sign, developed by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and the V hand signal came into use around the world.
The internationally recognized symbol for peace was originally designed for the British nuclear disarmament movement. It was designed and completed on 21 February 1958 by Gerald Holtom, a professional designer and artist in Britain for the 4 April march planned by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC) from Trafalgar Square, London to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in England. The symbol was later adopted by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). It was adopted by first the 1960s anti-war movement, then the counterculture, and finally the popular culture of the time.
The peace sign flag first became known in the Soviet Union in 1958 when Albert Bigelow, a pacifist protester, sailed his small boat outfitted with the CND banner into the vicinity of a nuclear test.
The peace sign button was imported into the United States in 1960 by Philip Altbach, a freshman at the University of Chicago, who traveled to England to meet with British peace groups as a delegate from the Student Peace Union (SPU). Altbach purchased a bag of the "chickentrack" buttons while he was in England, and brought them back to Chicago, where he convinced SPU to reprint the button and adopt it as its symbol. Over the next four years, SPU reproduced and sold thousands of the buttons on college campuses. By the late 1960s, the peace sign had become an international symbol adopted by anti-war protestors of the Baby Boom Generation.
The symbol itself is a combination of the semaphoric signals for the letters "N" and "D," standing for Nuclear Disarmament. In semaphore the letter "N" is formed by a person holding two flags in an upside-down "V," and the letter "D" is formed by holding one flag pointed straight up and the other pointed straight down. Superimposing these two signs forms the shape of the centre of the peace symbol. In the first official CND version (which was preceded by a ceramic pin version that had straight lines, but was short lived) the spokes curved out to be wider at the edge of the circle, which was white on black.
Holtom later wrote to Hugh Brock, editor of Peace News, explaining the genesis of his idea in greater depth: "I was in despair. Deep despair. 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." Ken Kolsbum, a correspondent of Holtom's, says that the designer came to regret the symbolism of despair, as he felt that peace was something to be celebrated and wanted the symbol to be inverted.
The gravestone of Ed Bishop, actor and anti-war campaigner, has a peace symbol prominently engraved on it.
The "V-sign", also called the "peace sign", "peace out" and the "victory sign," is a hand gesture with the index and middle fingers open and all others closed. It was used as a sign for victory during the Second World War by Winston Churchill, originally with palm inwards; Churchill switched to palm outwards later in the war, possibly because the insulting meaning of the palm inwards version had been explained to him.
This developed into a peace sign during protests in the USA against the Vietnam War (and subsequent anti-war protests), and was adopted by the South and North Americans counterculture as a sign of peace. Because the hippies of the day often showed the sign while saying "Peace", it became known as the peace sign, the name still used today.
The peace flag is a series of nine rainbow stripes with the word for peace printed in the center. The first such flags made were emblazoned with PACE (Peace in Italian and Romanian, derived from the Latin word pax, pronounced pah-chay). Previous Italian peace flags had featured a dove drawn by Pablo Picasso; the new design first appeared in an Italian peace march as early as September 24, 1961, in an Italian peace march.
The flag is often flown from balconies in Italy by citizens opposed to the Iraq war. Its use has spread to other countries as well, with the Italian "pace" replaced with its translation in various other languages.
In recent years, especially in connection with the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, there has been a surge in popularity of the Peace flag. According to Amnesty International, producer Franco Belsito had produced only about 10,000 flags annually for 60 years, and suddenly had to cope with a demand in the range of millions.
In Judaism and Christianity an olive branch is a sign for peace. The Torah (The Old Testament)describes a story in which a dove was released by Noah after the Great Flood in order to find land. The dove came back carrying an olive branch in its beak, proof for Noah that the Great Flood had receded. (Book of Genesis 8:11).
The motif can also represent "hope for peace" and even a peace offering from one man to another, as in the phrase "extend an olive branch".
The Hebrew word "Shalom" (Hebrew: שָׁלוֹם), and the Arabic "Salaam" (Arabic: سلام) have been used as peace symbols. Shalom and Salaam literally mean "peace" and are cognates of each other, derived from the Semitic triconsonantal of Ś-L-M (realized in Hebrew as Š-L-M and in Arabic as S-L-M).
The congruence of both words has come to represent "peace in the Middle East" and an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Its significance is such that wall plaques and signs are sold with only those words, and the words are featured in such Israeli peace songs such as "Salaam (Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu)", sung in both Hebrew and Arabic, and "Shalom Salaam Peace" by HaMehona Shel HaGruv.
A peace sign in Arabic, English and Hebrew
"Shalom" in blue "Salaam" in green "Peace" in orange
The White Poppy campaign began in 1932 by the Women's Co-operative Guild to distribute an alternative to the Red Poppies used to commemorate British military dead, and the first poppies were distributed in 1933. The newly-formed Peace Pledge Union (PPU) joined in distributing them in 1934, and white poppy wreaths were laid "as a pledge to peace that war must not happen again". In 1980, the PPU revived the symbol as a form of remembering the victims of war without glorifying militarism.
The Broken Rifle symbol associated with War Resisters' International and its affiliates actually predates the foundation of WRI in 1921.
The first known example of the Broken Rifle was in the mast-head of the January 1909 issue of De Wapens Neder (Down With Weapons), the monthly paper of the International Antimilitarist Union in the Netherlands. In 1915 it appeared on the cover of a pamphlet, Under det brukne Gevaer (Under the Broken Rifle), published by the Norwegian Social Democratic Youth Association. The (German) League for War Victims, founded in 1917, used the broken rifle on a 1919 banner. In 1921, Belgian workers marching through La Louvrière on 16 October 1921, carried flags showing a soldier breaking his rifle.
Ernst Friedrich, a German who had refused military service, founded the Anti-Kriegs Museum in Berlin with a bas-relief broken rifle over the door, and the Museum distributed broken rifle badges, girl's and women's brooches, boy's belt buckles, and men's tie pins.
The crane is a traditional symbol in Japan for, among other things, peace. Paper cranes are often folded, especially around the time of the New Year; a thousand origami cranes is a symbol of good luck.
Some unique items have come to symbolize peace. For example, the Japanese Peace Bell was a gift from the UN Association of Japan to the United Nations, presented to them in 1954. The bell remains at UN headquarters and is struck yearly, in remembrance of peace.