From 1837 to the present, The Sun's nameplate has been modified 14 times.
It has been a stalwart and trusted component of The Sun ever since
Vol. 1, No. 1 came off founder A.S. Abell's printing press on May 17, 1837.
SUN VIGNETTES THROUGH THE YEARS
A look at a the evolution of the Sun's signature logo shows the present vignette's ingredients, if not their final positions.
It's technically called the The Sun's nameplate, the name of the paper
adorned with emblematic and symbolic artwork.
It was H.L. Mencken, longtime Sun editor and
writer,who gave the artwork its correct and
perhaps more elegant name. He referred to it as
"the vignette," and for 168 years it has
endured, with alterations, additions and deletions.
"French for 'young vine,' vignette is the printer's
term for those vine-like or floral traceries
sometimes used to border a page, such as the
oakleaf-edged cover of the old National
Geographic," wrote author John Barth in a 1987
article in The Sun.
And today, we unveil a colorized version of the
nameplate, illustrated by Martin Coté of
Toronto. Sharp-eyed readers will observe two of
its original components -- a steam locomotive
and sailing ship -- that have been included in
every issue of the newspaper since 1837, have
been slightly altered.
The steam locomotive has regained its 19th century
balloon stack, from which trails a ribbon
of anthracite coal smoke.
The steam and sail-driven ship, once a common
arrangement during the transition from
the age of canvas to steam-powered vessels, is
now minus its belching funnel. Its sails, however,
appear to be fuller as if swollen by stout
Throughout most of The Sun's history, the locomotive
and ship have been traveling in opposite
It was in the 1995 redesign that they assumed
their present alignment.
The inclusion of the locomotive, no doubt,
commemorates the founding in 1827 of the
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the nation's first
common-carrier railroad, and very much a
Baltimore- and Maryland-funded enterprise.
The ship -- to which was later added an anchor
-- reflects the city's shipyards, role as a major
port and link to international commerce.
A rising sun with finger-like rays first made its
appearance on May 6, 1839. It was then encircled
by two goddesses holding what Mr. Barth
described as "a large ring of Polish sausages."
That was a precursor of the newspaper's
motto, "Light For All," which made its debut on
May 18, 1840, on a banner held aloft in the beak
of an eagle riding the thermals above a rising
It would later be placed paralleling the curve
of a larger rising sun, where it remained until
1983, when it was moved to its present location
at the base of the vignette.
Since March 8, 1852, an eagle, the symbol of the
United States, has been perched atop a federal
shield with 13 stars representing the nation's
original 13 colonies, of which Maryland was the
seventh. As of today, the eagle has a wider wingspread,
and the shield is colored a patriotic red,
white and blue.
Many items introduced in the 1840 nameplate
remain today, among them Themis, the Greek
goddess of justice, who holds a sword in her
right hand and the scales of justice in the other.
A brush and palette recognize arts and culture,
while a beehive represents the state's industrial
workers. A tied sheaf of wheat standing behind
the beehive honors the state's agricultural community.
A bit of vignette trivia: From 1837 to the present,
the nameplate has been modified 14 times.
A serious revision was suggested in 1965 when
the newspaper's promotion manager, G. Elmore
Evans, suggested in a letter to Donald H.
Patterson Sr., general manager of The Sun, that
"the vignette definitely lacks a tone of the times.
There is a total of 21 objects shown in our present
vignette; unbelievable but true."
He then furnished a detailed bill of lading:
"Land, sun rays, two beehives, eagle, woman,
locomotive, water, ship, paper scroll, artist's
palette and brushes, shield, sword, viaduct, sun,
lighthouse, anchor, bale of cotton, scale of justice,
sheaf of wheat, sickle."
Mr. Evans suggested in updating the image a
number of items ought to go, while introducing
a modern diesel locomotive and ocean liner to
replace the ancient transportation relics. He
even thought a jet airliner wouldn't be out of
When Mr. Patterson approached Charles H.
"Buck" Dorsey Jr., The Sun's managing editor, he
was greeted with a less than enthusiastic reception.
In a letter to Mr. Patterson, Mr. Dorsey wrote, "I
am a complete conservative in such matters,
and I would not want to change."
There the matter rested until 1982,when thenpublisher
Reg Murphy convened a study of the
nameplate. The new Murphy-era nameplate was
introduced in 1983 and remained untouched
until Roger Black's 1995 redesign of the newspaper,
which introduced a more three-dimensional
The late Clement G. Vitek, The Sun's chief
librarian for 36 years until his retirement in
1985, left a typed note in the newspaper's files
"The vignette of the morning paper, that is, the
words The Sun and the design showing the
female figure with sword and scales plus the
railroad train, etc., is registered with the U.S.
Patent Office and is re-registered every 20 years
as the trademark of The Sun. This does not constitute
a copyright of the paper. The registration
number is 230093."