The Baltimore Sun logo and its history

current vignette

An emblem of trust
shines on Baltimore
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.
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 paperadorned with emblematic and symbolic artwork.

It was H.L. Mencken, longtime Sun editor andwriter,who gave the artwork its correct andperhaps more elegant name. He referred to it as"the vignette," and for 168 years it hasendured, with alterations, additions and deletions.

"French for 'young vine,' vignette is the printer'sterm for those vine-like or floral traceriessometimes used to border a page, such as theoakleaf-edged cover of the old NationalGeographic," wrote author John Barth in a 1987article in The Sun.

And today, we unveil a colorized version of thenameplate, illustrated by Martin Coté ofToronto. Sharp-eyed readers will observe two ofits original components -- a steam locomotiveand sailing ship -- that have been included inevery issue of the newspaper since 1837, havebeen slightly altered.

The steam locomotive has regained its 19th centuryballoon stack, from which trails a ribbonof anthracite coal smoke.

The steam and sail-driven ship, once a commonarrangement during the transition fromthe age of canvas to steam-powered vessels, isnow minus its belching funnel. Its sails, however,appear to be fuller as if swollen by stoutocean breezes.

Throughout most of The Sun's history, the locomotiveand ship have been traveling in oppositedirections.

It was in the 1995 redesign that they assumedtheir present alignment.

The inclusion of the locomotive, no doubt,commemorates the founding in 1827 of theBaltimore & Ohio Railroad, the nation's firstcommon-carrier railroad, and very much aBaltimore- and Maryland-funded enterprise.The ship -- to which was later added an anchor-- reflects the city's shipyards, role as a majorport and link to international commerce.

A rising sun with finger-like rays first made itsappearance on May 6, 1839. It was then encircledby two goddesses holding what Mr. Barthdescribed as "a large ring of Polish sausages."

That was a precursor of the newspaper'smotto, "Light For All," which made its debut onMay 18, 1840, on a banner held aloft in the beakof an eagle riding the thermals above a risingsun.

It would later be placed paralleling the curveof a larger rising sun, where it remained until1983, when it was moved to its present locationat the base of the vignette.

Since March 8, 1852, an eagle, the symbol of theUnited States, has been perched atop a federalshield with 13 stars representing the nation'soriginal 13 colonies, of which Maryland was theseventh. 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 nameplateremain today, among them Themis, the Greekgoddess of justice, who holds a sword in herright hand and the scales of justice in the other.A brush and palette recognize arts and culture,while a beehive represents the state's industrialworkers. A tied sheaf of wheat standing behindthe 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 whenthe newspaper's promotion manager, G. ElmoreEvans, 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 presentvignette; unbelievable but true."

He then furnished a detailed bill of lading:"Land, sun rays, two beehives, eagle, woman,locomotive, water, ship, paper scroll, artist'spalette 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 anumber of items ought to go, while introducinga modern diesel locomotive and ocean liner toreplace the ancient transportation relics. Heeven thought a jet airliner wouldn't be out ofplace.

When Mr. Patterson approached Charles H."Buck" Dorsey Jr., The Sun's managing editor, hewas greeted with a less than enthusiastic reception.

In a letter to Mr. Patterson, Mr. Dorsey wrote, "Iam a complete conservative in such matters,and I would not want to change."

There the matter rested until 1982,when thenpublisherReg Murphy convened a study of thenameplate. The new Murphy-era nameplate wasintroduced in 1983 and remained untoucheduntil Roger Black's 1995 redesign of the newspaper,which introduced a more three-dimensionalone.

The late Clement G. Vitek, The Sun's chieflibrarian for 36 years until his retirement in1985, left a typed note in the newspaper's filesfor posterity:

"The vignette of the morning paper, that is, thewords The Sun and the design showing thefemale figure with sword and scales plus therailroad train, etc., is registered with the U.S.Patent Office and is re-registered every 20 yearsas the trademark of The Sun. This does not constitutea copyright of the paper. The registrationnumber is 230093."

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