Every reader of The Sun has seen it a thousand times, the intricate engraving atop each day's newspaper that promises "Light For All." But few know the meaning of its symbols and how they have changed over the past century and a half, an evolution that continues today as we introduce a new version that refines the engraving and gives it a three-dimensional look.
Only two of the symbols in today's nameplate, a locomotive and a ship, have appeared in every version since The Sun published its first edition on May 17, 1837.
Originally, they were set against what was then the Inner Harbor, which author John Barth described in a 1987 article about the nameplate's history as looking "much like Venice or Istanbul." They symbolize Baltimore's heritage as a port city and home of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad.
The sun's rays, symbolic of the words that would become the newspaper's motto, first appeared on May 6, 1839. That nameplate showed two goddesses holding up what Mr. Barth described as "a large ring of Polish sausages" encircling the rising sun, with the locomotive steaming off to the right and the ship sailing away to the left.
The nameplate as we now know it began to take shape in a revision introduced on May 18, 1840. For the first time, it included the words "Light For All," as well as many of the other elements still there today.
Among them were an anchor, symbolizing Baltimore's role as a shipbuilding center; a sheaf of grain, paying homage to agriculture; a palette, to show the community's commitment to the arts; a beehive, honoring the industriousness of Maryland's workers; and the Greek goddess of Justice, Themis.
It was not until March 8, 1852, that the final elements of today's nameplate appeared, an eagle with its wings outspread perched atop a federal shield. The eagle, of course, is the symbol of the United States, added at a time when tensions that would lead to the Civil War were building. The shield has 13 stars, recognizing Maryland's role as one of the original colonies.
Since then there have been minor changes, but the nameplate has remained more or less the same. That's true of the version introduced today as well. It does, however, add a touch that brings us back to the beginning.
The original nameplate of 1837 showed, off to the left, a small ship powered by both steam and sail. If you look closely at today's version, you'll notice that the ship off to the right has its sails unfurled and steam pouring from its smokestack.