Western use of the swastika in the early 20th century
The swastika (from Sanskrit svástika) is an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles, in either right-facing (卐) form or its mirrored left-facing (卍) form. Archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates from the Neolithic period and was first found in the Indus Valley Civilization of the Indian subcontinent. The swastika (gammadion, "fylfot") symbol became (as it had long been in the Asian World) a popular symbol of luck in the Western world in the early 20th century. Although the Nazi Party adopted the symbol in the 1920s, it continued in use in Western countries with its original meaning until the Nazi association became dominant in the 1930s. The term swastika is first attested in English in 1871, and first refers to the Nazi emblem in 1932.
The discovery of the Indo-European language group in the 1790s led to a great effort by archaeologists to link the pre-history of European people to the ancient "Aryans" (variously referring to the Indo-Iranians or the Proto-Indo-Europeans). Following his discovery of objects bearing the swastika square in the ruins of Troy, Heinrich Schliemann consulted two leading Sanskrit scholars of the day, Emile Burnouf and Max Müller. Schliemann concluded that the Swastika square was a specifically Indo-European symbol, and associated it with the ancient migrations of Proto-Indo-Europeans. He connected it with similar shapes found on ancient pots in Germany, and theorised that the swastika square was a "significant religious symbol of our remote ancestors", linking Germanic, Greek and Indo-Iranian cultures. Later discoveries of the motif among the remains of the Hittites and of ancient Iran seemed to confirm this theory, but the symbol was also known for its use by indigenous American Indians as well as Eastern cultures.
These discoveries, and the new popularity of the swastika symbol, led to a widespread desire to ascribe symbolic significance to every example of the motif. In Germanic countries examples of identical shapes in ancient European artefacts and in folk art were interpreted as emblems of good-luck linked by academics to the Indo-Iranian meaning. By the early 20th century it was widely used worldwide and was regarded as a symbol of good luck.
The swastika's world wide use was well documented in an 1894 publication by the Smithsonian. The symbol appeared in many popular, non-political Western designs from the 1880s to the 1920s, with occasional use continuing into the 1930s.
Western use of the motif, along with the religious and cultural meanings attached to it, was subverted in the early 20th century after it was adopted as the emblem of the Nazi Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei). This association occurred because Nazism stated that the historical Aryans were the forefathers of modern Germans and then proposed that, because of this, the subjugation of the world by Germany was desirable, and even predestined. The swastika was used as a conveniently geometrical and eye-catching symbol to emphasise the so-called Aryan-German correspondence and instill racial pride. Since World War II, most Westerners have known the swastika as solely a Nazi symbol, leading to incorrect assumptions about its pre-Nazi use in the West and confusion about its sacred religious and historical status in other cultures.
Sydney has two notable buildings using the swastika as an architectural element. The 1920s-era Dymocks Building in George Street, Sydney includes a multi-level shopping arcade, the tiled floors of which incorporate numerous left-facing swastikas. A brass explanatory sign, probably dating to World War II, is affixed to the wall near the elevator doors on each floor of the building, and refers to it as a "fylfot", emphasising that its use in the building pre-dates any Nazi connotations or usage. In nearby Circular Quay, the Customs House also has fylfot tiles in the front entrance area dating from the same period, with a plaque to explain the symbols.
The Anglo-Indian author Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936), who was strongly influenced by Indian culture, used a swastika as his personal emblem on the covers and flyleaves of many editions of his books, signifying his affinity with India. With the rise of Nazism, Kipling ceased to use the swastika. One of his Just So Stories, "The Crab That Played With The Sea", included an elaborate full-page illustration by Kipling including a stone bearing what was called "a magic mark" (a swastika); some later editions of the stories blotted out the mark on the stone, but left the caption unaltered, leaving readers puzzled.
The swastika was also used as a symbol by the Boy Scouts in the Britain, and worldwide. According to "Johnny" Walker, the earliest Scouting use was on the first Thanks Badge introduced in 1911. Robert Baden-Powell's 1922 Medal of Merit design added a swastika to the Scouting fleur-de-lis as a token of good luck for the person receiving the medal. Like Kipling, Baden-Powell would have come across this symbol in India. During 1934 many Scouters requested a change of design because of the use of the swastika by the Nazis. A new British Medal of Merit was issued in 1935.
A bank in Bolton has refused to remove swastika mosaic tiles from the entry of a branch office constructed in 1927. A bank spokesperson replied to critics noting that "At that time, these symbols were commonly used as architectural decoration."
Located on the Woodhouse Crag, on the Northern edge of Ilkley Moor in West Yorkshire there is a swastika shaped pattern engraved in a stone, known as the Swastika Stone. The figure in the foreground of the picture is a 20th-century replica; the original carving can be seen a little further away, at the centre-left of the picture.
There are both left- and right-facing swastikas on the war memorial at the entrance to Balmoral castle in Scotland.
There is a Fylfot made into the brickwork on a building inside the British Aerospace factory in Broughton in Wales. It is unknown why the Fylfot was put on a brick but it has been suggested it was done so because it was an ancient Asian peace symbol. The current Broughton site which makes wings for the Airbus has a history of fighter plane construction going back to WWI.
The Royal Air Force's 273 Squadron adopted a cruciform fylfot as opposed to the Nazi Swastika which was a reversed fylfot, which it used as a squadron badge. It was around since the earliest RAF in 1918 and was an emblem for the Ceylon Fighter Defence in 1939.
Swastika is the name of a small residential community in northern Ontario, Canada, approximately 580 kilometres north of Toronto, and 5 kilometres west of Kirkland Lake, the town of which it is now part. The town of Swastika was founded in 1906. Gold was discovered nearby and the Swastika Mining Company was formed in 1908. The government of Ontario attempted to change the town's name during World War II, but the town resisted and many posted signs "The hell with Hitler. We came up with our name first!". The Swastika United Church is located in Swastika, Ontario, as is the Swastika Public School, Swastika Fire Hall and Swastika Laboratories, which provides assaying services for the mining industry. The town celebrated its 100th anniversary in June 2008.
In Windsor, Nova Scotia, there was the Windsor Swastikas ice hockey team from 1905 to 1916, and their uniforms featured swastika symbols. There were also hockey teams named the Swastikas in Edmonton, Alberta (circa 1916), and the Fernie Swastikas in Fernie, British Columbia (circa 1922).
The Traveller's Hotel in downtown Ladysmith, British Columbia, has a façade decorated with brickwork swastikas. Further north on Vancouver Island, the Japanese cemetery in Cumberland has several grave markers decorated with swastikas.
There used to be a swastika brick pattern located outside at the top of a house located at 75–81 Troy Street, in Verdun, a borough of Montreal, Quebec. A picture of this house appears on page 138 of Hélène-Andrée Bizier's Une Histoire du Québec en photos (2006, Éditions Fides).
The Danish brewery company Carlsberg Group used the swastika as a logo from the 19th century until the middle of the 1930s, when it was discontinued because of association with the Nazi Party in neighbouring Germany. However, the swastika carved on elephants at the entrance gates of the company's headquarters in Copenhagen in 1901 can still be seen today.
In Finland the swastika was used as the official national marking of the Finnish Defence Forces between 1918 and 1945 and also of the Finnish Air Force, anti-aircraft troops as a part of the air force and tank troops at that time. The swastika was also used by the Lotta Svärd organisation, Finnish paramilitary organisation for women, which was dissolved in 1944 according to the terms of the Moscow Armistice.
The Finnish Airforce units still wear a swastika on their colours. In addition, the shoulder insignia of the Airforce Headquarters bears a swastika design. In 1945 the Air Force changed its national emblem to a roundel but the use of swastika in some other insignia was continued. In 1958, the President of Finland Urho Kekkonen inaugurated the colours of the Air Force units which feature a swastika design. The latest colour of this pattern was inaugurated by president Tarja Halonen 25 October 2005 for the newly formed Air Force Academy. Also the Utti Jaeger Regiment, responsible for training special forces, bears a swastika – like emblem on its colour.
The swastika has not disappeared in Finnish medals and decorations. The decorations of the Order of the Cross of Liberty, designed by Akseli Gallen-Kallela – he also designed the emblem of the Finnish Air Force and the Finnish flight mark in 1918 -, bears a swastika laid on a George's Cross. The President of Finland uses a Cross of Liberty in the personal flag. However, in the flag is only the Cross of Liberty of 3rd Class and overall, the highest Finnish decoration is the Grand Cross of the White Rose with Collar.
Eimskip (founded in 1914), a major import/export company in Iceland once used the swastika as their company logo. Although they have since replaced their logo, the swastika remained on their old headquarters, located in downtown Reykjavík. When the Radisson SAS hotel franchise bought the building, the company was banned from destroying the symbol since the building was on the list of historical sites in Iceland. A compromise was made when the company was allowed to cover the symbol with the numbers 1919 which was the year when the building was erected.
In Dublin, Ireland, a laundry company known as the Swastika Laundry existed for many years in Dartry and Ballsbridge (both on the river Dodder) on the south side of the city. It was founded in 1888 as the Dublin Laundry Company. Upon the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the company's customers were concerned about the company's name. Accordingly, it was changed to "Swastika Laundry (1912) Ltd". The company's fleet of electric delivery vans were red, and featured a black swastika on a white background.
The business started in the early 20th century and continued up until recent times. The Laundry's tall chimneystack was emblazoned with a large white Swastika, a protected structure, which was clearly visible from the surrounding streets. The name and logo eventually disappeared when the laundry was absorbed into the Spring Grove company.
In his "Irisches Tagebuch" the future Nobel Laureate, Heinrich Böll writes about a year spent living in the west of Ireland in the 1950s. While in Dublin before heading to Co. Mayo, he…
"was almost run over by a bright-red panel truck whose sole decoration was a big swastika. Had someone sold Völkischer Beobachter delivery trucks here, or did the Völkischer Beobachter still have a branch office here? This one looked exactly like those I remembered; but the driver crossed himself as he smilingly signalled to me to proceed, and on closer inspection I saw what had happened. It was simply the "Swastika Laundry", which had painted the year of its founding, 1912, clearly beneath the swastika; but the mere possibility that it might have been one of those others was enough to take my breath away."
In Latvia, too, the swastika (known as Fire Cross, Latvian: ugunskrusts, or Thunder Cross, Latvian: pērkonkrusts) was used as the marking of the Latvian Air Force between 1918 and 1934, as well as in insignias of some military units. It was also used as a symbol by the Latvian fascist movement Pērkonkrusts, as well as by other organisations.
Latvian left-facing swastika or Thunder Cross dates back to Bronze Age. It is widely seen scratched on the surfaces like rocks, weapons and pottery as a protector sign. To avoid diplomatic embarrassment, Latvian officials were asked by NATO not to put swastikas on mittens and other gifts to delegates at a summit in the country in 2006.
The iron gate of Oslo lysverker from 1931, right beside the Nobel Institute in Oslo, is decorated with several swastikas.
The iron balconies of the building facing Veiten in Bergen are also decorated with swastikas. One may think they date back from the war, as they face the old Gestapo headquarters in Bergen, but they are actually twenty years older.
Since the early Middle Ages the sign of the swastika was well established among all Slavic lands. Known as swarzyca, it was primarily associated with one of the Slavic gods named Svarog.
With time the association with Slavic gods faded, but the swastika was preserved both as a personal symbol of various personalities, such as the Boreyko Coat of Arms, and in folk culture, for example, in the region of Podhale, where the swastika was used as a talisman well into the 20th century. As a solar symbol, it was painted or carved on various parts of houses in the Tatra Mountains and was thought to save the household from evil.
The ancient symbol used by the Góral societies was adopted by the Polish mountain infantry units in the 1920s. It was adopted as a regimental insignia by the artillery units of the 21st and 22nd Infantry Divisions, as well as by the soldiers of the 4th Legions' Infantry, the 2nd and the 4th Podhale Rifles. A distinctive blue swastika was a background emblem of the Air defence and Anti-gas League (1928–1939, LOPP), which had circa 1.5 million members in 1937.
Outside of the military traditions, the mountaineer's swastika also influenced a number of other symbols and logos used on Polish soil. Among such was the logo of the IGNIS publishing company (est. 1822), and the personal symbol of Mieczysław Karłowicz, a notable composer and admirer of the Tatras. After his death in the mountains in 1909, the place of his death was marked by a memorial stone and a swastika. Finally, it was also used as a personal logo and ex libris by Walery Eljasz-Radzikowski of Boreyko Coat of Arms, a Polish author who was also strongly influenced by the Polish mountaineers and had a swastika on the dust jackets of all his books and letters.
The swastika symbol is extremely polarising in the United States, although the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects most uses of it. Many older buildings, built before the swastika became associated with Nazism, have swastikas built into their architectural decorations. Some of these building are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Displayed with Christian and Jewish symbols
Several examples of U.S. architectural decoration feature swastikas displayed alongside other religious symbols.
The Bahá'í House of Worship for the North American continent, located in Wilmette, Illinois, depicts religious symbols on each of its 9 outer pillars. "The symbols are arranged in chronological order-from bottom to top-on the pillars. That's why the swastika is at the base, with the Star of David above it..." The design dates to 1920 but construction was not completed until 1953. The largest Bahá'í House of Worship in the world, the white domed building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978.
The "Golden Rule Window" in the Transfiguration Episcopal Church in New York City features medallion symbols depicting world religions, with Buddhism represented by the "flyflot cross" near a Jewish menorah. Built in 1849 with several modifications through 1926, the church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. During the Civil War the church worked for abolition of slavery and harboured runaway slaves.
A student union at the University of Michigan includes a 1929 chapel with stained glass windows that feature religious symbols. A swastika with right-facing arms is included, along with a Christian cross, Hebrew star and others.
As a Native American symbol
Because this was a popular symbol with the Navajo people, the Arizona Department of Transportation marked its state highways with signs featuring a right-facing swastika superimposed on an arrowhead. In 1942, after the United States entered World War Two, the department replaced the signs.
The swastika's use by the Navajo and other tribes made it a popular symbol for the Southwestern United States. Until the 1930s, blankets, metalwork, and other Southwestern souvenirs were often made with swastikas.
Shortly after the beginning of World War II, several Native American tribes (the Navajo, Apache, Tohono O'odham, and Hopi) published a decree stating that they would no longer use the swastika in their artwork. This was because the swastika had come to symbolise evil to the tourists who purchased their crafts. This decree was signed by representatives of these tribes. The decree states:
|“||Because the above ornament which has been a symbol of friendship among our forefathers for many centuries has been desecrated recently by another nation of peoples.
Therefore it is resolved that henceforth from this date on and forever more our tribes renounce the use of the emblem commonly known today as the swastika or fylfot on our blankets, baskets, art objects, sandpainting, and clothing.
The original Penobscot Building in Detroit, Michigan, completed about 1906, "was named after the Penobscot Indian tribe and region of Maine, the boyhood home of one of the investors. An interesting feature in the Indian-themed detail of the building is the occasional appearance of a swastika, a symbol important to the Penobscots long before it was adopted by the Nazi party." The decorative symbols feature right-facing arms and are tilted in the same manner as the Nazi flag, leading to confusion over their origin.
Use by the military
The 45th Infantry Division of the United States Army used a yellow swastika on a red background as a unit symbol until the 1930s, when it was switched to a thunderbird.~ The American Division wore the swastika patch while fighting against Germany in World War I.
The Lafayette Escadrille squadron flew World War I fighters against Germany from 1916 to 1918, first as volunteers under French command and later as a United States unit. The official squadron insignia was a Native American with a swastika adorned headdress. Some of the squadron planes also bore a large swastika in addition to the squadron insignia.
Among the Lafayette Escadrille members who were killed in action was Arthur Bluethenthal of Wilmington, North Carolina, who is buried in a Jewish cemetery with a grave marker that includes the squadron insignia, complete with swastika.
The U.S. Army 12th Infantry Regiment coat of arms includes a number of historic symbols. A tepee with small, left facing swastikas represents the unit's campaigns in the Indian Wars of the late 19th century. The Regiment fought German forces during World War II, landing on D-Day at Utah Beach, through five European campaigns and received a Presidential Unit Citation for action during the Battle of the Bulge.
Swastikas and the similar Greek key symbol appear in decorative features of a number of U.S. federal, state and local government buildings including schools and county courthouses.
Swastikas surround the exterior window iconography at the Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve Board Building in Washington D.C. on Constitution Avenue between 20th and 21st Streets. The building was designed by Paul Philippe Cret and completed in 1937. Cret fought against Germany during World War I while serving in the French army. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre and made an officer in the Legion of Honor.
The Reno, Nevada Post Office features both left and right facing swastikas, along with other designs typical of "Zig Zag Moderne" style, later known as a variation of "Art Deco". It was designed in 1932 by Frederic Joseph DeLongchamps, who had previously served as the Nevada State Architect. The building was financed in part by the federal Civil Works Administration and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
The six-story Federal Building in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico features a Mediterranean style and decorative Native American design motifs. Built in 1930, its decorative features include "Radiators set in each wall of the foyer [that] are hidden by brass grilles in a swastika design". It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980.
The third La Crosse County, Wisconsin courthouse was built in 1903 and razed in 1965. Numerous swastika patterns are visible in photographs of a mosaic tile floor. The symbols have shortened arms pointing to the left.
The DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore, Illinois, built in 1905, includes swastika decorated railings. The Classical Revival style courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Swastikas are a minor feature in painted murals in the Allen County Courthouse in Fort Wayne, Indiana, completed in 1902. They are described as "a Native American symbol for joy". The murals were restored beginning in 1994 as part of an eight-year, $8.6 million dollar project. The courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and as a National Historic Landmark in 2003.
Mosaic swastika tile patterns decorate the floor of the Washington County Courthouse in Marietta, Ohio, designed by Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford and built in 1901. The tiles are described as "an adopted Indian symbol for 'good luck and prosperity.'"
The Laguna Bridge in Yuma, Arizona was built in 1905 by the U.S. Reclamation Department and is decorated with a row of swastikas with right-facing arms. Their symbolism is doubly confusing. Native Americans used the symbol in the southwest U.S., but the bridge was a unique design from the country of India.
Other government buildings with swastika decorative features are listed in the Swastika Tiles section.
Swastika Park is the name of a housing subdivision in Miami, Florida, created in 1917. An upscale subdivision in Denver is named "Swastika Acres". Its name has been traced to the Denver Swastika Land Company, founded in 1908. Swastika New York, located near the Adirondack Park Preserve in the northeast corner of the state, is adjacent to "Swastika Road". The public access area of Fish Lake near Windom, Minnesota is named Swastika Beach. The "Swastika Trail" is a historic auto trail in Iowa. The state department of transportation web site explains "When this route was designated, the Swastika symbol was recognized for its attributes as a charm or amulet, as a sign of benediction, blessing, long life, good fortune, and good luck."
The Buffum Tool Company of Louisiana, Missouri manufactured "High Grade Tools for High Grade Workmen" from about 1909 to 1922. The Buffum company's trademark was a swastika with right facing arms. During World War I it made bayonets and aeroplane parts. The company's logo was the "Good Luck/Blessing/Swastika Cross" and many of the products, sold nationwide, had "the good luck cross on them."
The Washington Charcrete Company manufactured "laundry trays" (concrete utility sinks) with an imprinted logo bearing a swastika. Some examples survive (see pictures), but the date of their manufacture is unknown. The company did business in the states of Washington and Oregon and is mentioned in a 1914 ruling by the Supreme Court of Washington State.
Flour was sold under the brand name Swastika, The Lucky Flour by the Federal Milling Co., Lockport, N.Y. as advertised in 1909, and by the Monte Vista Milling and Elevator Company of Colorado, which registered the name in 1910.
The mining town of Lakeview Idaho featured a "Swastika Hotel" in 1910, owned and operated by the Swastika Mining Company.
The St. Louis, Rocky Mountain and Pacific Railroad Company operated with cars and locomotives "emblazoned with the red swastika symbol adopted as the road’s trademark." The symbol featured right facing arms and was tilted at an angle. The 105-mile "Swastika Line" operated from about 1902 to 1915, with major stops at Raton and Cimarron, New Mexico. The tracks were torn up for scrap during World War II when "Swastika Line iron was used to fight a different kind of swastikas in Europe."
"Swastika Boards" were built using laminated redwood and balsa wood by legendary surfer Lorrin "Whitey" Harrison in Los Angeles from 1931 until 1939 when they were renamed "Waikiki Surfboards" "Swastikas became the most widely used production solid board of the period leading into World War II."
Use in popular culture
The swastika is seen on binders of pre-Nazi era publications of works by Rudyard Kipling. Both left and right orientations were used.
Two white swastika symbols on an Indian blanket made an appearance in the 1922 Buster Keaton silent movie "The Paleface". A newspaper columnist noted Nazis had adopted the swastika in 1920, prior to the film's release but that "Only a bonehead would read anything sinister into that coincidence."
Publisher Harold Hersey adopted a blue swastika as a symbol for his line of pulp magazines, Magazine Publishers. When the company was purchased by A. A. Wyn in 1929, the swastika was replaced with an Ace of Spades.
Swastika quilt patterns were popular in America prior to World War II. In 2010 the Greeley Museums in Greeley, Colorado received a donated quilt covered in 27 swastikas, believed to date to around 1900. "The swastika quilt-block pattern is also known as the Battle X of Thor, Catch Me If You Can, Devil's Dark Horse, Whirligig and Zig Zag" according to the museum registrar. The quilt was not put on general display while museum officials considered how to provide context.
A quilt with swastika-like pattern dating to 1927 was removed from display from a Havre, Montana museum in December 2010 after complaints from the public. A group of residents of the Bear's Paw Mountains had embroidered their names in the historic quilt, a gift for an ill neighbour. "It was a very, very nice quilt and the story behind it was absolutely heartwarming" according to a member of the museum foundation.
Metal typeface Swastika borders were used by U.S. printers in the early 20th century. Controversy arose in 1937 when they appeared on Passaic, New Jersey sample election ballots. The printer responded "I've used the swastika emblems for ballot borders long before the world ever knew Hitler".
Use by non-political clubs and organisations
The Ladies' Home Journal sponsored a Girl's Club with swastika membership pins, swastika-decorated handkerchief and a magazine titled "The Swastika". Their version of the symbol was square with right facing arms. The club was formed at the beginning of the 20th century to encourage young women to sell magazine subscriptions.
The 1939 Tennessee State University yearbook lists a "Swastika Club" among women's student organisations. The group focused on literature, scholarship and "clear and straight thinking". Tennessee State is the only state-funded historically Black university in Tennessee.
The yearbook for Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina, first published in 1927, was known as the "Swastika", after a native American design pattern found in the original tile of a campus administration building. The name was changed in 1941. The liberal arts college was established by the United Church of Christ in 1851.
The Theosophical Society, founded in New York in 1875, incorporated the Swastika into its seal because of the Hindu and Buddhist associations of the symbol, combining it with a Star of David, Ankh and Ouroboros.
At least one minor league baseball team used the name: the Cañon City Swastikas represented Cañon City, Colorado in the Class D Rocky Mountain League in 1912. The team moved to Raton, New Mexico mid-season, then disbanded along with the league.
The "Swastika Club of Freedom Township" was formed in 1923 in rural Iowa, a social club serving farm women. The group produced a "Swastika Club Cookbook" in 1934. Its name was changed to the “Freedom Township Women’s Club” in 1942. Another "Swastika Club" for women met in Howell County Missouri in the 1920s.
The Swastika Canoe Club, of Pawtuxet Village competed with other canoe clubs in the eastern U.S. A website on area history explains: "For the record, the Swastika Canoe Club had no relation whatsoever to the Nazi Party; the swastika was long before considered a sacred symbol in Eastern philosophies."
Coins, tokens and watch fobs
Collectors have identified more than 1,400 different swastika design coins, souvenir or merchant/trade tokens and watch fobs, distributed by mostly local retail and service businesses in the United States. The tokens that can be dated range from 1885 to 1939, with a few later exceptions. About 57 percent have the swastika symbol facing to the left, 43 percent to the right. Most promise good luck or feature other symbols such as a horseshoe, four leaf clover, rabbit's foot, wishbone or keys.
According to one collector: "Swastika tokens have nothing to do with Herr Hitler and his ill-fated Third Reich. The swastika is an ancient symbol of good luck adopted and promoted by advertising token salesmen during the first quarter of the 20th century in the U.S. The swastika is found together with other symbols of good luck in stock reverses on many merchant tokens and commemorative medals such as used to celebrate the 1932 Washington's birthday centennial."
In 1925, Coca-Cola made a lucky watch fob in the shape of a swastika with right-facing arms and the slogan, "Drink Coca Cola five cents in bottles". The Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company of Waterloo, Iowa offered a "Good Luck" token featuring a left facing swastika in addition to a four-leaf clover, horseshoe, wishbone and Plains Indian emblem. The company was sold in 1918 and became known as the John Deere Tractor Company. Harvard University Library has a 1908 leather watch fob with a brass swastika that was created for the presidential campaign of William Jennings Bryan.
The 1917 World War I good luck medal was produced in the United States with an American eagle superimposed by a four-leaf clover "and a swastika – an ancient symbol of good luck". The medal was designed by Adam Pietz, who served as Assistant Engraver at the United States Mint in Philadelphia for nearly 20 years. "Today this golden bronze medal is very rare, in part because so many of the Doughboys marching off to the trenches of Eastern Europe lost their lives and their good luck medals on the battlefields."
Some Boy Scout good luck tokens issued by the Excelsior Shoe company feature the swastika on the reverse.
"No one should be alarmed to find swastikas in ornamentation", "It's one of the oldest and most universal symbols around, although meanings change across cultures. Swastikas appear on Germanic artefacts long before the days of the Nazis." that according to the author of "The Architectural Guidebook to New York City". The comments were in response to questions about a New York City building, built in 1916 for a German piano manufacturer, that features a variety of symbols including swastikas with right facing arms.
The Cliff Dwellers Apartment building in New york City, completed in 1914, features two terracotta swastikas, tilted with arms pointing to the left. The building is well known for its western themed frieze, featuring buffalo skulls, mountain lions and rattlesnakes.
The Garfield Monument in Cleveland Ohio, dedicated in 1890 as a tomb and memorial for assassinated U.S. President James A. Garfield, contains swastika tile patterns throughout the floor. The 180-foot-tall (55 m) building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Swastikas are featured in the entryway of the Montana Club in Helena, Montana. Rebuilt in 1905 using a design by architect Cass Gilbert, the site is the "oldest social club in the northwest" and in a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Gilbert is also credited with designing the state capitols of Minnesota, West Virginia and Arkansas and the US Supreme Court Building.
The KiMo Theatre in Albuquerque, New Mexico, built in 1927 in the Pueblo Deco style and restored in 2000, is owned and operated by the city, which describes it as an "architectural gem". The building includes Native American design elements, including swastikas with right facing arms. It was nearly torn down in 1977, the same year the KiMo was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1907, the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, featured a design that had a swastika on one of the towers. Each year the exterior is covered with elaborate murals made of South Dakota corn, grain and grasses. The building is the centerpiece of a historic district that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In Rapid City, South Dakota, there are swastikas in the lobby of the Hotel Alex Johnson, which opened in 1928. They are decorations honouring the Native American culture of Western South Dakota. The hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Weston building on the campus of Williams College in Massachusetts features left facing, tilted swastika brick patterns. The building was originally a fraternity with a charter that banned Jews and non-Caucasians. The college uses it for language classes to ensure regular use by different cultures, and built a Jewish religious center behind it.
The Shaffer Hotel in Mountainair, New Mexico features both right and left facing swastika designs among its many Native American graphics. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978.
The Perelman Building is regarded as "one of the finest Art Deco structures in Philadelphia". Completed in 1928 as the headquarters of the Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company, it is now part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Swastikas are visible in the elaborate decorative scheme, credited to Lee Lawrie, whose work also adorns the Rockefeller Center, Library of Congress and the National Academy of Sciences. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
The Augustan Society Headquarters and Library, built in 1916 in the Mojave Desert in Daggett, California, includes Native American swastika designs. The non-profit is "An International Genealogical, Historical Heraldic and Chivalric Society".
The 1926 Pueblo Revival—Spanish Colonial Revival—Mission Revival Style architecture of the Orcutt residence is decorated with Native American swastikas. It is located at the Orcutt Ranch Horticulture Center in West Hills, Los Angeles, California. The property has been designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.
Both right and left facing swastikas appear in disks near the top of columns on the Alexander & Baldwin building in Honolulu, Hawaii, built in 1929 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
A swastika design is visible on the exterior of the Detroit, Michigan downtown public library, built in 1931. A local website notes "They were a popular item in certain Deco designs, and many are used in architecture throughout Downtown Detroit. They also can be seen quite often on floor tiles in church buildings."
The First Chinese Church of Christ in Hawaii, dedicated in 1929, features wooden pews with swastika carvings. The symbols have right-facing arms and are tilted at an angle, similar to the Nazi flag. The church's official website indicates "The symbol on the pews is an ancient one which represents eternal blessedness." The church's design was the result of an architectural competition that resulted in a blend of western and old Chinese features.
The Memorial Presbyterian Church of St. Augustine, Florida was built in 1889 in Venetian Renaissance style, by a founding partner of Standard Oil Company. The elaborate building is unique among Presbyterian churches, worldwide. Among its decorative features "...the pattern of the Sienna marble floor tiles, occasionally mistaken for the Nazi swastika-style design although its meaning of peace lies in the Hindu religion and is often repeated in Hopi Indian designs."
Efforts to remove historical swastikas
More than 900 cast iron lampposts decorated with swastikas remain in place in downtown Glendale, California. The lampposts were manufactured in Canton, Ohio and installed in the 1920s. In 1995 the city responded to complaints that the lampposts should be removed. The city attorney's response included "...research has revealed that the symbol itself was not uncommon in Judaism. The symbol itself has been found to appear in ancient synagogues as well as being found as a symbol appearing on sarcophagus in Roman catacombs." Cost to replace the lampposts was estimated at $3-million dollars. The Glendale Historical Society "has recommended preservation of the lampposts to the maximum extent possible."
The California State Historical Resources Commission nominated the Los Gatos Union High School for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Historic Architect A. G. Dill thanked the commission. "Ms. Dill stated that her office was galvanised in 1999 when the new school principal attempted to chisel off the Greek key design because it had a swastika pattern. The school was built in 1925 prior to the Nazi’s taking over the symbol. Educators need to be educated."
The New Mexico State University yearbook continued under the name "The Swastika" in honour of the traditional meaning of the symbol. The University has an archive[dead link] of a 1983 campaign to change the name, including correspondence with the Anti-Defamation League.
In January 1999, Civil Rights groups asked the Jefferson County, Alabama Commission to remove nine swastikas carved into stone pillars at the county courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama. The building was completed in 1931 with symbols featuring both left and right facing arms. A commission aide said officials would not consider the request unless there were "an awful lot of folks worrying us."
The restored Balboa Park Hospitality House in San Diego became controversial when swastika symbols were discovered on five light fixtures. The design dates to 1935. Park officials welded metal plates over the swastikas after a protest by the Anti-Defamation League. The San Diego Historical Society notes that the lamps were donated by a German American group and were intended to represent Nazi symbols. The nearby Balboa Park tea house had previously featured swastika decorations in 1915.
A hand-carved wooden horse with swastikas on its saddle has been removed from a classic carousel at a shopping center in Portland, Oregon following complaints by the public. The carousel was built in 1921 and installed in Venice, California and later was a featured ride at Jantzen Beach Amusement Park which opened in 1928 as the largest amusement park in the United States. The Parker "Four-Row Park Carousel" was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. It is the only surviving carousel out of four made from the design. The original was created for the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.
Ceramic tiles with a swastika design were produced by a number of North American manufacturers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They were often installed in repeating patterns or in combination with related ancient symbols. In western architecture, pre-World War II swastika tiles are typically a minor decorative element and have only become prominent when their original intent or symbolic meaning has been re-interpreted.
Swastika tiles adorn the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton, in a room built in the 1930s. A newspaper article in The Press of Atlantic City notes that the statehouse tiles were created by the local Mueller Mosaic Company. Led by Herman Carl Mueller, the firm used an innovative technique that combined glazing and deep carving to create a photographic-like sense of depth. The tiles were installed throughout the United States and Canada. The swastika design was only one of many different symbols featured in the Mueller catalogue.
Reprints of tile catalogues, including the 1930 Mueller Mosaic Faience Tile Inserts catalogue are available from the non-profit California based Tile Heritage Foundation's website. Swastika tiles are also featured in the 1920 catalogue from Wheatley Pottery Company of Cincinnati Ohio, the 1928 catalogue from the Cambridge-Wheatley Company of Covington, Kentucky, which marketed Wheatley tiles and a 1930's catalogue from the Franklin Pottery Company of Lansdale, Pennsylvania.
The Mueller tiles with swastika design can be found at the St. James Episcopal Church (1927), and the Immanuel Presbyterian Church (1928) in Los Angeles.
In May 2006, five terra cotta tiles were removed from St. Mary's Cathedral in St. Cloud Minnesota, which serves the oldest parish in the community. The upper church, constructed in the late 1920s, included a number of decorative tiles including a series of ten that depicted ancient forms of the cross. Located near the eaves, the tiles represented the crux gammata, also known as the Gammadion, "hooked cross". The five swastika tiles alternated with a related design featuring the Lauburu or "Basque cross". The upper church's final design was created by the local architectural firm of Nairne W. Fisher, who had fought against Germany during World War I The Italian Romanesque style includes Art Deco features, including the ancient symbols, sunburst brick patterns and zig zag details.
Three of the tiles were destroyed in the process of removal, one was put on permanent display at the church. The removal was prompted in part by criticism from some current and former faculty at St. Cloud State University, where the university's electronic diversity newsletter featured a series of articles, including a history of the swastika that claimed by 1920 it was already "the symbol of Aryan conquest and mastery". The article references small, obscure and secret European organisations with anti-Semitic views. It makes no mention of the use of swastikas in the US at the time the church was designed. In a book about the Holocaust, an art history professor noted that Hitler chose the swastika in 1920 and "... the swastikas of St. Cloud would follow shortly." At the time of construction, St. Mary's was under the control of the Benedictine Monks at Saint Johns University in Collegeville, who arrived in Central Minnesota in 1851 from Pennsylvania. Saint John's is best known, architecturally, for its Abbey church designed by Jewish architect Marcel Breuer, who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
According to documents at the Stearns History Museum in St. Cloud, approximately ten years before St. Mary's was designed, there were more than 2000 local residents from the heavily German Catholic area serving in the United States military, fighting against Germany. President Wilson wrote a letter to the local Catholic bishop thanking him for his support of the war effort
The removal coincided with the sesquicentennial anniversary for the city, St. John's University and St. Mary's parish. St. Cloud is a "Preserve America Community". An SCSU professor produced a documentary film about the removal of the ceramic disks.
Other Catholic Cathedrals that include swastika tiles among their decorations include: Saint Joseph Cathedral, Wheeling, West Virginia, a Romanesque design by architect Edward J. Weber of Pittsburgh, completed in 1925. St. Colman's Cathedral, built between 1868 and 1925 overlooking the port city of Cobh Ireland. Christ Church Cathedral, New Zealand, constructed in the 1880s. The Cathedral of Tampico, Tamaulipas, completed in the late 19th century with additional remodelling (see Tour By Mexico website for photograph of swastika tile floor, click on fifth camera icon). A tile floor at Hereford Cathedral in England is laid out in a swastika like pattern with arms pointed to the right. The floor at Amiens Cathedral in France features a right-facing swastika pattern with shortened arms, similar to the St. Cloud tiles. A popular tourist destination, Amiens is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Plummer House in Rochester, Minnesota includes swastika tiles. The five-story home was constructed beginning in 1917 by Dr. Henry Plummer, a prominent figure in the history of the Mayo Clinic. The home was designed by Thomas Ellerbe, a second generation architect whose firm is now known as Ellerbe Becket. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975.
Swastika floor tiles with left-facing arms will be left in place at a Duluth, Minnesota elementary school built in 1929. A member of the City's Native American Commission noted that the nine tiles at the school entrances have roots in Native American symbolism. “It has different meanings. Sometimes people say it’s a good luck symbol. It has absolutely nothing to do with the Nazi symbolism.”
St. Columba's Catholic Church in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, was designed by Pittsburg architect John T. Cornes and completed in 1914 as a territorial church for English speaking immigrants. Various forms of the cross are represented in the sanctuary's mosaic floor, including swastika designs. A local art enthusiast notes "People don't realise that the swastika was not always a sign of hatred and horror; it originally symbolised good lock and fortune"
Swastika floor tiles were removed from the St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Lafayette, Indiana in March 1996, after they were discovered during renovation of the church entrance. The church was built in the early 1920s.
The School of Public Health-Bloomington Building (IUSPH) at Indiana University contains decorative Native American-inspired swastika tilework on the walls of the foyer and stairwells on the southeast side of the building. In response to a complaint about the tiles, "The president of the university sent a letter to the student, which explained the history of the symbol and the context in which it was placed in the School of Public Health-Bloomington (formerly HPER) building when it was built in 1917, prior to use of the symbol by the Nazis. The student appreciated the response".
In November 1998 the Rome, New York Sentinel newspaper reported that swastika tiles were removed from the Gansevoort Elementary School where they had survived on a school floor for 84 years. The newspaper's editorial responded: "School officials lost a chance to enlighten the public. A recommendation earlier this year by a committee of Gansevoort staff and parents to "leave the floor as is" and install a display about the history of the swastika was ignored. Instead, at the risk of being viewed by a small, uninformed segment of the community as being politically incorrect, they knuckled under to pressure rather than educate. How unfortunate!"
The same Sentinel editorial also notes that similar tiles were left untouched at a Jewish synagogue, Temple Beth El, in nearby Utica, New York "because the connotation to the Jewish congregation is not that of the Third Reich."
Swastika tiles in a condominium lobby floor in White Plains, New York became the subject of a television news story and internet postings in September 2011. The housing complex's management indicated "the tile was installed before WWII when the building was built in 1924, noting it had never received a complaint before."
The Reuters News Agency reported in 1990 that the seaside community of Hull, Massachusetts voted to remove swastika tiles from their town hall floor, built in 1923, after complaints from the New England Director of the Jewish Defense League. The removal went forward in spite of opposition from a local Jewish synagogue.
Multicolored swastika tiles are visible on the exterior of a Chinese restaurant at the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City Missouri. The building dates to the early 1930s. The editor of a local Jewish publication reacted by saying "You know, the swastika does predate Nazism. Short of any Nazi context, I don’t think you should find it offensive.”
The foyer of Central High School in Pueblo, Colorado features right-facing swastikas set into the tile floor. The school was built in 1906 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
The Bonneville County courthouse in Idaho has swastika floor tiles that have been alternately covered up and painted over. An architectural historian for the Idaho State Historical Society noted that the symbols could be removed even though the courthouse is listed (since 1979) on the National Register of Historic Places. "But she said they should stay and that people need to see the symbols in their historical context." In September 2009, court officials decided to leave the tiles in place.
The San Mateo County History Museum, a "regional history center" in Redwood City, California is housed in the former county courthouse, built in 1910 and designed "to look as impressive as San Francisco City Hall.". The mosaic tile floor in the rotunda includes swastika designs. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.
The A.K. Smiley Public Library in Redlands, California, built in 1894, includes a swastika tile floor design. The building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976, and a California State Historic Landmark in 1990.
Swastika tiles are visible at the San Diego Mission Beach Plunge swimming pool, which opened in 1925.
The Ernst Cafe in the New Orleans Warehouse district has a 1902 swastika pattern tile floor, with left facing symbols. The restaurant's web page notes that Hitler was a teenager when the floor was installed.
The Moorish style Majestic Theater in East St. Louis, Illinois, built in 1928, features hundreds of colored tiles with a variety of geometric designs including numerous swastikas with arms pointing to the right. The theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 but has fallen into disrepair.
In the 2007 film "1408" based on the Stephen King story of the same name, there is a scene in the fictional Dolphin Hotel lobby in which a Swastika can plainly be seen in the tiles in the floor.
The Anti-Defamation League Law Enforcement Resource Network describes the swastika in its visual database of extremist symbols, with only a vague reference to its use by religious groups, but specifics about left and right facing symbols. "When shown in a counterclockwise direction, an ancient religious symbol that represented a sign of good luck."
"Prior to the Nazis co-opting this symbol, it was known as a good luck symbol and was used by various religious groups. Hitler made the Nazi swastika unique to his party by reversing the normal direction of the symbol so that it appeared to spin clockwise." Using the definition the ADL has provided to law enforcement agencies, most of the historic tiles listed above could be classified as extremist symbols because their arms are not in what the ADL calls the "normal" orientation, regardless of their date of origin.
- The 44-foot luxury yacht Lady Isabel is the centerpiece of the Wisconsin-Built Boat Gallery at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc. Built in 1907, it was known for decades as the "Swastika", meaning "Well Being". Swastika symbols are visible on the front of a building in the historic area of Manitowoc, built in 1894 that originally served as a hardware store.
- The "Swastika Series" is a name given to a soil type in New Mexico by the US National Cooperative Soil Survey.
- In December 2007, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts displayed a period room decorated for Christmas that included candlesticks with swastika motifs. The room's interior design had been preserved since 1905 and was created by a Minneapolis decorator. "The symbols as seen in the Duluth Room have no Third Reich connotations, but rather refer to the ancient symbol."
- Jewish artist Edith Altman, whose family fled Germany in the late 1930s, has produced a travelling exhibit entitled Reclaiming the Symbol. "The work strives to reclaim the star, the cross and the swastika to their positive use.". The exhibit features excerpts from the book "Swastika the Earliest Known Symbol and its Migrations" written by Thomas Wilson and published by the Smithsonian. Wilson's book is frequently cited by other authors. It was the most comprehensive U.S. reference on the subject in the early 20th century.
- The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. displays the original propeller spinner from Charles Lindbergh's aeroplane Spirit of St. Louis, manufactured in early 1927. A swastika, leftpointing, was painted on the inside of the spinner cone along with the names of all the Ryan Aircraft Co. employees that built the aeroplane, presumably as a message of good luck prior to Lindbergh's solo Atlantic crossing.
- University faculty at Catholic Jesuit St. Louis University voted to remove a painting by Italian priest Renato Laffranchi in 2004. The painting symbolised four rivers flowing from the Garden of Eden, with gardens in four quadrants. The rivers have the shape of a clockwise swastika with shortened arms. One unnamed faculty member commented "today, a swastika means only one thing. That is hate, intolerance and genocide." Another pointed to differences between the painting's design and the Nazi symbol. "Look it up in the history books. It's not the same symbol." The university's president refused to remove the painting prior to its scheduled annual rotation.
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- Office of Student Ethics and Anti-Harassment Programs, University of Indiana, report 1 July 2001 through 20 June 2002.
- Ragno, Sergio J. A. III, "Hidden in Plain Sight: The Remnants of a Shard of Hope Tainted by the Shadow of Evil", Spring 2006.
- "Our Opinion" Editorial, "Lost Chance to Educate", Daily Sentinel, Rome, NY, 5 November 1998.
- Facebook News 12 cable television network, Long Island New York, 28 September 2011.
- Thom Hemmann,"Removal of Tiles Approved", Milwaukee Sentinel, 11 Dec 1991, page 4A.
- "Massachusetts Town Votes To Remove Indian Swastikas", Reuters, 14 January 1990.
- David Grossack, "Donkeys in Brownshirts", Tinytown Gazette Newspaper and Advertising Company, 4 October 2006, Page 10.
- Eric Barton, "No, It's Not the Plaza Nazis", The Pitch, Kansas City News Blog, 27 April 2007.
- The Associated Press, 9/3/09 "Idaho court won't remove pre-Nazi swastika tiles."
- "Watch your step", Oakland Tribune, 6 Jul 2005.
- A.K.Smiley Public Library. See also photo essay by Jennifer F., Gather website, April 2007.
- "Ernst Cafe website, 2011". Ernstcafe.net. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
- Built St. Louis, East St Louis Crumbling Landmarks, Majestic Theater
- ""The IBEX Archive" (Illinois Bottomland Explorer), East St. Louis Action Research project, "Majestic Theater"". Eslarp.uiuc.edu. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
- See also detailed photos at Cinema Treasurers website.
- Sarah M. Hyson, "A Preliminary Survey of the Historic Plays and Players Theatre: Preservation Issues to Be Addressed", University of Pennsylvania Theses (Historic Preservation), 2005. See color photograph: "Figure 11, Decorative Tile in Lobby", Page 28.
- "Hate on Display: A Visual Database of Extremist Symbols, Logos and tattoos, "Swastika/Nazi Party Flag", Anti-Defamation League, Law Enforcement Agency Resource Network.
- "Burger Boat Cruiser Lady Isabel has a Unique Story to Tell", Wisconsin Maritime Museum, Anchor News, Winter 2004.
- "Celebrate Historic Preservation" brochure, Herald Times Report, Lakeshore Chronicle, 18 May 2005.
- Jennifer Komar Oliverez, associate curator, Architecture, Design, Decorative Arts, Craft and Sculpture, Star Tribune 23 Dec 2007.
- Edith Altman,"Reclaiming the Symbol/The Art of Memory", Installation, 1988–1992.
- Stephen C. Feinstein, "Witness and Legacy", Center for Holocaust Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota website.
- File:Spirit of St. Louis Nose Cone 1.jpg cone, inside
- Katie Childs, "Biondi refuses to remove painting Denies student, faculty requests" The University News, St. Louis University, 15 April 2004.