Who Invented the Peace Sign?

When we talk about the peace sign we would generally recall a circle with three lines inside. You are quite familiar with it if you were a child of the baby boomer generation when its use was quite prevalent. However, it wasn’t originally intended to be used a symbol for peace or a sign of peace. In fact, it wasn’t the first symbol to be used to denote peace.


Creation of the Peace Sign

A British artist by the name of Gerald Holtom is credited for creating the three-lined circle for peace. It wasn’t originally designed as a worldwide symbol for peace but was meant for another purpose. It was originally created for the nuclear disarmament movement in Britain. Holtom completed his design on February 21, 1958.

It was used in a march conducted on April fourth of that same year. The march started from Trafalgar Square in London all the way to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. The Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War commissioned the creation of this symbol.

Adoption and Later Use

Gerald Holtom’s design was later adopted for other purposes. It was first adopted for quite similar purposes and movements. However, as it became a really popular symbol it was also adopted by other movements as well. It was later used for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Later on during the anti-war movement of the 1960’s, Holtom’s symbol was also put to use. After that, it was later used by what was then the popular counterculture.


Even Gerald Holtom would never have guessed that his design would cross oceanic borders or would be put to use for other purposes as well. His design came to the United States in the year 1958. A pacifist protester by the name of Albert Bigelow sailed a small boat into the vicinity of a nuclear test site. The boat was outfitted with Holtom’s peace sign.

By the year 1960 the peace sign button came into fashion. It was mass produced first by the Student Peace Union. Thousands of copies of this button were produced and sold on various campuses. By the end of that decade, Gerald Holtom’s peace sign has become accepted worldwide as a symbol for peace.

Meaning Behind the Peace Sign

You might wonder the meaning behind Gerald Holtom’s design. His peace sign is actually taken from semaphoric signals. He actually combined two semaphoric signals, which are for the letters ‘N’ and ‘D’ meaning nuclear disarmament. If you hold two flags downward in the form of an upside down ‘V’ that would create the semaphoric for the letter ‘N’. The ‘D’ can be formed by holding one flag pointed upwards and another pointing downwards. Combine both signals and you have Gerald Holtom’s sign.