Four Bars: A Brief History of Our Logo

By Stephen Martin, Director of Design & Planning

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The Conservancy has a simple logo: four blue horizontally-positioned rectangles of the same size, evenly spaced side-by-side. The geometric symbol, though unassuming, has a very fascinating history. 

Even before the United States entered the Second World War, President Roosevelt was working toward an international collaboration that would lead to the founding of the United Nations and a world where peace might prevail.

Courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

Courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

In January of 1941, the President delivered his famous Four Freedoms speech. One year later, on January 1, 1942, just days after the US entered the war, an international committee of 26 nations came together and signed a document titled Declaration by United Nations, a document founded on the Atlantic Charter (read more about the Atlantic Charter at fdr4freedoms here).
 

By January 1942, the idea of the Four Freedoms and a United Nations had become a distinct part of American culture and identity, even though the institution of the United Nations had not yet been officially formed. Artist Normal Rockwell, for example, painted a four-part series, with each painting dedicated to one of the four freedoms. (The paintings appeared in the Saturday Evening Post and were a part of a traveling exhibition whose proceeds raised over $130 million dollars in war bonds.)

Original four freedoms symbol by Brooks Harding

Original four freedoms symbol by Brooks Harding

Additionally, renowned flag designer, Brooks Harding, created a simple symbol that represented both the four freedoms and those nations who were working toward a united front. It was four horizontally-positioned red rectangular bars spaced evenly against a white background.

The symbol sparked national interest.  People stitched the red rectangles onto canvas and created homemade flags that could be displayed at a school or in front of one’s home. Different school groups often crafted their own flags in varying colors, actors and actresses flew them proudly, and the Office of War Information displayed one next to the American flag. There was even a hand symbol representing the four bars,  directly based on Winston Churchill’s iconic V-for-Victory hand sign.

Further development of the flag by Brooks Harding

Further development of the flag by Brooks Harding

The Harding Four Freedoms flag would be considered as a possible design of the official flag to represent the United Nations. Harding developed the design further to include a world map embraced by olive leaves, layered on top of the four bars. The symbol represented a world based on four essential freedoms as outlined by Roosevelt, the olive branches standing for world peace.

In the end, the four bars were deleted from the design, the world map stayed inverted against a light blue background, a collaboration between architect Donal McLaughlin and Harding.

United Nations flag designed by Donal McLaughlin and Brooks Harding

United Nations flag designed by Donal McLaughlin and Brooks Harding

Our logo is an adjustment to the Harding design. The bars in our logo match the proportion of the columns in the Room. The bars are spaced more closely together and are rendered in an East-river-blue to resemble the setting of the Park. The design of the four bars are as profound today as they were in 1942 and at the Conservancy we are inspired by what they stand for, and hope Park visitors are too.

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The columns in the 'Room' at Four Freedoms Park, 2011

The columns in the 'Room' at Four Freedoms Park, 2011