Where Did The Peace Symbol Come From?

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A group of active duty American soldiers out of uniform from the group 'GIs for Peace' carry a large banner and march amid others during a protest against the war in Vietnam, Washington, DC, April 24, 1971. Source:(Photo by David Fenton/Getty Images)

We're all familiar with the peace symbol -- but where did it come from? The instantly recognizable circular motif, with lines inside it that look a little like a bird's footprint, that we call the peace symbol or peace sign, has been ubiquitous since the 1960s, on patches, flags, posters or t-shirts meant to convey a message of harmony, understanding, and non-violence. 

Humans have always advocated for peace -- while it may be human nature to quarrel and wage war, it is also, surely, human nature to make amends and get along. Over the centuries, numerous emblems for peace (defined as "a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, especially in personal relations") have become commonplace: an olive branch, a dove, a white rose or poppy, a broken rifle and the “V” are all universal signs symbolic of peace. We've also got countless expressions to convey peace: bury the hatchet, turn the other cheek, make love not war. But the simplest and most universal sign of peace is this strange round glyph that everyone seems to recognize. Where the peace symbol came from is less well known.