The early emblems



Pamphlet issued in May 1947

Since 1946, ICAO used two versions of early emblems, with a design showing the eastern and western hemi­spheres between a pair of wings, on confer­ence badges and publications, such as on the front page of the Journal of the 4th Session of the Assembly and the ICAO Monthly Bulletin.


First emblems used since 1946


The illustrated pamphlets/booklets of the various United Nations (UN) Programmes and Specialized Agencies (e.g., ICAO as shown on the left side; FAO, WHO, IRO, UPU, UNESCO, Refugees and Displaced Persons, Our Rights as Human Beings, Status of Women, World War on Tuberculosis, Non-Self-Governing Territories, The Struggle for Lasting Peace, United Nations Work and Programs for Technical Assistance, etc.) were part of the United Nations Study Kit No. 1 issued in 1951 by the UN Department of Public Information in New York; in addition to nineteen booklets, the kit also comprised a United Nations Bulletin Magazine and an envelope with postcard-sized communications maps of the world by RCA (dated in 1946). This pamphlet related to ICAO displays ICAO’s early emblem.





The designers of the first emblem with the two hemispheres and the cachet shown on the 1945 UNCIO First Day Cover most likely found their inspiration from the covers shown hereafter:  

  1. The International Aeronautical Exposition, held at the Chicago Coliseum from 1 to 9 December 1928, with the 5-cent blue and carmine stamp (Air beacon, Sherman Hill and Rocky Mountains) issued on 15 July 1928;
  2. The 1st visit of the Graf Zeppelin to Miami on 23 October 1933; and
  3. The World Wide Philatelic Convention and Exhibition, held in Saint-Louis, USA from 29 October to 2 November 1941.


Chicago – 1928 – Flight Cover

International Aeronautical Exposition

(US Ford Tri-Motor above two hemispheres)


Graf Zeppelin 1st visit to Miami on 23 October 1933

First Day Cover - Worldwide Philatelic Convention and Exhibition held in Saint-Louis, MO, USA.

29 October to 2 November 1941. Art Craft Cachet - Bell Rocket Plane

1945 United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO) – 25 April 1945

C. Stephen Anderson Cachet

Two hemispheres appearing in the cachet



United Nations FDC 1955 Human Rights Day; C. George First Day Cover. Human Rights Day is celebrated every year on 10 December, the day on which the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.



Seal of the Organization

One of the above designs was also embodied in the seal of the Organization (see at the right side); this design was also printed on the front page of various official papers.


In October 1950, these early designs were substi­tuted by other simi­lar emblems, which appeared in June 1951 in the Journal of the 5th Session of the Assembly and later on Council Working Papers for the first time on 24 March 1952. These two designs were a combination of the early designs with four concentric circles, all being divided into octants, inscribed in a wreath of crossed conventional branches of olive trees, and therefore show similarities with the emblem of the United Nations.


Second emblem

Used from 1950

Further to a request from ICAO to standardize the emblems of the Specialized Agencies, the Prepara­tory Committee of the Administra­tive Committee on Coordination at the United Nations, at the 4th meeting of its 21st Session, on 10 July 1952, agreed that, when new Agencies were consider­ing the adoption or changing an emblem, they should bear in mind the desirabil­ity of basing their design on the United Nations emblem.


Starting in July 1953, ICAO's sec­ond early emblem was used as slogan on the Headquarters meters; as regards ICAO's Regional Offices, this second design was used only by Paris Office postage meters beginning on 23 September 1954.


Early emblem as shown on ICAO unofficial early flag (1947)


Picture of an early emblem showing its details.


Slogan meters used by ICAO headquarters (1953) and Paris Regional Office (1955)


Service cover addressed to Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General at the UN.

With slogan meter. Dated 24 July 1957.



The early emblems had occa­sionally been subject to criti­cism with respect to their design and also to the value of their symbolism; it was also felt that ICAO's emblem should follow more closely the pattern of the United Nations, putting an additional accent on the idea of unity of the United Nations family of international organiz­ations.


In 1954, the two hemispheres between the wings were removed from the ICAO emblem and the polar pro­jection of the world was shown as in the UN emblem; it displayed longer wings set lower on the globe than on the current emblem.




First Day Cover – United Nations - 9 February 1955.

10th Anniversary of the interim Agreement and first PICAO meeting.

Emblem in use from 1954 with longer wings.

The cachet shows the ICAO Council in Session on the 10th floor of the International Aviation Building.


Initial UN emblem as used for the lapel pin in 1945

Lapel pin

1945 UNCIO

It is interesting to draw attention to the origins of the United Nations emblem. The story of the United Nations emblem started with the symbol created by the Presentation Branch of the United States Office of Strategic Services (forerunner of the C.I.A.) in April 1945 in response to a request, initiated by US Secretary of States Edward Stettinius, Jr., chairman of the U.S. delegation to the 1945 United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO) held in San Francisco, for a lapel pin to identify delegates; he had realized that a temporary design might become the permanent symbol of the United Nations.


Further to that, Mr. Donal McLaughlin (26 July 1917-27 September 2009), chief of the Graphics Presentation Branch of the Office of Strategic Services, and his fellow designers, came up with about nine different designs (see here below). For designing all the graphics for the Conference, the US Secretary of States had formed a team headed by Mr. Oliver Lincoln Lindquist (20 September 1916-28 December 2008), a graphic designer who played a behind-the-scene, yet instrumental, role in the development of the UN emblem.



From a design created by McLaughlin (the one they chose had to fit on a circular pin that was one and one-sixteenth inches in diameter), showing all of the world’s continents on a round grid with lines representing the longitude and latitude on a globe, Oliver Lindquist augmented the original design with a wreath of laurel leaves, but Mr. McLaughlin then substituted a curving olive branch on either side to symbolize peace, with the name, location and date of the conference on the outer edge.


The representation of the world was based on what is called an azimuthal north polar projection of the world, so that all the countries of the world were spun around four concentric circles, and limited in the Southern sector to a parallel that cut off Argentina, as this country was not invited to the UN Conference. The 100th meridian west of Greenwich was made the vertical axis of the projec­tion centred on the USA as the host country of the UNCIO. The unofficial emblem appeared on the original copy of the UN Charter signed on 26 June 1945 and on early UN docu­ments.




Origin of the UN Emblem – Excerpts from the 1995 monograph (pages 4, 5 and 10) “Origin of the Emblem and other Recollections of the 1945 U.N. Conference” by Donal McLaughlin, Chief of Graphics, Presentation Branch, Office of Strategic Services; edited by Jennifer Truran Rothwell.


First Day Cover issued by the 1st Chinese Embassy showing

the lapel pin designed for the 1945 UNCIO.


First Day Cover issued by the San Francisco Chronicle showing

the lapel pin designed for the 1945 UNCIO.


When the United Nations moved in August 1946 to a building that during World War II had been a Sperry Gyroscope Co. plant located at Lake Success, New York, postal services were first provided by the Great Neck Post Office. The above slogan and cachet still show the UN early emblem as used at the San Francisco Conference, bearing in mind that the UN present emblem was approved later on 7 December 1946. 


First Day Cover issued in 1955 for the 10th anniversary of ICAO.

The cachet designed by Ken Boll depicts the UN emblem

as used for the UNCIO lapel pin in 1945.


Official UN emblem

The first Secre­tary General of the United Nations, Mr. Trygve Lie, submitted a report to the First Session of the UN General Assembly held in 1946, which suggested the adoption of an emblem for the United Nations.  The Sixth Commit­tee, responsible for legal ques­tions, brought several modifica­tions to the original design which had been used at San Francisco to include all the countries to the sixtieth parallel and to make the Greenwich meridian as vertical axis in order to avoid the truncation of countries and to represent them as far as possible in their proper relation­ship to the cardinal points; the new version rotated the projection of the world so that east and west were more balanced and all continents could be seen in full including South America. On 7 December 1946, the First Session of the UN General Assembly, held in New York, approved the present distinc­tive emblem of the United Nations (Resolution 92-(I)). Mr. McLaughlin’s design, with slight modifications proposed by him (as described on page 10 of his monograph; see here above), was adopted as the official United Nations seal and emblem. Mr. McLaughlin was never directly credited with a stamp design, but his contribution to the UN legacy in certainly prominent in many stamp albums around the world.


The design adopted for the UN emblem may be described as follows: a map of the world on a north polar azimuthal equidistant projec­tion inscribed in a wreath of crossed con­ventional branches of an olive tree; the projec­tion extends to 60 degrees south latitude and includes five concentric circles, all except the central circle being divided into octants, with the Greenwich meridian as the lower vertical axis. The two symbols composing the UN emblem are the olive branch, which can be traced back to ancient Greece as a symbol of peace and the world map that depicts the area of concern to the United Nations in achiev­ing its intended primary purpose of maintaining international peace and security. The map projection, occasionally referred to as Guillaume Postel's projection, represents the world somewhat as a round stadium in which all nations are assembled.  The design possesses the essential requirements of simplicity and dignity, as well as an aesthetic quality, which have enabled it to survive with a considerable measure of success as an effective interna­tional symbol enjoying global acceptance.


Japan – 8 March 1957 - Admission to the United Nations

 (With the United Nations definitive emblem)