Hey, it’s Scarlett Cole. Over Easter weekend, I spent a lot of time thinking about symbols and symbolism. They are a fascinating way of communicating. In faith/belief-based customs, there are so many. The Christian cross, the Taoism “yin and yang” which is called the taijitu, or the pentacle of Wicca.
Many symbols are universally recognized. Often because they have been adopted for decades or even centuries.
If you think about it, symbols have the power to communicate an entire idea, like the Nike swoosh. (As an aside, did you know the logo was designed by a broke female student at Portland State University for $35 after she was overhead complaining how she couldn’t afford to take the oil painting course she wanted to by Nike co-founder, Bill Bowerman? He offered her $2 an hour to come up with ideas and she spent 17.5 hours working on them!)
Or they can communicate a brand. Love it or hate it, we all know the McDonald’s Golden Arches when we see them. They originally started as an architectural feature of the actual buildings in the early fifties, but progressed to become the company logo ten years later.
You may ask what started me thinking about symbols. Well, it wasn’t Easter. It was a bottle of gin. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll know gin is my favorite drink. And on Friday night, I saw a Manchester gin with Manchester’s “Bee” on it. Which made me wonder when and why the bee that I see everywhere in my hometown became the symbol of Manchester.
The bee was chosen as the symbol of Manchester to reflect the city’s hard working past, specifically during the industrial revolution, a period in history that, as an engineer, completely fascinates me. It is also said to allude to the “hive of activity” that thrived in and around the cotton mills. The organized, industrious social order of bee colonies has much to admire and offers an interesting parallel to life in Industrial Manchester.
The bee has been adopted universally by the city and there are many high-profile associations. For example, seven bees sit proudly on the Manchester coat of arms that was presented to the city in 1842. Beehive Mill, a former cotton mill, is a Grade II listed building in Manchester, built in the early 1820s. HMS Manchester, which was built in 1978 and decommissioned in 2011, was nicknamed Busy Bee. Manchester Town Hall is a Grade I Listed building completed in 1877, and the landing outside the Great Hall is known as the Bees due to its marble flooring, laid by Venetian craftsmen, featuring hundreds of bees and cotton flowers.
So now I know, and the symbol means even more now that I do.
What is the symbol for your hometown, and what does it mean to you?