The peace symbol -- three simple lines within a circle -- turns 50 today. It's had a colorful and often turbulent life, which is odd considering that it's supposed to symbolize, you know, peace.
Unveiled at a British ban-the-bomb rally on April 4, 1958, the peace symbol's peak of potency was in the 1960s, when it was the emblem of the anti-Vietnam War movement and all things groovily counterculture. (Said its late creator, British graphic designer Gerald Holtom: "I drew myself . . . a man in despair . . . put a circle around it to represent the world.") The symbol has marched in service of many causes over the years: civil rights, women's rights, environmentalism, gay rights, anti-apartheid, the nuclear-freeze movement and the latter-day antiwar crowd.
Conservatives once denounced it as a lefty tool ("footprint of the American chicken," etc.), but not all the peace symbol's politics have been so easily classified. During the Soviet era, it was a ubiquitous totem of resistance in such cities as Prague and Berlin.