The Swastika is one of the most powerful symbols on Earth, causing quite a primal reaction for many.
Whenever you see it on an artifact, such as this Wigg’s Chemical token I found yesterday at an old farmhouse, you know the object is pre-1940s… as is the case with this (1931-1933 estimated.)
On this object, you can see the symbol in association with a 4-leaf clover and unbroken wishbone. The text reads “Write for Free Sample. Wiggs Waterless Cleanser. Wiggles the Dirt. Wiggs Chemical Co. Cincinnati. 1.00” on both sides indicates this token was worth a dollar (pretty valuable!).
There’s not much about Wiggins Chemical company online – probably due to the depression, name changes and other typical corporate hazards of the era (or perhaps this infringement lawsuit!) Many early 1930s advertising campaigns used the symbol as a part of their “end of the depression” advertising, sometimes with the phrase “Stop Crying, Start Buying!”
In many Western cultures, seeing a Swastika causes an emotional reaction. After all, we’re only a generation away from the era of Nazi Germany (1933-1945) which employed the symbol broadly after adopting it, tilted 45 degrees on much of their material, uniforms and propaganda.
For the foreseeable future, in America at least, it will be associated with unspeakable violence, extremism and evil in our culture. In Germany, Hungary, Lithuania and Poland there are even laws against using it. There is a movement to rehabilitate the symbol to restore its original, peaceful meaning, but that would seem like a pretty difficult PR project!
“Swastika” comes from the Sanskrit word svastika, meaning “lucky,” “be good” or “be well.”
The symbol is more than 10,000 years old, and has been used in many religions in a peaceful manner, including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Chinese and Japanese among others. If you go on a tour of cathedrals in Europe, you’re likely to encounter it among the art and architecture, symbolizing victory over death. A great site for learning about the history of the Swastika is here on the US Holocaust Museum’s site.
In the 1920s you could find it everywhere. It’s slightly jarring for some, I’m sure, to see it used by the most American of brands (1925):
Interestingly, in 2012, Microsoft said they’d ban anyone from their Call of Duty: Black Ops game software if they used the swastika on their name badge!