Having been born in the mid sixties the swastika is a symbol of nazi Germany or hate groups and doesn't represent anything positive. I started seeing them as I travelled Ohio and decided to do some research.

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This one is on the floor of the Wade Chapel worked into a pattern in the floor.  The chapel is in Lakeview Cemetary and was built in 1901. The design was made by Tiffany company.  Today it seems very out of place in a chapel.  

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My next sighting was in President Garfields tomb in the same cemetary.  President Garfield was a Civil War Veteran so obviously he predates World War Two. The symbol is very clear in the tile pattern on the floor.

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The swastica on the left is on the belt of a pair of chaps owned by Zane Grey. They are on display at the National Road Museum.  Zane grey passed away in 1939 so we are getting closer to the time of the second world war.  At this point Im getting used to seeing them but they still dont look right to me. 

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While the symbol still made me cringe a bit; I knew that Zane Grey and President Garfield couldnt have had connections with my view of it simply because they lived too early. The examples I had found all came between roughly 1850 and 1940. I knew why we havent seen the symbol since 1940; but I was curious why it was popular during this time. I also couldn't remember it in use during the revolutionary or civil wars.

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The first thing I found was that the symbol was also used by the US Army during this time. At the time it symbolized good luck. Here you can clearly see the swastika on a US Army plane. 

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A WWI postcard displayed the symbol as a good luck sign. 

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There is evidence that the swastica was in use by many cultures since ancient times. It has been found all around the world and generally stood for good luck or the four seasons. Like any symbol it seems to have come in and out of fashion over the years. Since its adoption by nazi Germany the symbol has basically stood for hatred and intolerance. It is still in use in India and retains its original meaning. However in the western world it most likely unredeemable and I doubt it will ever be seen as good luck symbol again.

As for why the symbol did not show up prior to 1850 I cant find anything solid. What I have found is that the symbol was in use in Britain and Europe. So it may simply be that the symbol wasn't popular here as it represented the old world that we just broke from. I could not find any reason to explain why the swastica wasn't used by any revolutionary or civil war units. If anyone knows please drop me an e-mail.

The answer to why it became popular here after 1850 may lie with the fact that the west was openning up.  The symbol was very popular with the Hopi in Arizona and that is the origin of it on Zane Greys chaps. Everything western was in fashion and the symbol was widely used here as a good luck sign.

Basically I learned that when I see a symbol I need to place it in its context. Its use in the chapel, Garfields Tomb and on Zane Grey chaps was entirely appropriate and to the people at that time it simply stood for good luck.

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