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The Hermes Mark  October 25, 2016 – 09:39 am

Hermes logo, 1990'sWhat does a Greek god have to do with business? The history behind the School’s trademark Hermes icon.

A few hours after he was born, the Greek god Hermes sneaked out of his cradle, invented the lyre using the shell of a tortoise, and secretly hid 50 of his older brother’s sacred cattle. He discovered how to light a fire, ritually sacrificed two of the cows, and crept back home before the day was over. When his enraged brother — none other than Apollo — heard Hermes play the lyre, he was so enchanted that he accepted the instrument from Hermes in exchange for the animals. And thus began trade and commerce.

1950s: Hermes Mark is Adopted

When the Hermes symbol was first adopted in the 1950s, Columbia Business School was under the leadership of Dean Courtney Brown and shifting its status from the trade school on campus to a graduate school. He selected the Hermes mark and registered the symbol with the US Patent and Trademark Office as the School’s official trademark. The Hermes mark was adopted as the School’s emblem because of the Greek god’s association with trade, commerce, and travel. According to Greek mythology, Hermes carried the caduceus staff, of which the School’s Hermes symbol is an abstracted version.

Hermes logo, 2000's1960s: A Symbol Becomes an Icon

In the 1960s, the Hermes icon became firmly established as the emblem of the School. In 1961, the custom of presenting graduates with a lapel pin bearing the Hermes icon was instituted — a tradition that continues to this day. That same year the Hermes icon first appeared on the cover of the Business Cycle, the School yearbook, and in July of 1968 the inaugural issue of the Hermes Exchange, the School’s first alumni magazine, went to press. Brown also led the effort to establish the School’s first real home, and Uris Hall was dedicated in 1964. It housed a plaque displaying the Hermes mark with these words: “The sign of the Greek god Hermes was adopted because of the god’s association with trade, commerce, and travel. The Hermes symbol was incorporated into the trademarks of many mercantile guilds during the Renaissance, and it now serves as a fitting emblem of the Business School.”


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