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DuPont Marks 100 Years of the DuPont Oval


WILMINGTON, Del. - The DuPont Oval, one of the world’s most respected and most recognized corporate logos, marks the 100th anniversary of its public debut this year.

“The DuPont Oval has been a symbol of quality, integrity and safety for a century,” DuPont Chief Marketing & Sales Officer David G. Bills said. “Today it remains one of our most valuable assets, and we protect it accordingly. We expect it to continue to be a reassuring emblem of DuPont values and science for all our global stakeholders for the next hundred years.”

“It’s a remarkable symbol with a rich heritage,” said Bills. “The DuPont Oval trademarked thousands of products in the 20th century from gunpowder and dynamite to nylon and other DuPont discoveries. Now in the 21st century, the same trademark brands the products of advanced materials, biotechnology, alternative energy and new protective materials.”

Designed in 1906 by George A. Wolf of the company’s advertising department, the logo represented the company’s effort to create a general trademark that could be used on all DuPont products. With input from James Skelley, advertising manager, and Thomas Doremus, manager of sporting powder sales, Wolf created the DuPont Oval, which he rendered in plaster and then carved in oak.

The design was initially rejected, Wolf later wrote, but after about a year, the trademark was used on some advertising literature and then on some labels. There are no records of which literature or labels first brought the oval before the public’s eye in 1907, but the feedback from the field was positive. The company’s Executive Committee went on to approve it, and the oval was officially adopted as the DuPont trademark in May 1909.

Years later Doremus recalled that, “the oval had no particular significance, it was a design that looked good to an artist like George Wolf, just a good type of picture for advertising.” Wolf’s original design had a banner through the letters that was inscribed “Established 1802.” The design with the banner was impractical for some applications, especially the cut stencils used to paint the oval on wooden powder kegs and dynamite cases, and was dropped. However, the logo with the ribbon was used in some printed pieces, notably on the cover of the company’s annual reports up to 1955.

Legal protection for the trademark was not applied for until 1920, when it was registered by the United States Patent Office on July 20 as a “trademark for granular and gelatinous explosives.” But the oval was registered without instructions as to how it was to be drawn, and dozens of variations on the geometry of the oval proliferated. In 1948, standards proposed by G. A. Stephey of the Engineering Department were adopted. Stephey’s formula did not result in a true ellipse, but it allowed for easy reproduction of the oval in the various sizes then in use in packaging and advertising. It has remained the standard for the DuPont oval ever since.

Wolf’s original carving of the DuPont Oval is property of Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Del., and is currently on display.


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