From “Well-Being” to Tyranny – The Swastika


Coming from the Sanskrit svastika, the Swastika meant “good fortune” or “well-being” for approximately 5,000 years; until Adolf Hitler designed the Nazi flag. Sadly, the association with Nazi Germany, the original representation of the swastika has been overshadowed and its use frequently incites controversy.


The pin in the photograph is one of several different promotional items given out by the [Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company (1892-1918)] The John Deere Tractor Company in 1918. The combination of “luck” of a four-leaf clover and “well-being” of the swastika made for a double-dose of good luck. The pin was a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Charles Harman in 1997.


The Nazi banner in the photograph was a gift from Mr. Wallace Walters (1995). It had been removed from the front of the SS Headquarters in Thionville, France. The cotton broadcloth banner was cut from its frame, yet is still rather large measuring 56” x 100”. If you had not lived through 1940’s, you may have become familiar with this style of banner in Rogers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music.”


Museum Administrator (B. Sullivan OR Beth Sullivan)

The James Madison Museum

129 Caroline Street, Orange, VA 22960