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The Cabinet of Curiosities: Early Universal Logos

The following is a guest post by Nitrate Vault Manager George Willeman.

Because a significant amount of our nitrate film collection was donated to or deposited with us by Hollywood studios–Columbia, Warner Bros., Paramount, and Disney all being good examples–we’ve developed a particular expertise when it comes to identifying variations in corporate logos. One of our largest studio collections is Universal, with more than 1800 reels dating from 1914 to 1950, and while a globe has been a consistent feature of their logo, it has changed considerably over the years.

The earliest Universal logo I’ve yet seen is from a 1913 film in the AFI/George Marshall Collection called The Ohio Flood, which I pulled for inspection the other day. The studio was founded as the Universal Film Manufacturing Company in 1912, so The Ohio Flood was one of their first releases. The globe is prominent, but in a much more primitive form that the studio adopted in subsequent years.

Here are some frame grabs from various nitrate prints–mostly in the Universal Pictures Collection–that illustrate the wide variety of logos the studio employed.

The Ohio Flood (Universal, 1913)

One year later, the logo looks a little more polished.

The Hedge Between (Universal, 1914)

The Shack Next Door was a title in the “Universal Ike” series starring vaudevillian Augustus Carney. Carney had originated the character of “Alkali Ike” in a series of highly popular comedies for Essanay Studios, and when he left Essanay for Universal in 1914 he brought the character with him, albeit with a name change. It’s indicative of Ike’s popularity that Universal designed a logo specifically for films in that series.

The Shack Next Door (Universal, 1914)

This logo is from an early sound feature called The Hide-Out and minimized the globe while prominently featuring the name of studio founder and president Carl Laemmle.

The Hide-Out (Universal, 1930)

Universal had a very long running newsreel series from 1929 to 1967. It went through a lot of name changes, but until 1935 it was called the Universal Newspaper Newsreel. This one was released on October 20, 1932, and includes stories about a mine disaster in the Balkans, Pope Pius XI, and the world’s largest strawberry shortcake.

Universal Newspaper Newsreel Vol 4, Number 86 (Universal, 1932)

This is from Canyon Passage, a 1946 Technicolor western starring Dana Andrews and Susan Hayward. Interestingly, I have never seen this particular Universal logo on any other film.

Canyon Passage (Universal, 1946)

3 Comments

  1. L DIGMON
    September 23, 2015 at 9:27 am

    For me, your facebook is fun to read.
    I love it that we have THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS in the U.S. and time and wherewithal to do this sort of educational enlightenment!

    Power on!

  2. Rich
    September 24, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    “The Hide Out” supposedly was a lost film. Has it been found, or was it just hiding (no pun intended)?

    • Mike Mashon
      September 29, 2015 at 3:28 pm

      Good catch, but it’s still lost. We received just a fragment of the title on a reel of much earlier fragments, so this may be all that survives of the film.

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