Some ornaments, or “mascots,” were quite literal—like the leaping jaguar on the hood of a Jaguar—while others were more metaphoric, such as during the Space Race of the mid-1950s when airplanes and rockets were used to represent modernity and speed. Others were essentially 3-D representations of manufacturers’ logos, while still others borrowed from mythology and history for their power.
Many modern cars still have a remnant of these unique brand markers in the form of logos on their front grills. But none will ever deliver the class and tangible branding of something like the ornament shown here, from a 1933 Buick. (Photo courtesy of the web page https://www.pbase.com/mgrove/hood_ornaments, where you can view hundreds of mascot photos.)
More samples can be seen at http://justacarguy.blogspot.com/2010/08/hood-ornament-identifiaction-guide.html.
A Very Private Brand Message
Cihers are defined as a secret or disguised way of writing. In modern times, ciphers are generally associated with secret codes or military messaging. But in early-modern Europe, there was another variety of cipher. On the surface, these could be mistaken for elaborate monograms. But none were mere decoration.
From the September 2021 issue of Smithsonian, in an article written by V. M. Braganza: “Ciphers conceal meaning in plain sight and require the viewer to possess some secret knowledge, or key, to understand their meaning, one which the creator wants only a few to know.”
This sort of cipher could be as innocent as the elaborate weaving together of the initials of two best friends, honoring their relationship in visual form. But such ciphers could be as sexy and subtle as a sly wink to a secret love affair. Only the few individuals involved with the design—and, of course, the artist who created it—could read and appreciate its significance. (Cipher illustration from The British Museum. More samples can be viewed at https://bit.ly/3AxDFzQ.)