BURBANK: THEN & NOW
The use of seals, like flags, has a rich history that dates back to
ancient times. Seals are frequently mentioned throughout Jewish
history. Ancient Egyptian kings and European monarchs also used seals
to convey ownership, status, authenticity and power. The use of seals
in this country predates the Revolutionary War and continues to this
day. Seals, which were typically emblems stamped into hot wax or lead
to leave an impression, have evolved over time. Today, seals are more
likely to be images seen on flags or in the form of a plaque than in
wax. The meaning of seals, however, has changed very little since
ancient times. In keeping with tradition, the city of Burbank has
used a seal for nearly its entire existence as a city.
Burbank’s earliest seal reflected the agricultural lifestyle and
economy of the early days. The “Cantaloupe” seal, as it became known,
was a simple circular seal featuring a cantaloupe in the center,
which represented all agricultural products of Burbank at the time.
This was a time when downtown Burbank consisted of a hardware store,
livery stable, dry goods store and general store, and a few real
By the 1930s, however, Burbank was changing from a rural community
to a developed town. Burbank’s population exploded from 2,913 in 1920
to 16,662 by 1930. The changes Burbank experienced were reflected in
a new city seal that became knows as the “1931" city seal. This seal
reflected the city’s new industry: aviation. Agricultural references
vanished and were replaced with an unspecified Lockheed airplane
flying over Burbank, while the background depicted a developed sprawl
against the backdrop of a sun rising over the mountains.
The 1940s continued to usher in changes experienced in the 1930s.
Burbank’s population continued to rapidly grow, and by 1940 had
reached 34,537 citizens. There were 380 city workers to maintain,
expand and improve the infrastructure of the growing city. The fire
and police departments were also expanded, and the current City Hall
completed construction at a cost of $400,000. In 1946, the City
Council once again stepped in to modify the city seal. Ordinance No.
799 mandated the change. The city seal became oblong in shape, with
rounded corners, and featured a representation of an airplane,
factories and a movie picture reel. “City of Burbank” was inscribed
at the top of the seal and “progress” inscribed at the bottom of the
movie picture reel. This seal, the city’s third, was designed by
Disney Studios. It remained Burbank’s seal for 32 years.
By 1978, Burbank’s 88,659 citizens lived in nearly 36,000 units
of housing. That year the airport was purchased by the cities of
Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena and the Airport Authority was
established. In 1978, the Burbank City Council decided to change the
seal again to reflect changes in the city since 1946. This new city
seal would radically depart from all previous seals. The design of
the city seal required an amendment to the City Charter because the
charter specifically called for the seal to be round. The hexagonal
seal features the rising sun above the mountains crowned with an
airplane, City Hall and a movie light on a film strip each framed in
a hexagon. The banner above reads “City of Burbank.”
The city seals illustrate the changes that Burbank has undergone
since its incorporation in 1911. The small rural community captured
in the “Cantaloupe” seal has been transformed into a modern city, as
reflected in the 1978 seal.
Many years and much progress have been made since the City Council
changed the seal in 1978. It will be interesting to see how those
changes are reflected in the next Burbank seal.
* CRAIG BULLOCK, chairman
of the Burbank Heritage Commission, writes a monthly history
column for the Leader.