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Burbank’s seal of approval

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

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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

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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.

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This was a time when downtown Burbank consisted of a hardware store,

livery stable, dry goods store and general store, and a few real

estate offices.

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

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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.


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