The “golden whale” icon chosen by Mr. Bird symbolizes one of our first products and remains our company logo. The whale represents quality and value while reminding us that we must continue to bring the best products to market while adapting to continually changing customer needs.
The origin of the whale began in Carolina, an English colony chartered in the 1600’s, adopted the customs of her mother country. One of these customs was the use of symbolic signs to indicate a business owner’s trade. This practice continued well into the 19th century. In 1865, Mr. William M. Bird used the whale sign to advertise his principal product, whale oil, which was used for illumination, lubrication, and as a preservative for rope and leather.
Mr. Bird actually hung two signs: a whale and an eagle, with the whale on the front of the building and the eagle on top. Both signs were created by Joseph Boesch, an artisan in bronze, copper, and iron whose workshop was located on State Street, just around the corner from the William M. Bird & Co. store at 205 East Bay Street. In the earthquake of 1886, the East Bay building was partially destroyed and the eagle was damaged beyond repair. The whale, badly damaged also, was skillfully repaired, re-gilded and re-hung.
“The Sign of the Golden Whale” at William M. Bird continues to symbolize the company and its ability to adapt quickly to changes in the market. The original sign hangs now on the second floor of the Charleston Museum located at 360 Meeting Street, Charleston, South Carolina.