Encircled Letter "F"
April 8, 2008 7:59 PM   Subscribe

What is this unusual symbol?

I have a number of old Popular Mechanix magazines that date from the mid 1950's to the 1970's. Recently I noticed that a number of covers contain an encircled letter "F" within or adjacent to the words "Popular Mechanix". It's not a misprint, as it shows up on a number of covers, some years apart.

Here is a photograph of a cover from 1974. Here is a close-up.

Here is the same symbol from a 1964 cover.

I'm guessing that the encircled "F" is a trademark or copyright symbol of some sort, like an encircled letter "C", but despite some Internet searches regarding trademarks and copyright symbols, I've yet to find any mention of this symbol.
posted by Tube to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Some regional distribution code for ad tracking? You just never saw the other [if any] ones?
posted by Freedomboy at 8:10 PM on April 8, 2008

I'm betting that, in this context, it doesn't mean Dry clean with fluorine solvent.
posted by zamboni at 8:18 PM on April 8, 2008

I would guess that it is probably some sort of certification mark, used to "certify regional or other geographic origin, material, mode of manufacture, quality, accuracy, or other characteristics of someone's goods or services, or that the work or labor on the goods or services was performed by members of a union or other organization. " (USPTO). But what it would be a certification mark for, I dunno.

Or perhaps it's the name of the publisher of the magazine? There is a "Family Circle" magazine publisher, but I think Popular Mechanix is published by the Hearst group, so that doesn't really fit either.
posted by gemmy at 9:11 PM on April 8, 2008

A bunch more covers. You can see a symbol on other ones, not always on the X, but not quite high enough resolution to make it out.
posted by smackfu at 9:17 PM on April 8, 2008

Best answer: For what it's worth, the symbol can be printed using Unicode (24BB).

Anyway, here are some more covers with the mystery symbol:

May 1963
April 1966

Which is odd because those two pretty neatly bracket the one from 1964 that doesn't have one.

But then others have a plain copyright symbol, such as December 1953 and September 1954.

It gets interesting when you look at covers of Electronics Illustrated, which was published by Fawcett Publications, the same company that published Mechanix Illustrated. They're a little harder to make out, but the EI covers from May 1966 and November 1959 both appear to bear the circle-F. My guess is that the symbol indicates that the magazines in question were put out by Fawcett Publications.

To address some other possibilities: it does not indicate a certification mark. The circle R is used for all registered marks, including certification marks (e.g., the Underwriters Laboratories symbol.

Also, Popular Mechanics is published by Hearst, but Mechanix Illustrated was definitely a Fawcett Publication.
posted by jedicus at 9:20 PM on April 8, 2008

I did a seach in the USPTO's trademark database for registered marks that are composed of the letter F inside a circle. There are thirty-nine results, none of which appear to be right.

I think the Fawcett Publications guess is a good one.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 9:37 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: OMG! I did write "Popular Mechanix" and not "Mechanix Illustrated"! Major public Internet blunder!

The Fawcett Publications symbol makes good sense, but if that is the case I wonder if it is intended for the "end user" reader or if it's an in-house code of some kind.
posted by Tube at 9:39 PM on April 8, 2008

I'd guess that it either indicates:
A. What gemmy said about regions and all that.

B. Whether the individual magazine was intended to be sold at retail, or was meant to be a subscription copy.

...but these are just my guesses. I know that some magazines do these things, but no more than that.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 10:25 PM on April 8, 2008

Best answer: I think the Fawcett idea is probably right. Both Mechanix Illustrated and it's earlier incarnation, Modern Mechanix, often had blurbs inside asking the reader to report anyone selling counterfeit copies of the magazines. Interestingly there are also a few issues of MI that I have which are different. That is to say I have two copies of the magazines from the same month and year and one has more pages. I'll have to check for the F, but that doesn't seem like it would be too hard to copy.
posted by shopsinc at 10:35 PM on April 8, 2008

Also, I modified the code for the individual issue pages on my site so that clicking on the cover will give you a MUCH bigger, hi-res version.

See the covers here.
posted by shopsinc at 10:45 PM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you. I'll assume that it is a code for Fawcett unless proven otherwise. And welcome shopsinc! His website is fantastic!
posted by Tube at 5:42 PM on April 9, 2008

You'd think the Internet would have a clear answer, but I rather suspect that the Fawcett answer is the best you'll get. Wikipedia makes mention of a circled F, which is present in unicode, but provides no explanation as for its why or wherefore. Unicode itself offers the full latin alphabet encircled, again, for no reason I have established.

My interest is piqued, and unfortunately there's no definitive answer.
posted by Smoosh Faced Lion at 9:20 AM on April 12, 2008

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