Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Brand Inspector

I didn't want to bury the answer to the last post's quiz question in comments, so here's a quick post for closure.

Although the symbols I showed do look very astrological or alchemical, I'm pretty sure they're supposed to be American cowboy "brands" for cattle and horses.  They were displayed on the walls of the fictional Mel's Diner on the 1970s TV show Alice.  I don't think the characters ever actually talked about these decorations, but they were an omnipresent mini-mystery to me as a viewer.

Meaningless?  Maybe... maybe not.  I've always meant to learn more about the elaborate symbol system of cattle brands, and their ancillary use as the names of ranches and estates.  Most of the ones I've found online seem to be letters of the alphabet that have been morphed or transformed in some way.  That makes the ones from the TV show kind of odd.  The Wikipedia article on the show says the diner was decorated in an "Aztec and cowboy motif," but these symbols don't really look Meso-American, either.  I guess Occam's Razor points to some anonymous Hollywood set-painter who just had a vague idea of what diner decorations in Phoenix, Arizona might look like!  :-)

Anyway, that's all for now.  I've been plugging away at the sooper-secret project hinted at in the last post, but things aren't quite ready to be revealed.  Soon!


  1. Who knew that show contained such mystery?

    I have a link I've been meaning to share with you. My wife discovered these paints and I thought of you immediately: http://shop.spoon-tamago.com/collections/new/products/nameless-paint-set?mc_cid=16e07cf70a&mc_eid=2aba8d0457.

    1. Clever! Talk about mysteries from long ago... the idea of mixing primary, secondary, tertiary colors... was something that's intrigued me since I was 4 or 5. :-)

  2. This just makes it more interesting!

    The symbol book I referenced did not have any brands in it and that possibility never occurred to me. I have never really looked at brands before. Just doing a quick look up I can see a couple of yours like:
    6: Turkey track!
    12: looks like Lazy Nine.
    16: Bordern Bros. Circle O.
    10: Walking 7.
    1: Hay Hook
    3: Still an Anchor, sorry!
    8 and 11: Diamond and a half.
    4 and 7: Bull head.
    2 and 5: Horse Track (Not Pac-Man after all).
    14: Triangle (boring but still a legitimate brand!).

    You should be able to find a lot of this stuff online. For example the current California website:
    (Under Branch Info there is a PDF with Brand of the Stars!

    They don't seem to have a list online but you can see examples in the 2010 brand book:
    Great description of how they are designed and how to read them:

    See 'Search Brands' here to have hours of your life disappear:

    Or here:

    It's funny how basic symbols can be reused in different contexts.

    1. Wow... thanks for digging up all these links. I do hope to explore them all. I still have a bunch of ideas for my old series of "Alpha-Bytes" posts (on strange scripts and alphabets). This is perfect to add.