Hex signs
Daddy Hex Daddy Hex

Pennsylvania Dutch
Hex Signs

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    Decorating everyday items with colorful designs was a common practice for the German Lutheran and Reformed settlers of Eastern Pennsylvania. Furniture, to clocks, to birth certificates were decorated with symbols and motifs which the first settlers had been acquainted with in Europe. Many of the motifs used in these decorations included birds, hearts, tulips and very often, geometric designs which would immitate the stars, sun, and moon. Sometime in the mid 19th century folk artists began to transform the old geometric designs by enlarging them and painting them on barns. These designs would get the name Hex Signs in the 1920's. It appears that the name and the legend of Hex signs was due largely to two events. The first being a book by Wallace Nutting titled Pennsylvania Beautiful(1924) in which he raised the claim that barn signs were used to ward off evil and the second was a witchcraft-related murder in York County, Pennsylvania which attracted the attention of the news media and introduced the word hex into the American vocabulary. I have not found a lot of books written on the subject of hex signs but the ones I have found seem to have different opinions as to the purpose of the signs. Although the purpose is debated, the motifs used in various hex designs seem to have universal meanings such as using hearts for love, tulips for faith and the eagle for strength. If you would like more information on the history of the Hex Sign a particularly good book is by Dan Yoder and Thomas E. Graves titled Hex SignsPennsylvania Dutch Barn Symbols & Their Meaning.

Rosette Rosette

The single rosette is the most basic motif of hex signs and it is one of the most ancient designs in western culture. The rosette appears on buildings, furniture, gravestones and pottery. The rosette design is a symbol for luck and the scalloped border symbolizes smooth sailing. The color red is used to symbolize strength and green is a life color. This sign with the red rosette is a potent safeguard against harm and portends good luck in life.

welcome Paradise Willkom

The bird in this sign is the Bird of Paradise which symbolizes the beauty, wonder and mystery of life. The Pennsylvania Dutch "Willkom" (welcome) greets one and all and the heart adds a measure of love.

Eight Pointed Star Eight Pointed Star

The eight pointed star if a fairly common hex design. The star is usually blue and symbolizes goodwill. The tulips represent faith and trust in man and the sheaves of wheat symbolize abundance. This design was often used to decorate large buildings and it proclaims abundance and goodwill for all.

Double Headed Eagle Double Headed Eagle

The double eagle in this sign stands for strength and courage. The heart is laced for love in marriage and the three tulips, known as the Trinity Tulips symbolize faith, hope and charity.

Daddy Hex Daddy Hex

The Rosette, a symbol of good luck, is a popular design for Hex signs. In this design, called the Daddy Hex, the outer rosette has 12 petals for twelve months of good luck. The smaller rosette provides an added measure of good luck during difficult times of the year.

Double Trinity Tulips Double Trinity Tulips

The stylized tulip with its three petals is a dominate feature in Pennsylvania Dutch folk art. It is referred to as the Trinity Tulip and it symbolizes the Trinity as well as faith, hope and charity. The heart in this sign (as well as other Pennsylvania German folk art) is not the heart of sentimental "Victorian" valentines. Rather, it is religious in its representation of the heart of God, the source of all love and hope for a future life. The colors in this heart are used to give them additional meaning. Red symbolizes strong emotion and blue is used to indicate strength, especially spiritual strength. The white background symbolizes purity and the solid black circle represents unity in Christ.

Triple Star Triple Star

The Triple Star motif symbolizes good luck, success and happiness. The ring of brown is associated with the cycle of life making this particular sign a wish for a lifetime of happiness.

Single Distelfink Single Distlefink

The Distlefink was the good luck bird of the Pennsylvania Germans. It actually was a stylized version of the goldfinch. The goldfinch eats thistle seed and uses thistle down for its nest and was called a thistlefinch from which comes the Pennsylvania Dutch "Distelfink. This single distelfink sign is a symbol of good luck and happiness. The heart adds a measure of love and the tulips faith.

Oak Leaf Oak Leaf

The Oak Leaf or Mighty Oak is made up of four oak leaves in bold colors radiating from the center. The Oak symbolizes strenth in body, mind and character. The four colors of the leaves symbolize the seasons of life and the wavy border in the outer ring symbolizes smooth sailing in life.

Oak Leaf Double Distlefink

The Distlefink is the good luck bird of the early Pennsylvania Dutch. The two birds gives a "double measure of good fortune. The Trinity tulips stand for faith in yourself, faith in what you do and faith in your fellow man. The scalloped border symbolize ocean waves for smooth sailing through life.

Oak Leaf 12 Pointed Rosette

This is not a sign one would see in the Pennsylvania area. I have designed this sign using traditional designs found on Pennsylvania hex signs. I call it 12 Pointed Rosette because of the rosette in the center of the design. The 12 pointed rosette is symbolic of life after death and the black circle around the rosette represents "Unity in Christ". I have added the trinity tulips for faith and the hearts are for charity.

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