APL Logo History

The company logo. Seal, imprimatur, emblem, the one thing that never fails to elicit a response — good, bad, rarely indifferent — from the viewer. Today, we’re inundated with logos in one form or another. But ocean transportation company logos have a special history, thanks to their seafaring origins. Because of their maritime heritage, logos like those belonging to APL and its forebears evolved differently from the kinds of logos we see on correspondence, billboards, or even buildings.

Because of the international nature of trade, transportation company logos are every bit as significant as national flags. Even as recently as 50 years ago, steamships were the lifeline for many remote parts of the world, and people relied heavily on the services offered by shipping companies like APL and its predecessors.

The Pacific Mail Steamship Company, 1848-1925

Dollar Line, 1900-1938

The local population often turned out in force when a ship entered harbor. But first, through cupped hands, an open window, or perhaps a telescope, people looked for a familiar silhouette, the ship’s house flag, or the logo on its smokestack to determine which company it belonged to — and whether the ship carried the cargo and passengers for which they had been waiting.

In this way, these early transportation logos gradually became associated with service, reliability, and other competencies of the companies to which they belonged. In addition to these qualities, leadership is something that people began to associate with the logos belonging to APL and its forebears.

Circa 1938

Only a handful of global companies can say they’ve been in business for more than 150 years — and fewer still can count among their predecessors companies that helped to shape the future of an entire industry. This rich history of leadership has been evident in how APL, Dollar Line, and the Pacific Mail Steamship Company have approached the business of transportation.

For many years, the Pacific Mail logo embodied the brash, risk-taking spirit that built the West after the California Gold Rush of 1849. At one point in the company’s history, its vessels were so numerous nearly every ship entering the Golden Gate flew the Pacific Mail house flag.

Circa 1955

The distinctive dollar sign used in Dollar Line’s logo appeared on the smokestacks of a growing fleet of ships in Asia during the first decades of the 20th century. By the time Dollar Line acquired Pacific Mail in 1925, the Dollar Line logo was a familiar sight in ports around the world.

And in its many iterations, the APL eagle logo has been seen around the world for decades. The eagle became the APL logo in 1938, when Dollar Line was purchased and renamed American President Lines by the U.S. government. Designed to resemble the flag belonging to the office of President of the United States, the first APL house flag featured a red eagle and four stars.

Circa 1980

Ever since, APL vessels have been easily recognized by an august assemblage of eagles. Whether stalwartly looking toward the horizon from a vantage point on the ship’s smokestack, aloft and seemingly in motion on the house flag, or gracefully spreading their wings across the bow, the APL eagles serve as company envoys throughout the world. Although the APL eagle has been updated over the years, and our name shortened to simply APL, this proud symbol continues to represent excellence in transportation, logistics, and related services.


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