Who Is KDVD? An IU History Mystery

Black-and-white drawing of a building, a baseball player, a net, and other ephemera along with an interlocking "I" and "U" with a star on it.
From the Athletics section of the 1898 Arbutus yearbook. Courtesy of IU Archives.

We don’t know who KDVD is. We don’t know what KDVD stands for. But we may have KDVD to thank for Indiana University’s most iconic symbol.

A close-up on the KDVD signature.
Close-up of the KDVD signature in the athletics illustration from the 1898 Arbutus yearbook. Courtesy of IU Archives.

KDVD is the artist who drew the earliest-known example of the interlocking I and U symbol, or as you know it: the IU trident. The image appeared in the athletics section of the 1898 Arbutus yearbook.

According to the image description in the IU Archives, the name printed at the bottom of the drawing, Claude McD. Hamilton, was the staff member responsible for compiling and writing that section of the yearbook. IU Archives Curator of Photographs Brad Cook suspects that KDVD was an artist for the Indiana Illustrator Company, which provided many of the illustrations in the yearbook that year.

Adding to the air of mystery, KDVD disguised their signature in the netting beneath the racket in the illustration—almost as if the letters were part of the strings themselves.

From illustration to university icon

A composite of two images. LEFT: A drawing of a man wearing a sweater with the interlocking "I" and "U" labeled 1899. RIGHT: An interlocking “I” and “U” embossed in gold on a leather cover, labeled 1910.
Photos courtesy of IU Archives.

After its first appearance in 1898, the trident was used primarily for athletics purposes, as in the Athletics section title page from the 1899 Arbutus yearbook. It wasn’t long before IU started using the trident more broadly—for instance, on the 1910 Arbutus cover. Today, IU is one of the few NCAA schools that uses one logo for the university and athletics.

Read an update to this story.

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Written By
Andrea Alumbaugh
A native Hoosier, Andrea Alumbaugh is a graduate of IU (BAJ’08) and a senior writer at the IU Foundation.