Monday, 4 November 2013

Loss Of An Icon's Icon

The logo to the left may truly be iconic. As you may be aware, the Buffalo Sabres went back to this logo after public outcry and a couple of redesigns that didn't help their cause as much as they would have liked, and since returning to this logo they have fared much better in the merchandise department on average. Because this logo has become larger than life, some credence should be paid forward to the man that designed this logo. His name is Norwood T. Smith. Unfortunately, on October 25, 2013, Mr. Smith passed away at the age of 89 after living a very distinguished life that included giving Buffalo one of its most iconic logos.

Norwood Tupper "Woody" Smith, seen to the right, was born in New York City on July 27, 1924, but spent his formative years in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As he got older, he played football and rowed on the crew team for Brown & Nichols School (now called Buckingham Browne & Nichols Private School). Mr. Smith was a regular donor to the school after having graduated in 1943.

After graduating, Mr. Smith enlisted in the Navy and served as a signalman aboard the USS Adams in the Pacific during World War II. Following his efforts in helping the Allied Forces win the war, Mr. Smith returned to Hanover, New Hampshire where he enrolled at Dartmouth College. He became a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and worked a summer job as a counselor at Camp Hanoum (now called Camp Farnsworth) in Thetford, Vermont. Camp Hanoum was originally founded by Professor Charles Hubert Farnsworth and his wife Charlotte Farnsworth as a girls-only camp, but was converted into a summer residential camp experience. It was here that Mr. Smith met Elizabeth "Betsy" Baker Chester who was from Buffalo, NY.

The young couple would see each other regularly, and they fell in love, eventually marrying in 1947. Mr. Smith would move to his wife's hometown, taking a job as a copywriter at Melvin Hall Advertising in 1950. Three years later, he would join Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn as a copywriter and eventually ascended to vice-president and regional manager of the advertising firm! During his time there through the 1950s and 1960s, he was an instructor and leader at Alex Osborn's creative education seminars, more appropriately known today as the Creative Education Foundation. Mr. Smith got in on at the ground-level with this organization!

Back to his work, today BBDO is a massive advertising company, having attained the title of the world's most awarded advertising agency while operating in 81 countries through 289 offices. They represent some of the world's largest companies, including FedEx, AT&T, Visa, Starbucks, SC Johnson, and PepsiCo. Needless to say, Mr. Smith was an integral part of building the BBDO brand in its early days!

After the BBDO office closed in 1969 in Buffalo, Mr. Smith joined Lloyd Mansfield Advertising as a vice-president and served as its creative director until his retirement in 1990. In working with the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce over the years, Mr. Smith became interested in this new hockey venture that was being discussed for the 1970 NHL season. It is reported that the logo came about based upon the winning name-the-team contest which resulted in the name "Sabres" being chosen. The rumour is that Mr. Smith sketched out a crude drawing of the logo on the back of a napkin in early 1970 as the team prepared for its first season.

As far as I can tell, Mr. Smith is credited as the creator of the logo, but there seems to be a distinct lack of information how the Sabres acquired the rights to this logo conceived by Mr. Smith. How it became the logo of the NHL franchise and was worn on the chests of 22 men seems not to have been documented. Did the Sabres commission Mr. Smith for the logo? Was Lloyd Mansfield Advertising hired to promote the Sabres, thereby giving Mr. Smith an opportunity to present the logo to the Sabres as an option for their brand and logo? The interwebs seem to be missing this key link between the napkin and the team.

In any case, Mr. Smith retired to Florida in 1990 for winters where he lived in both Naples and Wiggins Bay. He was a photographer, and loved sailing and being on the beach. In the summer, Mr. and Mrs. Smith enjoyed a summer home in Holloway Bay, Ontario. Mrs. Smith passed on five years after Mr. Smith retired from the advertising business, but the two had two children - Mark T. Smith and Elizabeth S. Croston - who will carry on the family's legacy.

Rest in peace, Mr. Smith. Your legacy in Buffalo will carry on thanks to your iconic logo.

Until next time, raise your sabres in honour of Mr. Norwood T. Smith!

**Information gathered from The Buffalo News for this story.**

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