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The spread eagle emblem has featured prominently throughout the history of Barclays. When John Freame and Thomas Gould started their business in 1690, they were initially in premises in Lombard Street at the sign of the three arrows. As very few people could read and write, business houses used pictorial signs to enable their customers to find them easily.

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In 1728 the partnership moved to 54 Lombard Street at the sign of the black spread eagle, and in 1736, Freame's son Joseph, took his brother-in-law, James Barclay on as a partner. The business expanded over the years and although other properties in Lombard Street were acquired, many with their own signs, the spread eagle was to remain associated with the Barclay partnership.

In the 1930s, Barclays Bank Limited sought and obtained a Grant of Arms. The Bank wanted to keep the Eagle it had used for so long but, because other ancient and royal houses carried it in various forms, the College of Arms ruled that it must be “differenced.” This was done by adding three silver crowns (since numbers 43 and 55, both part of the head office site, bore the signs of the three crowns and the three kings), and the Grant of Arms was made in 1937.

In May 1926, the first edition of the Barclays staff magazine, The Spread Eagle was published. The first editorial of the magazine states that

for purposes of brevity, the word ‘Black’ has been omitted from the title of the magazine.

The Eagle was consistently used on the front covers of early editions. In 1938, Barclays decided to incorporate the eagle in the design of the Bank’s cheque forms, replacing the monogram. Reacting to this change, The Spread Eagle stated that “In these and many other ways it will become familiarly known in conjunction with the name of Barclays Bank” (January 1938). Following this, the eagle emblem first appeared on the Bank's annual report and accounts of December 1948.

The College of Arms authorised the Bank to use the arms for the associated Barclays Bank (Dominion, Colonial and Overseas) with the addition of ‘DCO’ in 1947. In practice, this addition was usually placed on a scroll beneath the shield, as if it were a motto.

The 'Barclays blue' colour was gradually introduced during the 1960s, and was made official following Board approval in May 1970.

As Barclays grew and expanded over the years, many different versions of the Eagle appeared. In August 1981, a woodcut design by the celebrated engraver Reynolds Stone was adapted and simplified by John York to produce one authorised version for the whole of the Barclays Group.

In 1999, design agency Interbrand Newell and Sorrell were briefed to update the Barclays brand, including the eagle. The new design had to be warm, open and highly accessible whilst reflecting the stature and heritage of a world-respected bank. The ‘eagle globe,’ designed to be less imposing than the heraldic version, took Barclays into the new millennium. However, the design proved technically difficult to reproduce on paper, so in 2004 the brand was refreshed to designs by Williams Murray Hamm, creating a new visual identity which incorporated a simpler style of eagle and standardised the 'Barclays blue.'