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Delta is the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet, but it’s not part of the carrier’s origin story.
The name actually comes from one of Delta’s early female employees, Catherine Fitzgerald. Her recommendation for the name paid homage to the Mississippi Delta region where the airline’s predecessor, Huff Daland Dusters, began its operations. She was one of the first female airline directors from 1930-1934 and served as executive secretary to Delta’s principal founder C.E. Woolman from 1926-1966.
The Delta Widget that would later become the company’s logo was inspired by a military jet. Richard Maurer was Delta’s senior vice president, general counsel, and secretary. He noticed the similarity between the Greek letter Delta and the shape of Delta’s jets. He shared his thoughts with Delta’s advertising agency, Burke Dowling Adams (BDA) in 1955, and this led to the design of the first Delta Widget.
The logo changed and evolved through the years with the modern three-dimensional red Delta Widget introduced in April 2007, after the company exited from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Anthony’s Take: I always assumed Delta Air Lines got its name from the Greek Alphabet based on the similarity between the letter and the logo. I was wrong. The actual history is far more interesting.
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Pan Am was crossing oceans while Delta was crop dusting fields but Pan Am is gone while Delta is one of the few legacy airlines from before deregulation that’s still around. Who’d have thunk?
I wish I could have flown Pan Am and TWA back in the day.
I miss those good ole days of Royal and Medallion Service. My dad retired from Delta. His seniority level was so high that we always flew First Class. He made it to Delta by way of the Northeast “Yellowbird” Airlines merger.
I love the original logo…bring it back!
Wait, but that means Delta airlines actually DID get its name from the Greek letter Delta. It was named for the Mississippi Delta region, and that word “delta” referring to a river delta has to do with the triangular shape of that landform, which is similar to the Greek letter Delta, hence the etymology of that word.
That’s a good point