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FAQ: Kendall Motor Oil Company name and logo   Tags: deaf, faq  

This brief guide attempts to clarify the apparent connection between this oil company and Gallaudet University.
Last Updated: Jul 9, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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Kendall Motor Oil and Kendall Green

The question is sometimes asked whether there is a "deaf" connection with the Kendall Motor Oil Company. This comes up for either or both of two reasons:

  1. Kendall was the surname of the man responsible for founding what eventually became Gallaudet University, the world's first college for the deaf. Amos Kendall's name still survives today in the name of the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School for the Deaf on the Gallaudet University campus, and the Gallaudet campus itself is often called Kendall Green, since it was formerly the grounds of Amos Kendall's estate.


  2. In addition, the "Kendall Fingers Logo", used for many decades by the oil company, features a hand sign with a remarkable resemblance to the manual letter "K" in the American manual alphabet as used by deaf persons:
New Kendall Oil Logo 

(Logo used by permission of Kendall Motor Oil Company)

However, according to Jack Eastman, a spokesman for Kendall Oil (now a division of ConocoPhillips), there is no connection with Amos Kendall or the Kendall family. The company is named both for the postal subdivision in Bradford, Pennsylvania, in which it was located, and for Kendall Creek, which was located near the company's original business site. The subdivision and the creek are possibly named for Amos Kendall, or at least his family, but the oil company itself has no connection with Kendall or his family.

The Kendall Oil Company also says there is no "deaf" connection to its logo. At one time the company's Web home page said: "You know us from our highly recognizable two-finger logo, identifying Kendall as the first company to market a 2000 mile motor oil when 500 was the norm for oil changes." (, seen on October 16, 2000).

In other words, the logo represents the number "2" (for two thousand miles) and not a letter. The resemblance to the fingerspelled letter "K" is just coincidental. Although the manual number "2" is normally held upright, the Kendall logo is tilted to the left, apparently to suggest the motion and speed associated with the use of its motor oil. This tilt is what makes people familiar with fingerspelling think of "K" instead of "2".

The original form of this logo, used for several decades, had a more natural and realistic image of the hand. This made it look even more like a manual letter "K". The simplified version now in use reduces this resemblance.

Gallaudet University Library

(Logo used by permission of Kendall Motor Oil Company)


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Prepared by Tom Harrington
Reference and Instruction Librarian
April, 2004

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