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Canada - history of the flag (1873-1892)

Last modified: 2011-04-29 by phil nelson
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Unofficial flag, 1873-1892
[Canada - 1873 (unofficial)] image by by Herman De Wael

See also:

The Red Ensign

Chronology of the Canadian Blue and Red Ensigns

original text by Dean Tiegs - 21 December 1997, additions inserted at appropriate places.

Some information from "The Flags of Canada - chapter IV - the Canadian Ensigns" by Alistair B. Fraser.

20 July 1871

Confederation of British Columbia. B.C. initially used an unofficial symbol: the royal crest (a crowned lion standing on a crown) with the motto "splendor sine occasu." Sometimes this was flanked by laurel or laurel and oak, and sometimes the letters B and C were to the left and right.
Dean Tiegs - 21 December 1997

According to Fraser, an ensign with a six provinces great seal was never in use. Probably by the time the symbol for BC became settled, the Confederation of Prince Edward Island was already scheduled and manufacturers jumped from a 5-province shield directly to a 7-province one.
Herman De Wael, 20 October 1998

01 July 1873

Confederation of Prince Edward Island. It continued to use the seal design it had used since 1769. Very similar to the present coat of arms, except that the motto "parva sub ingenti" was an integral part of the design and the chief with lion was missing.
Dean Tiegs, 21 December 1997

According to Fraser, flags with 7-provincial seals began to appear in late 1874. A beaver was added, and the seal was placed on a white roundel. Earlier ensign seldom and later ensigns never had a white roundel.

I have based the great seal in this image on a picture "arms of Canada" in a Larousse of 1900.  The arms of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have been switched. The same source gives for the flag of Canada a 5-quartered great seal, surround by crown and laurels, on a Red Ensign.
Herman De Wael, 20 October 1998

The Prince Edward Island badge according to Admiralty and Colonial Office papers, was not approved for use on a flag until 1878. There was a design, with a slightly off-centre crown between the two trees, that made it into print, but probably not into cloth. There was also a suggestion that the garland on the Lt. Govs. version of the flag, should be rose leaves with pink roses, but that was rejected.
D Prothero, 31 December 1997


First request to the British Admiralty for official permission for merchant vessels to wear the Canadian Red Ensign. The request is accepted at first (?) but rejected in 1875.
Dean Tiegs, 21 December 1997

history continues

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