Hudson's Bay Company
Only 2 of 3 labels are shown. Underplayed labels are variations with minor differences.
Until 1867, the Hudson's Bay Company controlled most of the area of modern Canada west of Ontario. A flag much used in this territory was the British Red Ensign (a red flag with the Union Flag on the canton) with the capital letters H B C in white on the fly: the letters H and B are joined together in a monogram arrangement. One of these flags is displayed in Christ Church Cathedral, in Victoria, British Columbia.
This flag was probably the prototype for the Canadian Red Ensign and several provincial flags.
Henry Hudson (1565-1611) was an English explorer and navigator who explored parts of the Arctic Ocean and northeastern North America. The Hudson River, Hudson Strait, and Hudson Bay are named for Hudson.
Little is known about Hudson's early life. Hudson was hired by the Muscovy Company in 1607, to find a waterway from Europe to Asia. Hudson made two trips (in 1607 and 1608), but failed to find a route to China. In 1607, he sailed to Spitzbergen (an island north of Scandinavia in the Arctic Ocean) and discovered Jan Mayen Island (a tiny island off eastern Greenland). In 1608, he sailed to Novaya Zemlya (an island north of Russia in the Arctic Ocean).
Hudson was then hired by the Dutch East India Company in 1609, to try to find the Northwest Passage farther south. On this trip in a ship called the Half Moon, Hudson sailed to Nova Scotia, and then sailed south. He found what is now called the Hudson River. Hudson is credited with discovering the location which is now New York City (although da Verrazzano had previously sailed by the area in 1524). Hudson sailed into New York's harbor on September 3, 1609 and noted what an excellent harbor it was. Hudson sailed up the river about 150 miles (240 km) and noted the abundance of rich land, but realized that this was not a waterway to India. His reports resulted in many Dutch settlements in the area.
A 1610-1611 trip through the Hudson Strait and into Hudson Bay ended in a mutiny. Hudson died in 1611 after his crew mutinied and left Hudson, his son, and seven crew members adrift in a small, open boat in Hudson Bay.
A Brief History of the Hudson's Bay Company
The Hudson's Bay Company, one of the oldest, still active companies in the world, was almost 200 years old when Canada was created in 1867. Since its inception in 1670, the Company controlled fully one-third of present-day Canadian territory. That area, designated Rupert's Land, encompassed most of Northern Ontario and Northern Québec, all of Manitoba, most of Saskatchewan, the southern half of Alberta and a large part of the Northwest Territories.
Control over this enormous domain was granted by Royal Charter following the successful voyage of the Nonsuch to trade for beaver pelts with the Cree near James Bay.
What began as a simple fur-trading enterprise evolved into a trading and exploration company that reached to the west coast of Canada and the United States, south to Oregon, north to the Arctic and east to Ungava Bay, with agents in Chile, Hawaii, California, and Siberia; a land development company with vast holdings in the prairie provinces; a merchandising, natural resources and real estate development company and, today, Canada's oldest corporation and one of its largest retailers.
It was not an uneventful progression.
First, the French wanted the Company out. During its first decades, French and English warships battled for possession of Company trading posts. The rivalry was finally settled, in the Company's favour, by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.
Powerful rivals emerged. The North West Company, principally Scottish-Canadian traders from Montréal, was the most formidable. The Nor'Westers, particularly under Alexander Mackenzie, in defiance of the Charter, pushed north to the Arctic and in 1793, west to the Pacific.
In 1821, the North West Company was merged into the Hudson's Bay Company and the Company's title to the land was recognized by all parties.
Further benefits were to come. In 1821, Parliament expanded the Company's monopoly trading area, under license, so that it stretched from the boundary of Labrador to the Pacific and from the lower reaches of the Mackenzie River to the U.S. passes over the Rocky Mountains.
The next half century or so were some of the Company's best years. Under Governor Sir George Simpson, Company officers explored and traded vigorously throughout the west and north and pushed south in a wide area from the sources of the Missouri to San Francisco Bay.
However, not everyone liked the idea of a monopoly. The main criticisms were alleged misuse of monopoly power and opposition to settlement. The Parliamentary Inquiry of 1857 found that what is now southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and known as the fertile belt, were suitable for settlement, and should be ceded to Canada. It was the beginning of the end for the Company's monopoly.
By the Deed of Surrender of 1869, the Company retained its Charter but surrendered ownership of its Rupert's Land territory. In return, it received cash and seven million acres in the fertile belt which it gradually sold during the next 85 years.
By 1912, the Company recognized that it needed a new approach to retailing and planned a chain of department stores in western Canada. In so doing, it laid the foundation for its emergence as one of Canada's leading retail organizations.