House flag, Hudson Bay Co.

A Hudson Bay Company ensign. A British Red Ensign with the white letters 'HB C' in the fly. The flag is made of nylon fabric and it is machine sewn with the design printed. A rope and toggle is attached.

Founded by Frenchmen Pierre-Espirit Radisson and Médard des Froseillers, the company received a Royal Charter from Charles II in 1670 after exploring the Hudson Bay area in the ex Royal Navy ketch 'Nonsuch'. The company forged links with Native Americans, setting up an extensive system of inland trading posts, connected to main centres by inland vessels known as York Boats. The HBC maintained its own fleet of ships to run trade and supplies between the main centres and Europe. Metal tools, hunting gear and later alcohol were imported from Germany to trade for furs. In its trade with indigenous peoples, the company adopted the widespread use of issuing wool blankets, called Hudson's Bay point blankets, in exchange for the beaver pelts trapped by local hunters.

The company controlled the fur trade throughout British North America for several centuries. In 1821 the HBC took over the rival North West Company, giving the company control of most of the land in modern-day Canada, as well as parts of what is now the US west coast. This opened up trade routes across the Pacific Ocean, leading to trade with Russia, China and the Far East.

During the First World War the company acted as the chief shipping and purchasing agent for the governments of France, Belgium, Russia and Romania. The ‘French Government Business’, as it was called, was on such a huge scale that a subsidiary, The Bay Steamship Company, had to be created to handle the company’s merchant fleet.

1933 marked the last trade voyage between Hudson Bay and London, ending a tradition started in 1666.

Today the company exists as a chain of department stores throughout Canada, trading under the name The Bay. (Research Adam Mason)

Object Details

ID: AAA0437
Collection: Textiles; Flags
Type: House flag
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Leckie, J, Ltd; J. Leckie Ltd
Date made: 1980
People: Co, Hudson Bay
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. We regret that Museum enquiries have not been able to identify the owner of the flag's emblem and would welcome any information that would help us update our records. Please contact the Picture Library.
Measurements: flag: 863.6 x 1828.8 mm

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