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Historical flags of Manitoba


Last modified: 2012-08-09 by rob raeside
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Flags over Manitoba

19th Century - The flag of the Hudson Bay Company and the Union Flag of Great Britian fly over Manitoba.

Metis adopt a blue flag with the infinity symbol, the color influenced by the flag of the North West Company..

1869-1870 - Metis nationalism surfaces, with Louis Riel as the political leader. During the Metis period at least nine flags are recorded, most being white with French and Irish symbols.

December 10, 1869 - The Metis provisional government raises a white flag with a yellow fleur-de-lis and green Shamrock at Fort Garry.

August 24, 1870 - The Union flag is raised over Fort Garry and Riel's government ends.

1870 - The seal of Manitoba is adopted, featuring a shield with a crown and buffalo head.

1905 - The shield becomes the arms of Manitoba.

1964 - The Canadian Red Ensign replaces the Union Jack over provincial schools.

1965 - Manitoba's flag adopted. Canada's maple leaf flag adopted.

Summarized from a news article in the Winnipeg Free Press, forwarded to FOTW by David Kendall.

Per Fraser there may not have been a provincial flag before the corrent one:

In 1903, provincial officials sought to have the device from the seal properly authorized as the arms of the province. With minor changes, this was accomplished on May 10, 1905. The St. George's cross was retained in the chief, although the crown was dropped; a side view of a much more regal buffalo is presented standing on a rock in the base.

While Manitoba now could use an armorial banner, we are not aware of any occasion on which it was ever used. The twentieth century had arrived and with it the imperial sentiment which promoted the flying of the Union Flag. For years Manitoba flew the Union Flag as its official flag.

Further about the LG flag:

It is unclear whether the lieutenant-governor used a badge bearing the buffalo on a Union Flag before arms were granted in 1905. It seems much more likely that he would have just used a plain Union Flag.
Phil Nelson, 3 December 2005

Flags of Manitoba

On 15 July 1870 Manitoba became the first new province to join the Canadian confederation, but no badge was approved for ten years. One difficulty was indecision over whether the badge which had been produced for the Dominion in 1868 by quartering the arms of the four founding provinces, should be altered to accommodate the arms of each additional province that joined the confederation.

Badge, 1870-1905
[Badge of Manitoba] image by Martin Grieve

Lt. Governor's Flag, 1870-1905
[Lt. Governor, 1870-1905] image by Martin Grieve

The seal of Manitoba was a shield that followed the pattern of the arms of the founding provinces, by having an emblem of the Mother Country of the principal colonists in chief, and a symbol of the province below. It was very similar to the arms that were later granted in 1905, except that the St George's cross had a royal crown at its centre, and the buffalo, which was not standing on a rock, had its head lowered and turned to face the viewer.

While the argument about the Canadian badge continued, the government of Manitoba ignored the design on the seal and produced a badge in the form of arms complete with supporters and motto. Correspondence in the Public Record Office [ADM 116/185] refers to a drawing of the arms, which had been sent to the Colonial Office by the Minister of Marine and Fisheries, but the enclosures are missing. On 16 October 1878 the Government of Canada decided that, "it was not advisable to take any steps at present towards amending the badge of the Dominion," but that both Dominion and Provincial Governments approved the modifications to Manitoba badge suggested 27 June 1878. This was that the supporters and motto should be omitted.

On 16 May 1879 the Privy Council of Canada wrote that it was not necessary to submit the drawing of the flag for Manitoba to the College of Arms, and on 22 March 1880 the Manitoba badge was approved by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council.

Lt. Governor's Flag, 1905-84
[Lt. Governor, 1870-1905] image by Martin Grieve

The 1880 badge was replaced by the arms, shield only, granted by royal warrant 10 May 1905. The Union Jack defaced with this badge was used as a car flag after 1956, and on Government House after 1965, until replaced by the present flag 11 May 1984. The addition of supporters, crest, motto etc., were granted by warrant of the Governor-General 23 October 1992.
David Prothero, 12 November 2002

Badge of Manitoba (1870)

On 2 February 1870, the design of Manitoba's seal is finalized: similar to the present arms, but without the rock, with a crown on the cross, and with the buffalo portrayed charging.
Dean Tiegs, 21 December 1997

This symbol appeared on unofficial red ensigns from that moment on.

In the Admiralty Flag Book of 1889, and in Rudi Longueville's Badges of the British Commonwealth(1870 to 1905), the badge for Manitoba is not as you've described it.

I don't have a picture with me, only notes, so I can't describe it very well, but roughly: A shield with a square Union Jack in the first quarter, something indistinguishable in the second quarter, and in the bottom panel which is rather more than half, three wheat sheaves.

Some similarity to Saskatchewan.
David Prothero, 23 April 1998

You're not the first to be puzzled by this. It's an interesting coincidence that you should bring this up now, only a few weeks after I've heard of this: In the March 1998 issue (i.e., the latest issue) of Heraldry in Canada, G. A. Macaulay wrote an article asking for help on exactly this issue. This article was the first I'd heard of these unusual arms for Manitoba. Macauley has found two variants:

"In ABC of Heraldry (1915; reproduced in Concise Encyclopedia of Heraldry, 1985), Guy Cadogan Rothery wrote that before the 1905 arms were assigned 'Manitoba bore Vert, three garbs in fess Or; a chief per pale, dexter the Union Badge of 1707 (a combination of the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew), and [sinister] Azure, three fleurs-de-lis Or.'

"A shield of very similar design may be found on a colour plate of 25 arms and badges of the United Kingdom and its colonies in The Victoria Regina Atlas (Edinburgh & London: W. & A. K. Johnston Ltd.). This shield has in the dexter half of the chief not the Union Badge but the crosses of St. George and St. Patrick conjoined, surmounted by a royal crown."

Macauley's article is basically an appeal for more information. The buffalo arms seems to have been the only ones used for official purposes, and the arms with the wheat sheaves, other than appearing in these few books of collections of badges and coats of arms, are an historical mystery.
Dean Tiegs, 23 April 1998

The information in Badges of the British Commonwealth came from the Royal Edwardian Edition of a flag chart called Standards and Flags of All Nations. I'm not sure of the publisher as I have a photocopy of only part of it, but I would guess that it's probably by Philip, Son and Nephew in about 1902.

I imagine that the publishers of the flag chart got their information from the 1889 Admiralty Flag Book that I mentioned. Its full title is, "Drawings of the Flags in Use at the Present Time by Various Nations". I do remember seeing the Manitoba badge, but the only things that stuck in my mind were that the green background to the wheat-sheaves was a particularly unpleasant colour, and that the Union Flag in the first quarter looked like a child's drawing. Not an attractive badge.

It is also in the Colonial Office flag book in the Public Records Office (CO 325/54) with "1878" written alongside, and also "app 1880". I forget if it was an original drawing or a print that had been pasted in, probably the latter.
David Prothero, 25 April 1998