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Loyalist Stamps

Postage stamps are often used to commemorate people, events, places, and icons important to their country of circulation. The Canada Flag, Queen Elizabeth II, the Bluenose, the beaver, Joseph Armand Bombardier, and landscapes by the Group of Seven have all been featured on Canadian postage stamps. It is fitting, then, that the Loyalists should be honoured in a similar fashion. This page is a collection of Loyalist and Loyalist-related stamps which have been printed by Canada Post.

1934 10¢ Stamp: “United Empire Loyalists, 1776-1784”


1934 10¢ stamp: United Empire Loyalists, 1776-1784

1934 10¢ stamp: United Empire Loyalists, 1776-1784

This stamp was designed by Robert Bruce McCracken, based on the sculpture "United Empire Loyalists," by Sydney March, at Prince's Square, Hamilton, Ontario.

Background: In 1934 Canada commemorated the 150th anniversary of the completion of the United Empire Loyalists' immigration to Canada by issuing a special 10-cent postage stamp. Dominion Day, 1st July, 1934, was a suitable day for its release. At the close of the American War of Independence, many persons residing in the newly created United States of America remained loyal to the British Crown. They accordingly emigrated to Canada, commencing about the time of the evacuation of Boston by General Howe in March, 1776.

The full tide of Loyalist immigration to Canada, however, did not take place until the evacuation of New York by the British in 1783. In the spring and summer of 1784 the great majority of the Loyalists within the limits of what is now the Province of Quebec moved to Upper Canada, now the Province of Ontario. Many settled along the Bay of Quinte and as far as Niagara. The influx into what is now New Brunswick resulted in the settlement of that province, and its separation from Nova Scotia.

Against a cross-hatched background, this stamp's central vignette is a sculpture of a family group of father, mother, and two children dressed in the costumes of the Revolutionary period. The March Brothers of Teddington, England, created this work of art known as the United Empire Loyalists' Monument. Flanked by the trees of Prince's Square, it stands in front of the Court House in Hamilton, Ontario. On either side of the centre design are depicted the figures of Britannia and a Mohawk Indian, both surmounted by a crown and the Union Jack.

Britannia is intended to personify the British Empire and to illustrate further the allegiance to the Empire of the Loyalists of British ancestry; the Mohawk Indian commemorates the part played in the Loyalist migrations by those Indians who elected to remain loyal to the British.

Adapted from Patrick, Douglas and Mary Patrick. Canada's Postage Stamps. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1964, pp. 69-70.

1934 2¢ Stamp: “New Brunswick, 1784-1934”


1934 2¢ stamp: New Brunswick, 1784-1934

1934 2¢ stamp:
New Brunswick, 1784-1934

Background: The 150th anniversary of the founding of the Province of New Brunswick by King George III in 1784, was commemorated in 1934 by the issuance of a special 2-cent stamp. New Brunswick separated from Nova Scotia in 1784. The issue went on sale on the 16th August, 1934, to coincide with celebrations which took place in New Brunswick in commemoration of the sesquicentennial anniversary.

Great Seal of the Province of New Brunswick. The original seal is believed to be no longer in existence. With letters patent dated 21st February, 1785, it was forwarded to Thomas Carleton, Governor of the colony, from the Court of St. James. The basic design on the obverse was the same on all great seals granted the colony by succeeding monarchs on their accession to the throne. A description follows: "A representation of a ship sailing up a river, on the borders of which is a new settlement with lofty pines on each side, destined to Naval purposes...." The Latin inscription, SIGILL PROVINCIA NOV" BRUNS, means, "Seal of the Province of New Brunswick." The motto, SPEM REDUXIT, "It brings back hope," relates to the circumstances involved in the establishment of the colony. When the stamps were required, no impression of the original seal could be found. As the only copy available in Ottawa was derived from the seal granted by Queen Victoria it was used in designing the same as the original Great Seal of King George III.

5 050 000 Printed by British American Bank Note Company

Adapted from Patrick, Douglas and Mary Patrick. Canada's Postage Stamps. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1964, p. 70. (POSTAL 0201 – Canada Post)

1970 6¢ Stamp: “Alex MacKenzie from Canada by land 22nd July 1793”


1970 6¢ stamp: Alexander MacKenzie from Canada by land 22nd July 1793

1970 6¢ stamp: Alexander MacKenzie
from Canada by land 22nd July 1793

This stamp was designed by Eiko Emori, Harvey Thomas Prosser, and Yves Baril.

Background: Alexander Mackenzie, whose trailblazing journeys place him in the forefront of North American explorers, died 150 years ago in his native Scotland. Mackenzie's most spectacular achievement came in July, 1793 when, at the age of 29, he completed the first crossing of the North American continent north of Mexico.

It was in 1774 , at the age of 10, after the death of his mother, that Mackenzie was taken by his father to New York and, in 1778, to Montreal where, one year later, he entered the service of a fur trading company. Not long after his arrival at Athabasca in 1787 he commenced planning a trip which, in 1789, was to make him the first to reach the Arctic at the mouth of the mighty river named in his honour. Bitterly disappointed at not finding the Pacific, he spent four years studying and planning before he set out through mountainous and unmapped terrain leading to the goal which he achieved years in advance of any other explorer.

Impressed by the mighty volume of the Fraser River, he eventually turned westward from its course on a route which brought him to Dean Channel, a few miles from the present day community of Ocean Falls, B.C. Here, in contrast with the wooden marker he had erected at the mouth of the Mackenzie, he used a mixture of vermilion and melted grease to paint the now famous inscription on the southeast face of a rock on which his party had rested over-night.

The inscription, since chiselled on the rock face and filled with red cement, carries the simple message "Alex Mackenzie from Canada by land 22nd July 1793". Nearby, a monument, erected by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 1936, bears a bronze tablet on which is printed, "This rock is the western terminus of the first journey across the continent of North America. It was made by Alexander Mackenzie of the North West Company, who, with his nine companions, arrived at this spot on the 21st July 1793. Mackenzie, by observations, ascertained his positions, spent the night here, and, after writing on the southeast face the words now cut therein, retraced his course to Lake Athabasca. This transcontinental journey preceded by more than then years that of Lewis and Clark".

Mackenzie, having accomplished his objective, wasted little time in setting out on his return trip unaware that his arrival on the Pacific coast had been within a very short time of Captain Vancouver's survey voyage in the same general area. News of his achievements preceded his return to Britain where he was rewarded with a knighthood conferred by King George III in 1802. Later in the same year Mackenzie returned to Montreal to pursue his interest in the fur trade. From 1804 to 1808 he sat as a member of the Lower Canada Assembly, retiring in the latter year to Scotland. In 1832, subsequent to his death in 1820, his retirement home, Avoch House, was gutted in a fire which destroyed the major part of his personal relics and papers.

Canada Post Office Department. [Postage Stamp Press Release], 1970.

1974 8¢ Stamp: “William Hamilton Merritt, The Welland Canal, 1824”


1974 8¢ stamp: William Hamilton Merritt, The Welland Canal, 1824

1974 8¢ stamp: William Hamilton Merritt,
The Welland Canal, 1824

This stamp was designed by William Rueter.

Background: The Post Office will honour William Hamilton Merritt "the father of Canadian transportation" on the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the start of construction on his greatest project, the Welland Canal between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Merritt* was born on July 3, 1793, at Bedford, New York. In 1796 his family settled in what is now St. Catharines. In 1811 he set up a general store and took up farming. The War of 1812 interrupted business, however, and Merritt joined the militia which he left in 1815 with the rank of Captain, after several campaigns and eight months of captivity by the Americans. The conflict with the Americans didn't prejudice Merritt towards them and within three years of the war's end, he set to work on what was to be his life's ambition, "to make Canada the avenue of trade between Great Britain and the western states". In 1818 he and some other St. Catharines' business men claimed in a petition to the legislature that a canal could easily be built to bypass Niagara Falls. Upper Canada had long needed such a project to secure naval supremacy over the United States on Lake Erie and to avoid dependence on American trade routes. A slump in agricultural prices and a customs dispute between Upper and Lower Canada postponed the task until 1824 but by then Merritt, "the eager, pushing, incurably romantic promoter", and his colleagues had raised enough money to begin the canal which, with plenty of support from the government and American investors, was ready for traffic by 1829. Monetary success was not immediately forthcoming. The Welland Canal depended heavily on local American traffic and was eventually nationalized in 1841 because of financial embarrassments. Canadians were not unanimous in their praise of the great achievement and William Lyon Mackenzie went so far as to accuse Merritt of charging his "expenses in London for clubs, theatre tickets, cigars and gin", to the company.

Whatever the initial reception, the canal eventually became the kingpin of the transport system linking the Great Lakes with the Atlantic. Taking the first step on the St. Lawrence Seaway was not Merritt's only contribution. He served in the legislature from 1832 until 1860 and his position helped him to boost dozens of schemes, both great and small, many of which his fertile brain had hatched. He wanted public support for schools and libraries. He favoured annexing Montreal to Upper Canada. From a letter describing a suspension bridge in Europe, he got the idea in 1844 of building a similar structure to the United States across the Niagara Gorge. The bridge was in place within five years due to his audacity and promotional skill. Merritt was probably the first to state clearly that closer economic ties (reciprocity) with the United States would prevent annexation to it. He also believed that reciprocity would divert American wheat and flour from the New York route to Europe into the St. Lawrence system. Always the enthusiast, he more than anyone else, organized the reciprocity movement, and as the practical man of affairs, he could take much of the credit for the successful attainment of its aims. Merritt, although scornful of any "trumpery railroad" trying to compete with his beloved canals felt the two could complement each other, in securing "the trade as much as possible within our own country". He therefore proposed "one continuous railway from the Atlantic" along "the north side of Lake Ontario . . . to Detroit". Such a railway, to be built by private enterprise bolstered with government assistance, would not only transport Canadian goods to the Maritime market but would also hasten the arrival of Canadian federation.

* His father, Thomas Merritt, had served under John Graves Simcoe in the Queen's Rangers during the American Revolution. Additional biographical information can be found here. In 1913, his grandson, Lieut.Col. William Hamilton Merritt (1855-1918), served as a delegate at the conference that lead to the founding of The United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada on May 27th 1914. Click here for his biographical information.

The stamp in honour of William Hamilton Merritt was designed by William Rueter. The portrait of Merritt is taken from an oil painting by Robert Whale (1805-1887). Whale painted this portrait around 1860 and it originally hung in his home "Oak Hill". The painting is presently held at the St. Catharines Historical Museum. The view of the Welland Canal is a steel engraved interpretation of an original wood engraved illustration "Lock No. 23 Thorold". The illustration is taken from George Monro Grant's "Picturesque Canada" published in 1882.

[George Monro Grant is the great grandfather of Michael Ignatieff]. This work was illustrated under the supervision of L. R. O'Brien and the wood engraving itself was executed by Schell & Hogan.

Adapted from Canada Post Corporation. [Postage Stamp Press Release], 1970. Ref. 0635

1984 32¢ Stamp: “The Loyalists”


1984 32¢ stamp: The Loyalists

1984 32¢ stamp: The Loyalists

This stamp was designed by Will Davies.

Background: Loyalists were the colonists who remained devoted to Great Britain during the American Revolution. John Adams, a future American president, estimated that about one-third the population of the Thirteen Colonies were Loyalists. At least 20,000 of them joined the army to defend the British cause. These factors turned the Rebellion into a bitter civil war.

Histories of the period tell of atrocities on both sides. For example, Revolutionaries tarred and feathered many Loyalists and hanged some as traitors. The took the view that a Loyalist was "a thing whose head is in England and its body in America, and its neck ought to be stretched." Colonies passed laws disenfranchising Loyalists and confiscating their property. The treaty of 1783, which ended the war, failed to stop these persecutions, so while the majority of Loyalists quietly made their peace with the victorious regime, approximately 100,000 fled. Of these, some 50,000 chose what is now Canada. About 35,000 arrived in the future Maritime Provinces and the rest settled in what became Quebec and Ontario.

While a portion of the refugees were merchants, labourers, public office holders, or professionals, most were farmers, an occupation that helped their pioneering efforts here in Canada. Most Loyalists were of British descent, but there were also many Germans, Swiss, and Dutch as well as groups of Quakers, Mennonites, Indians, and Blacks. The Imperial government helped these people get established by giving them food, land, and equipment. Loyalists opened up wide areas of Canada. Their immigration represented the largest influx yet of English-speaking people to Canada. Loyalist pressure led to the creation of New Brunswick and Upper Canada.

Thus, the Loyalists, in overcoming personal tragedy, benefited Canada and changed its character. The Loyalist stamp was designed by Toronto illustrator Will Davies. The design features a group of people in costume of the eighteenth century. They are representative cross section of the classes of society of the period who were Loyalists. In the background is the grand union flag, the British flag used from 1606 to 1801.

Canada Post Corporation. [Postage Stamp Press Release], 1984.

1986 34¢ Stamp: “Molly Brant, Koñwatsi'tsiaiéñni”


1986 34¢ stamp: Molly Brant, Koñwatsi'tsiaiéñni

1986 34¢ stamp: Molly Brant,
Koñwatsi'tsiaiéñni

This stamp was designed by Sara Tyson.

Background: Molly Brant, known to the Iroquois as Koñwatsi'tsiaiéñni, was the undisputed leader of the Six Nations Matrons, an influential group of Iroquois women. She was a fervent Loyalist and the wife of Sir William Johnson, Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the Thirteen Colonies. Furthermore, she was the older sister of Joseph Brant; both of them were influential Loyalists during the 1776 American Revolution.

When the Revolution began, most of the Six Nations were pledged to neutrality. Molly and Joseph Brant encouraged them to break their treaties of neutrality with the Americans, and were ultimately successful in keeping four out of six loyal to the Crown. Throughout the early part of the war, Molly helped to shelter and feed Loyalists; she was also responsible for sending arms and munitions to those who were fighting for the King. She even passed information to the British in advance of the Battle of Oriskany, allowing them to route American forces in 1777.

Toward the end of the American Revolution, after they had lost lands to the Americans, many of the Iroquois fled west into the Cayuga Nation, and ultimately to Canada. Molly Brant used her influence with the British leaders to obtain new lands for the Loyalist Amerindians. Her reward for her heroism, from the British government, was a pension and a house in Kingston, Ontario.

Sara Tyson's design depicts three facets of the heroine's life: Molly Brant as Iroquois, Loyalist, and European.

Canada Post Corporation. [Postage Stamp Press Release], 1986.

1988 37¢ Stamp: “Fraser, Returning from the Pacific”


1988 37¢ stamp: Fraser, Returning from the Pacific

1988 37¢ stamp: Fraser, Returning from the Pacific

This stamp was designed by Designed by Frederick Hagan.

Background: In the 18th century, new scientific equipment allowed explorers to survey land and sea with greater accuracy than ever before. Some of George Vancouver's maps, in fact, are still in use today. As a partner in the North West Company, Fraser led an expedition in 1805 to explore the Upper Peace River and establish trading posts.

In 1808, he explored the river that was later to bear his name, though at the time he thought it was the Columbia. He ignored the Indians' warnings about boiling rapids and towering cliffs, and narrowly escaped death in Hell's Gate canyon. Cowichan Indians prevented him from reaching the coast.

Artist Frederick Hagan of Newmarket, Ontario painted the four images in the series of Exploration stamps (1986-1989), of which this is the third. Using a palette of vivid colours, he depicts the lands carted by four 18th century explorers. His imaginative backgrounds detail charts, map-making tools and the Discovery, the ship Vancouver sailed on his voyage around the world.

Adapted from Canada Post Corporation. [Postage Stamp Press Release], 1988.