The Companies


Compagnie de la Nouvelle France

Compagnie des Indes Occidentales

Hudson’s Bay Company

Compagnie d’Occident

North West Company

Canada Company

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The Company of New France



On the iniative of Cardinal Richelieu the Compagnie de la Nouvelle France also called the Compagnie des Cent-Associés was founded in 1627. The seal of the Company was strewn with fleurs-de-lis and charged with the allegory of a woman on the waves with a lily in her left hand and a latin cross in her right hand all within the legend « me donavit lvdovicus decimus tertius 1627 » (Louis XIII has given me 1627). On the counter seal was a sailing vessel on the waves within the inscription «in mari viae tuae » (Your road is on the waves). [1]


Sceau de la Compagnie de la Nouvelle-France
dite des Cent-Associées


Contre-sceau de la Compagnie de la Nouvelle-France
dite des Cent-Associées



The Company was liquidated in 1663 after complaints about its apathy and a radical change in french royal colonial policy.


Compagnie des Indes Occidentales



Achievement of the West India Company [2]


The West India Company was created  on 28 May 1664. It received among other extensive rights the power to grant lands and to determine the conditions under which such grants should be held. A new feature in the history of the colonial landtenure system appears, at this juncture, in the provision that henceforth all contracts should be made and construed in conformity with the Custom of Paris. But the Company of the West Indies, like its predecessor, became at once engrossed in the fur traffic, which yielded lucrative profits, and developed no interest in the matter of granting or improving agricultural land. Two years after its establishment it asked, through its colonial agent, that this latter branch of administration be transferred to the royal officials. The request was favourably considered, and during the next ten years or more grants of seigniories were made, with few exceptions, by the royal intendant.

Art. 31 about its arms of the royal decree creating the Company reads:


Prendra la dite Compagnie pour ses armes un écusson au champ d'azur, semé de fleurs de lys d'or sans nombre, deux sauvages pour supports et une couronne trèflée; lesquelles armes nous lui concédons pour s'en servir dans ses sceaux et cachets et que nous lui permettons de mettre et apposer aux édifices publics, vaisseaux, canons et partout où elle le jugera à propos.


(Said Company shall take for its arms a blue shield strewn with fleurs-de-lis, two savages for supporters and a crown of leaves; we grant it the said arms to serve on its seals and stamps and we permit it to put on and attach it to public buildings, ships, cannon and everywhere where it judges it appropriate).


Sceau de la Compagnie des Indes occidentales

Seal of  the West India Company

Print of 1670. Archives nationales du Canada, MG 18, H 64.


Arms: Azure, strewn with fleurs-de-lis Or

Crown: of five leaves Argent which is the crown of the Governors of French Provinces

Supporters: Two savages with loin-cloth’s of leaves, armed with clubs



Æ See also: Daniel Cogné: Sceau de la Compagnie des Indes Occidentales.


Hudson’s Bay Company



Achievement of the Hudson’s Bay Company. [3]


The company was incorporated by English royal charter in 1670 as The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay and functioned as the de facto government in parts of North America before European states and later the United States laid claim to some of those territories. It was at one time the largest landowner in the world, with the area of the Hudson Bay watershed, known as Rupert's Land. From its long-time headquarters at York Factory on Hudson Bay, the company controlled the fur trade throughout much of the English and later British controlled North America for several centuries. Undertaking early exploration, its traders and trappers forged early relationships with many groups of aboriginal peoples. Its network of trading posts formed the nucleus for later official authority in many areas of Western Canada and the United States. By 1821, the Hudson’s Bay Company had become one of the most powerful trading companies in North America. In the late 19th century, with its signing of the Deed of Surrender, its vast territory became the largest portion of the newly formed Dominion of Canada, in which the company was the largest private landowner.


The arms of the Hudson Bay Company,  incorporated by King Charles II in 1670 were:

Arms: A cross gu. between four beavers pass. Ppr.

Crest - On a chapeau gu. turned up erm. a squirrel sejant ppr..

Supporters - Two bucks ppr. Motto - pro pelle cutem. [4]

Seal of the Hudson's bay Company

affixed to a letter of the Board to the Earl of Middleton, Secretary of State (National Archives of Canada, MG 18, D 2, p.3. 23-24 mm. Photo N101675). This document written at Hudson's Bay House, Noble Street, London, on 13 May 1687, concerns the relations with the French in Canada.


The arms displayed on the seal were assumed by the Company as early as 1678. We read '... a cross ... between four beavers ...'. From the 17th century to the early 20th century, many variants of the colours were used. The cross is red or gold, and sometimes green. On 26 September 1921, definitive armorial bearings were granted by the English Kings of Arms: Argent a cross Gules between four beavers Sable; Crest, upon a cap of maintenance Gules turned up Ermine a fox sejant Proper. The cap of maintenance is a symbol of authority which is very suitable for a company with vice-regal powers.

On either side of the shield we find an elk proper. In am escroll under the shield is the famous motto 'PRO PELLE CUTEM'. The translation, suggested by Prof. Ramsay Traquair of that verse taken from the Book of Job, seems to be most adequate: For the pelts which we collect, we risk our skins.

We know from the archives of the Company that 'a little Seale of the Armes of the Company for the sealing of our letters' was ordered on 27 May 1680, and another one on 25 July 1683. It is impossible to conclude that the wax impression shown here was made with one of these dies. [5]


MEC2758: Hudson Bay Company trading token; obverse

(Repro ID: E4978-1 © National Maritime Museum)


Hudson Bay Company token denomination one Made Beaver.

Obverse: The Hudson Bay Company arms. Motto: 'PRO PELLE CUTEM'.

Reverse: Inscription, 'HB EM 1 NB'. The 'E.M. stands for East Main: the district where the tokens were used on the east side of James Bay. 'NB' is a die-cutters error, it should read 'MB' for Made Beaver. These trade tokens were probably issued between the dates 1860-70.


Most of the furs traded at Hudson’s Bay Company posts were trapped by Native Americans, who bartered them for goods at Company stores. Tokens such as this were used to facilitate this process. Trappers would receive the appropriate number of tokens, equivalent to the value of beaver pelts they had brought in, and could then exchange them for goods in the store


Compagnie d’Occident



In 1674 Colbert discontinued the West India Company controlling the trade in the African coast and in North America and in 1717 the king founded the Company of the West by letters patent. He granted it the trade privileges formerly held by seigneur Antoine Crozat, marquis du Chatel, (1655-1738) for Louisiana and by the banquers the seigneurs Aubert, Néret and Gayot for Canada. Art 54 of the letters patent reads:


Pourra la dite compagnie prendre pour ses armes un écusson de sinople à la pointe ondée d'argent sur laquelle sera couché un fleuve au naturel, appuyé sur une corne d'abondance d'or; ayant deux sauvages pour supports et une couronne trefflée; lesquelles armes nous lui accordons pour s'en servir dans les sceaux et cachets et que nous lui permettons de faire mettre et apposer à des édifices, vaisseaux, canons et partout ailleurs où elle jugera à propos.


(The said Company can take for ist arms a shield Vert with a point wavy Argent on which is lying a river proper, leaning on a cornucopia Or, having two savages for supporters and a crown of leaves; we allow these arms to be used on its seals and stamps an we permit it to put it on and attach it to buildings, ships, cannon and everywhere where it thinks it appropriate)


Achievement of the Company of the West, founded 1717

On a map La France Occidentale dans l'Amérique Septentrionale:

ou le cours de la Rivière de St. Laurens,1718  [6]


In 1719 this achievement was adopted unchanged by the (Everlasting-) Company of the Indies of John Law.


Æ See also A. Vachon  [7]


North West Company



Arms and crest of the North West Company [8]


A major force in the fur trade from the 1780’s to 1821.

The name first described Montréal traders who in 1776 pooled resources to reduce competitions among themselves and to resist inland advances of the Hudson’s Bay Company. In 1779 a new temporary organization took the name.

In 1821 the company merged into the Hudson’s Bay Company.


The coat of arms of the company was:


Arms: Azure, a galley with five oars, sails furled, on the bow and the stern the flag of the Company being gules with the cypher NW Argent ; and a chief Or, charged with a deer’s head  ppr. with antlers Gules between two crosses crosslet fitchée of the last. within a bordure Argent; and over all a chief Vert charged with a canadian canoe manned with seven indian oarsmen and a white fur trader ppr., on the stern the flag of the Company as described before

Crest: On a helmet to the dexter lambreauined Gules and Argent, on a wreath Or and Azure, an oak tree and a beaver ppr.

Motto: (above the crest) perseverance (Steadfastness)


In 1821 a parliamentary Act granted exclusive trade to the HBC and to William and Simon Mc Gillivray and Edward Ellice of the North West Company.


Canada Company




The Company was granted Armorial Bearings by the English Kings of Arms on 15 June 1825. They are:

Arms: Argent on a cross of St. George Gules, a lion passant guardant Or, in the first quarter a beaver, in the second a saw surmounted by an axe in saltire, in the third a plough, and in the fourth a garb, the whole proper, a chief erminois, thereon a rose Gules charged with another Argent, barbed and seeded proper between a thistle on the dexter side slipped and leaved and a trefoil on the sinister both also proper.

Crest: On a wreath of the colours, an oak tree eradicated proper.

Supporters: On either side a lion guardant Or, the dexter supporting a flag-staff proper, flowing therefrom a banner Azure, charged with the cross saltire of St. Andrew Argent, the sinister supporting a like flag-staff  with a banner Argent, charged with the cross saltire of St. Patrick Gules.

Motto:  NON MUTAT GENS SOLUM. (The Soil does not change te Race). [9]


Seal of the Canada Company

Paper impression affixed in Toronto on 3 January 1844 to a deed of land to William Carroll. Founded in 1824

National Archives of Canada, MG 53, A 60. Diam. 68 mm. Photo N103373.


The Canada Company had an important role in the colonization and development of Upper Canada (now Ontario).

The cross of St. George and the beaver (Castor canadensis) on the arms were already depicted in the Arms of the Hudson's Bay Company. It is interesting to note the mistake made by the engraver of the seal is that the lion passant found on the cross is not guardant as it should be.

The axe and saw symbolize the lumber business in Upper Canada. The plough and the garb, already found in the Arms of the State of Pennsylvania since 1777, remind us of the agricultural activity of the settlers. The heraldic flowers depicted in chief are obvious ethnic allusions.

A crest and supporters were also granted to the Company. They are not shown here mainly because the Attornies of the Company used a simpler version of the Arms for their seal. [10]



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© Hubert de Vries 2015-12-04



[1] Vachon, Auguste M.A., C.S.H.C., a.i.h. Héraut Saint-Laurent: Des Armoiries pour le Canada au temps de Louis XIV.

[2] Picture from Swan, Conrad: Canada : Symbols of Sovereignty. Toronto, 1977. Pl. 2.1

[3] Picture from Swan, Conrad op.cit, 1977. Pl. 6.

[4] Burke’s Peerage, 1884. Borne since 1678 by the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England Trading into Hudson’s Bay, commonly called the Hudson’s Bay Company. The arms were not granted, however, by letters Patent of the Kings of Arms until 1921 (!), vide Rich, E.E. The History of the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1670-1870, Vol. I, 1670-1763, The Hudson’s Bay Record Society, 1958, p. 50; and Tranquair, R. ‘The Coat of Arms’, The Beaver, June, 1945, p. 42 ff. (Swan n. 42)

[5] Cogné, Daniel:  The seal of the Hudson's Bay Company.


[7] Vachon, Auguste op.cit.

[8] Picture Division / Public Archives of Canada.

[9] Fox Davies, A.C.: The Book of Public Arms. London, 1915. P. 146

[10] Cogné, Daniel: The seal of the Canada Company.