HBC coat of arms, 1921
The first seal depicting the corporate coat of arms was made in 1671, the year following the granting of the Royal Charter. Although there appears to be no record of the registration of these arms with the College of Arms in London until 1921, this is more likely the result of a gap in the official records than anything else. It is quite clear that the coat of arms and motto are heraldically correct in design and composition. Moreover the historical record indicates that the Company used the corporate seal with the coat of arms on it from the very beginning: having and using a corporate seal was, and still is, an important part of a corporation's legal existence.
The coat of arms has a number of components which have remained remarkably consistent over time. It is composed of a silver shield with a red cross (the cross of St. George) with four brown beavers, one in each quarter. Above the shield is the crest which depicts a fox sitting on a red cap, the Cap of Maintenance, which is trimmed with ermine. The shield and crest are supported by two elk. There seems to have been some confusion about the elk. The earliest representations show animals whose antlers are more like caribou than what we know as elk. But since no Europeans, or at least none at the College of Arms in England, appear to have seen an elk, the original animals were in fact quite bizarre-looking.
According to Professor E. E. Rich the animals were supposed to be moose. This seems like a logical interpretation. A revised version of the coat of arms issued on Canadian share certificates in 1961 transformed the "elk" into unmistakable moose - complete with bulbous noses and proper antlers.
According to the Royal Charter, both elk and beaver - in fact two of each - were to be paid as 'rent' to the Sovereign or his Successors, whenever they might set foot in the territory that constituted Rupert's Land.
In 2002 HBC launched a new version of the crest with a more modern look and feel. Featuring more stylized elements and dropping the traditional Latin motto, this version was meant to distinguish the HBC corporate Head Office from each of its retail channels. But the design was short-lived. In 2009 HBC introduced a new visual identity comprised of a modernized version of the historic Coat of Arms above a ribbon text that reads "Since - 1670 - Depuis". The crest is book-ended left and right by the HBC stripes and features a small but heavyweight block sans serif font text below which reads: Hudson's Bay Company.
New Hudson’s Bay branding was introduced in 2013 including an updated coat of arms, which was re-drawn by Canadian artist Mark Summers and developed by New York-based agency Lipman. The main elements in the coat of arms remain the same, with the traditional motto, “pro pelle cutem” (“for the pelt, the skin”), reintroduced after being dropped in 2002. The coat of arms is often shown together with the all-caps “Hudson’s Bay” in a simpler font, and founding date of 2 May 1670.
All versions of the HBC coat of arms are trademarked symbols of the Company and cannot be used without permission. If you are interested in reproducing any of these images in your publication or production, please complete the attached image request form.