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Logo History

(revised January 2014)

Canadian Pacific has had numerous striking logos since the company was founded in 1881.  The company produced an illustrated history of these designs in the 1990s and again in 2006 to mark the CPR's 125th anniversary. Since these mini-posters are no longer in print and their fascinating content does not seem to be available anywhere online, I am pleased to present the content of the 1990s poster for CP aficionados.  (The 2006 poster omitted the 1985 logo and two versions of the 1890s logo and added the 1987-1990 logo and two post-1990 logos.)  

Over a Century Of Corporate Logos

A lot of changes take place in a 105 year span.  Apart from obvious historical and technological developments, one of the most visible changes that occurs in a company is the evolution of its logo.

Canadian Pacific lived out its construction years having only "Canadian Pacific Railway" in block letters as its company logo.  The only distinctive flight of fancy the company would allow itself was to arrange the words "Canadian Pacific" in an arched quarter circle on its boxcars. 

After the driving of the Last Spike on November 7, 1885, Canadian Pacific readied itself for the first transcontinental train run leaving Montreal and Toronto on June 28, 1886.  With the inauguration of the transcontinental train service came  the need for a more appealing timetable.  This new folder had to be properly identified.  The company name should, at the very least, be presented in a pleasing but eye-catching manner.

To do this, the printers of the first timetable rummaged through their stocks of standard printers' block logs and came up with a shield.  On it they emblazoned the name "Canadian Pacific Railway".  This, for all intents and purposes, was CP Rail's first corporate logo.


By the end of 1886, however, it was felt that a visual link was needed to tie-in Canadian Pacific with Canada.  Accordingly, a beaver was placed on the point of the shield and given a branch with maple leaves to gnaw.  Both the beaver and the maple leaf would eventually be officially adopted as Canada's national symbols.


By 1889, Canadian Pacific felt it should have a distinctive shield it could call its own.  It developed a more simplified crest and gave the beaver a proper resting place. 


Throughout the 1890s the beaver and the "Canadian Pacific Railway" lettering went through several mutations, all of which cannot be shown, before, in 1898, a final configuration was settled on for both the beaver and the lettering.



(1894-1897 logos not included in poster)


This symbol prevailed until the late teens when a restless art department, tired of the Victorian approach to company logos, started to tinker with the company emblem.  Circling the beaver dominated crest with the words "Canadian Pacific", they left the crest free to sport a maple leaf.  This logo made its debut on motive power and rolling stock while the older beaver crest remained on the timetable covers. 

1917-1920s (motive power and rolling stock)

Canadian Pacific used the newer shield to pioneer an employee incentive program that would see certain selected locomotive enginemen with long-standing accident-free records rewarded.  Each man's name was incorporated in the circle around the beaver crest.  This individualized adaptation of the company crest would then be affixed to the employee's own assigned steam locomotive.

By 1929, however, the company's growing multi-modalism necessitated a new look.  The shield remained but the beaver went.  Canadian Pacific, at this point, became known as the "World's Greatest Travel System".  This slogan, used for the railway lines, could be replaced by a symbol within the shield representing each of the other modes of the company; such as a hotel crest, a ship, a telegraph pole, a truck, and so on. (See "Variation of Thirties Logos" below.)


By 1946, Canadian Pacific was ready to span the world.  To do this the company called on its old friend, the beaver.  More prominent than ever before, the beaver regained its perch atop the Canadian Pacific shield.  This time, the slogan inside the circle changed to "Spans the World".


By mid 1949, though, the "Spans the World" slogan had already had its day.  Throughout the fifties, the beaver crest continued to appear on all Canadian Pacific vehicles in its simplified form. 


This persisted until 1960, when a modern touch was deemed necessary and the "Canadian Pacific" lettering was changed to the new script style.


By 1968 modern times once again bid the beaver a fond farewell.  Canadian Pacific felt it was time to give itself a progressive image that could be adapted to the growing multi-modal facets of the company.

The "Multimark", a triangle and a semi-circle within a square block, signifying corporate stability, direction and world-wide capabilities, was the logo developed to answer Canadian Pacific's modern image demands.  Each of the company's transport-related odes was assigned its own distinctive color - CP Rail's being red.  The multimark reigned as CP Rail's logo for nearly two decades.


The centennial of the driving of the last spike called for a special, more historically appropriate, visual logo.  The link between the past and present was depicted with the juxtaposition of the 1880s-era 4-4-0 type steam locomotive beside the modern SD 40-2 type diesel locomotive.


By 1987, changes within the Canadian Pacific transportation group had lessened the effectiveness of the multimark.  So it was phased out, leaving "CP Rail" in its distinctive typestyle as the logo.

(1987-1990 - not shown on poster)

Early in 1990, the Soo Line of Minneapolis was integrated into CP Rail, and the word "System" was added, to better capture the scope of the new single-line transportation company.  The acquisition of the Delaware & Hudson in January 1991, brings more North American markets within reach of the CP Rail System.

1990-present (as of the time the poster was issued)

ariations of the 1930s Logo

As the official logo history mentions, the logo used from 1929-1946 was designed to be customized for each division of Canadian Pacific and, in cases, for individual components of these divisions.  The CPR site only illustrates the railway version of this logo so I have put together my own collection of the other variations.  These illustrations are all taken from various pieces of ephemera and are sometimes very small to begin with which is why many of the scans are low resolution.  The selection will continue to grow as I obtain more memorabilia from this period.


  Air Lines









Variations of the Fifties Logo

The official CP history makes no mention of this, but an angled bar was sometimes added to the bottom of the Fifties logo to hold the names of the various divisions.


The Airline Logos

I guess the beaver just wasn't cutting it as a mascot of the jet age because he was replaced in the 1950s with the much more aerodynamic - but equally patriotic - Canada goose.   Like most other divisions, the airline  logos didn't actually appear on the airplanes themselves, but on various printed materials such as luggage tags and timetables. 







The original airline logo actually first appeared in 1943 with a slightly different airplane illustration as shown here: 


In either case, it's quite mystifying how the designers of CPR's striking logos could have come up with an airline insignia that depicts an aircraft hurtling towards earth.



Canadian Pacific corporate font and "Spans the World" logo reproduced courtesy of Canadian Pacific