On today’s date in 2015, Canada’s first-ever fabric stamp was issued to mark the 50th anniversary of the Canadian flag.
The $5 stamp was printed on a specialized satin rayon fabric applied to a paper backer using adhesives and silicones. The backer is similar to—but thicker—than the backer used on most self-adhesive stamps. The material is produced by Wausau Coated Products, which is based in Wisconsin. The design depicts a large Canadian flag with the dates 1965-2015 in the lower-left corner. The stamp also includes security features that glow when viewed under an ultra-violet light.
The high-value stamp was issued on a souvenir sheet as well as an uncut press sheet. The press sheet was signed by Joan O’Malley, the person who sewed the first prototype of the Canadian flag.
A total of 1,000 uncut sheets and 300,000 souvenir sheets with red tagging were printed.
The souvenir sheet design was also used for the official first-day cover (OFDC), which included an Ottawa cancel dated Feb. 15, 2015, printed in gold ink with a maple leaf design.
The use of cloth as the canvas for a Canadian stamp is unique; nearly all of Canada’s postage has been printed on paper—with the exception of a set of $3 holographic stamps issued in 2009 for the Montréal Canadiens.
Canadians wishing to celebrate the flag’s anniversary on regular mail could also opt for a Permanent-rate domestic stamp. This stamp, printed by the Canadian Bank Note Co. using five-colour lithography, shows a flag blowing in the breeze with the dual dates in white lettering.
The self-adhesive stamps are available in booklet form with 500,000 booklets of 10 stamps produced.
A second OFDC features the flag stamp alongside various failed proposals for Canada’s national flag.
Prior to the maple leaf flag, Canada had no official flag, using instead Britain’s Union Flag (commonly referred to as the Union Jack).
Adopted in 1965, the modern Canadian flag replaced the Union Flag, becoming the country’s first official national flag.
Previously, the Canadian Red Ensign was used unofficially since the 1890s. In 1945, it was approved by an order in council for use wherever it was desirable to fly a distinctive Canadian flag.
In 1964, prime minister Lester B. Pearson, who had long envisioned a distinctive Canadian flag, formed a committee to resolve the issue. This spurred on a serious debate about a flag change, and after a long process of discussion, the choice came down to one of three designs.
The maple leaf design by George Stanley—based on the flag of the Royal Military College of Canada—was eventually chosen.
The design was proclaimed by Queen Elizabeth II on Jan. 28, 1965, and inaugurated on Feb. 15.
Since 1996, Feb. 15 has been commemorated as National Flag of Canada Day.