The Swastika on Canadian and Newfoundland Stamps

by Tony Brown

For many of us the swastika  is associated with some of the most tragic events that have ever occured. There was a time, however, when most people thought of that symbol in a much different light. Derived from Sanskrit, the ancient and sacred language of Hindus in India, svastika means "conducive to well-being" and for thousands of years has been used as a good luck symbol  in many cultures all over the world.  Many Indian nations in South, Central, and North America favoured this symbol, and several early 20th century companies featured it on their products. In Canada, some hockey teams, the symbol emblazoned on their jerseys, were called "The Swastikas." In northern Ontario, the residents of the small community of Swastika resisted pressure to change the name of their town during the Second World War, contrary to what took place in 1916 when the residents of Berlin, Ontario voted to change the name of their city to Kitchener.

Entering Swastika, Ontario

It should not be surprising, therefore, that this symbol has appeared on a few Canadian postage stamps. The stamps in question are known as Air Post Semi-official issues. In the period 1924 - 1932 several private commercial airlines produced stamps to prepay the mail that they carried to areas that were inaccessible by other means. These companies operated under the strict regulations of the Post Office, and their stamps had to be affixed to the back of covers.


The first stamps bearing a swastika were issued in March, 1926, by the Jack V. Elliot Air Service and the Elliott-Fairchild Air Service. The second example is a stamp issued by the Elliot-Fairchilds Air Service on April 7, 1926, featuring another yellow background of swastikas.

In Newfoundland, the swastika adorned each corner of the 1931 $1 air mail issue commemorating historic transatlantic flights. This stamp was also used to commemorate the flight of the airliner Dornier DO-X to Southampton, May 21-23 1932, by means of an overprint.

The negative connotation of the swastika began in 1910 when a poet and nationalist ideologist by the name of Guido von List suggested the swastika as a symbol for all anti-Semitic organizations. National Socialist Party adopted it when it was formed 1919, and in 1935 the black swastika on a white circle with a red background became the national flag of Germany until the end of the second World War.

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Updated: 22 March 2003