American media has once again latched onto the latest series of tweets from President Donald Trump. Most of these tweets are actually retweets centred around a user calling himself Trumpism 5.0. While American media is consumed by the never-ending spats between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, many Canadians noticed that a Canadian National Railway engine was used instead an American one.
— Trumpism 5.0™ (@Team_Trump45) September 17, 2017
The formation of Canada took a different path than the United States of America. After over three decades, the British North America Act was drafted and received royal assent for the Dominion of Canada. This was just over 150 years ago on July 1st, 1867, nearly 91 years after the United States declared its independence and just two years after the end of the American Civil War.
Central to nation building was the most exciting technology of the time, the railroad. The trans-Canada railway was the first major project of the government and our first Prime Minister John A. Macdonald referred to it as the “National Dream”. Over the decades that followed, several transcontinental railways were built and Canada grew with them. With a past so embedded, the rail system remains part of our collective identity.
The American mythos often centres around its battles. George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River and his capture of the Hessian forces with very few losses was an event that solidified Washington’s position as a leader. The battle is the focus of poems, re-enactments and historical landmarks. It has also resulted in this famous painting.
The Grand Union Flag
At the time that Washington crossed the Delaware River, the Grand Union flag was being used. The Grant Union flag resembles a British Red Ensign, similar to what Canada used until 1965. It appears to be a compromise during a period of transition. The design made it easy to modify British Red Ensigns by sewing white stripes onto existing flags.
Some sources consider this to be America’s first flag. Many favour the folklore legend of Betsy Ross allegedly sewing the first American flag with stars for the colonies. While the validity of that story and even the participants are in question, the timeline is not.
Many Canadians frequent the ubiquitous coffee, doughnut and sandwich franchise Tim Horton’s. The coffee and doughnut shop was founded in 1964 by Jim Charade and Tim Horton, under the NHL hockey player’s name. The chain quickly grew throughout Canada, managing to adapt to a lunch menu when many competing coffee franchises failed under strict smoking laws.
In 2014, Tim Horton’s and Burger King merged to become the multinational Restaurant Brands International. Initial consumer grumblings over branding changes were quickly silenced when Tim Horton’s produced a number of Nutella-based snacks. However, franchisees have launched a class action lawsuit mostly centring around marketing costs. The company recently launched pre-ordering via an app.
Tim Horton’s coffee and doughnuts permeate Canadian culture in strange ways. Shown here is an autographed Captain Canuck poster where our hero battles baddies in the snow while pursuing his Tim’s coffee and doughnuts.
Back to the CN train wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. Canada shares a common history with America and our cultures often overlap in strange and bizarre ways. Bizarre is something that our two cultures excel at. I am happy to embrace absurdity, but I had to fix that flag.
The river shown is not the Delaware River but a painting of the Thames River in London, Ontario by James Hilton. It is in the Baldwin Collection at the Toronto Reference Library.