Maple Leaf Forever

October 19, 2015 | Nicole

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On the evening of July 19, 2013, a tree was brought down in a storm. But this wasn't just any tree...

Maple Leaf Forever

 John McPherson, The House of A. Muir after a Shower in Toronto, 1907. [T 31990]

... it was the tree that inspired Alexander Muir, in 1867, to write the song “The Maple Leaf Forever.” (You can listen to "Maple Leaf Forever" here.) 

Maple Leaf Forever Alex Muir

Through the efforts of LEAF, a Toronto non-profit dedicated to the protection of urban forests, a number of commemorative artifacts were made from the reclaimed wood from the famous tree. On October 19, several artifacts, including easels and holders for supporting rare books, were presented to the Library in the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre on the 5th floor of the Toronto Reference Library. Now we can truly say that the Maple Leaf will last forever at the Library.

  Maple Leaf Forever Easels

But why the maple leaf? And how has it become such a strong symbol associated with national identity? 

At a public meeting in August, 1860, a group of Toronto citizens decided that those born in Canada would don a maple leaf to distinguish themselves from those born in the British Isles during the first ever Royal Visit.

Leather maple leaf

Leather Maple Leaf badge, 1860. [S 204]

This leather maple leaf, held in the Library’s Special Collections, comes from the first time the symbol was adopted and worn as a national badge.

The Maple Leaf was quickly adopted as the symbol of Canada and featured prominently in World War I posters and propaganda.  

Heroes of St Julien and Festubert

In 1965, the Maple Leaf was chosen as the motif on Canada’s new National Flag. It was stylized in Canada’s Centennial emblem in 1967. 

Centennial Emblem 1967

Be sure to visit the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre to see the documents of our past, and bring these stories to life.