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May / Canada150 – The Mounties

Seriously, there’s no way you can collect a list of Canadian images and icons without including a reference to the Red Serge.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) was formed in 1920 by the merger of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police (RNWMP, founded in 1873) with the Dominion Police (founded in 1868). You can do your own search if you’re interested in the history of the force, who they police and what they are up to, including some not-so-heroic internal policies and procedures that have been keeping them in the news lately.

When choosing what and who to include in our calendar, we thought about things and events that meant something to us when we were growing up. Lessons from history books, live sports events and cultural milestones. So why include the Mounties?

A red serge jacket, britches, a flat-brimmed stetson and a horse! That’s why. For Joe, they are a graphic designer’s dream. A great colour combination, a dramatic silhouette, wrapped up in a mythical story of early lawmen of the wild west. For Margot, it was all about the horses and the Musical Ride (and Paul Gross in Due South.)

They Always get Their Man!

In the post we talked about the Avro Arrow being something that was brag-worthy. A similar sentiment emerged for the Mounties, back in their early days. They gained a reputation (and unofficial slogan) for diligence, hard-work, persistence and the ability to resolve many disputes without force. Before it became a famous hollywood phrase, a form of the phrase appeared in an American newspaper report, in the Fort Benton (Montana) Record, April 1877:

“Thanks to the vigilance of Major Irvine and the energy of Captain Winder, of the N.W. Mounted Police, another attempt to smuggle whiskey has been frustrated by the arrest of three men, who were tried, found guilty and sentenced to pay a fine of five hundred dollars each or be imprisoned for the minor period of six months. They preferred the former. Horses were sacrificed for the arrest, but the M.P.’s are worse than bloodhounds when they scent the track of a smuggler, and they fetch their men every time.”

Early Hollywood movies played on this theme, depicting Mounties as an authoritative sight with their commanding uniforms and a tradition of honour. Audiences loved it. A rugged hero who struggled not only against evil smugglers and Communists, but also against the harsh Canadian elements. Was this a good thing for our Canadian identity? Maybe, maybe not, you can read a great article about Mounties in film here. But we can’t deny it felt good to know our country was safe in the hands of Dudley Do-right!

The Mounties Month