The Bermuda Triangle is a legendary triangular region of the Atlantic Ocean where hundreds of ships, planes and people have disappeared through mysterious circumstances. A far less studied triangle exists in our northern hemisphere, a triangle with its own special powers. Like a glowing, hot branding iron that has been burned into our inner retinas after leaving the womb, it is the image of the Canadian Tire triangle.
The inverted red triangle with a green maple leaf logo on top is just about as Canadian as a ketchup chip dipped in maple syrup, yet many don’t realize the story behind this simple Canadian icon.
When the two brothers Alfred and John Billes opened the first Canadian Tire store in 1926, the company’s logo was a rather bizarre cartoonish rubber tire wearing elven booties dragging behind a coin character wearing the same medieval footwear. Under the slogan “The Longest Run for Your Money”, this logo of the Canadian Tire Corporation would carry on until the 1940’s when a red wax seal and ribbon logo appeared in their advertising and catalogues. This common “seal of approval” motif would continue until something happened that would live on into our subconscious: a red triangle.
THE RED TRIANGLE
Appearing around 1950, the inverted red triangle with a green maple leaf would appear and remain a symbol for the Canadian Tire corporation for 66 years, and will probably continue for many more. The original red triangle was outlined in green and included the word “corporation” shortened to “CORP’N”. In 1958 our famous collected currency known as “Canadian Tire Money” appeared at a Canadian Tire gas bar at Yonge and Church St. in Toronto. Yet it would not be the new red triangle symbol that would be the logo on the bills, but rather the original elven socked “running tire and coin” image that started with the company 32 years earlier.
The now famous “Scarfed Scotsman”, Sandy McTire, who symbolized the thrifty shopper, showed up on CTC money in 1961 and continues to appear on the bills today. At one time, Canadian Tire money was manufactured at the BA BankNote company here in Ottawa, right alongside our actual Canadian currency bills, using the same inks and paper, resulting in a durable currency bill that many still have and use to this day.
The inverted triangle symbol used by CTC is actually an ancient symbol with a very unique meaning behind it. It has been the representation of the earth and water. The downward pointing triangle is also an ancient symbol of femininity, being a representation of the female womb, or a chalice…”the giver of life”. One of the four alchemical elements, water symbolizes intuition, the unconscious mind, and the enclosing, generating forces of the womb. It also represents the force of Earth or gravity, or Mother Earth. In developing countries, the inverted Red Triangle is the symbol for family planning health and contraception services, again part of the “womb” symbology mentioned earlier.
This inverted red triangle of Canadian Tire was streamlined in the late 1960’s with the company name placed inside the triangle. This would be the everlasting symbol for the company that would be emblazoned into the psyche of every Canadian.
But why a red inverted triangle? According to the Canadian Tire website, the triangle holds a “98% instant recognition among Canadians. That’s the power of the Canadian Tire triangle.” In 2012 Canadian Tire finally revealed the secret behind the instantly recognizable triangle; in a single Twitter statement they said it was chosen by the founder, Mr. Gilles:
“Chosen because our founder needed one for the front of an oil can. A triangle was a simple, easy to recognize symbol.”
Perhaps not as mysterious as the Bermuda Triangle, but our Canadian Triangle possesses its own, shall we say, “magnetic properties”.
Andrew King, October 2016