Author Topic: Update on Bell System Flag Made in Canada  (Read 365 times)

Offline Duffy

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Update on Bell System Flag Made in Canada
« on: April 02, 2018, 04:21:31 PM »
Ever since getting this flag I have been baffled as to why an American Bell System Flag would be made by a Canadian company in Canada when there are American companies in the US that already make them. 
I started researching the company that made the flag Montreal Tent and Tarpaulin Company and found some advertising for the company. With that I did a search on the name of the Manager W. H. Griffin who was actually the owner of the company. I also researched the last known address of the company.
Another search I did was on and found the great granddaughter of W. H. Griffin Maureen Griffin. I contacted her and inquired about W. H. Griffin and Montreal Tent and Tarpaulin Company. I had also attached a picture of the flag and the company logo stamped on the flag. She returned my email and below is what she had to say about the company and the Bell System flag.

Re: William H. Griffin - Montreal Tent and Tarpaulin Co Limited

Hi Doug,

Ironically,  I am almost positive that my father, William Peter Griffin, was the mastermind behind this flag!
And, I am pretty sure that you have a really unique piece of Bell Canada and Canadian memorabilia in your collection (what a cool collection that must be!).

My father died in January 2017, so your email reminded me once again about how much I wish I had paid more attention to those details (or actually recorded them). Since youíve confessed to being a Canadian history buff, Iíll try to give you some more information that might help you.

I can almost remember the story of the Bell flag...
But I think that between my ďalmostĒ complete memory of how the flag came to be and your knowledge of Bell Canada, we can fill in many of the details.

First of all: To answer your question about Montreal Tent and Tarpaulin Company's lifespan: 1883 -1987.

Montreal Tent Awning and Tarpaulin Company was started by my great grandfather, WH Griffin, in 1883 and remained a family business until it ceased operations in 1987. During World War I, it was part of the war effort as a Smart/Woods Manufacturing facility (making tents and bags for the war effort). When the Smart/Woods Manufacturing Company disassembled,
WH Griffin changed the company name to Montreal Tent and Tarpaulin Company, Ltd.
In the 1920s, WH Griffin's eldest son, Albert M Griffin, joined the company. In the 1940ís AM Griffinís eldest son, Henry A. Griffin, joined his father at Montreal Tent and Tarpaulin.
My father, WP Griffin, joined the company in the 1950ís. My father and uncle ran the company until they closed it in 1987. They sold the building at that time as well.
So, now on to your question "Why is a Canadian Company making an American flag when there were companies in the US that made them already?Ē

My guess is that my father had it made for someone at Bell Canada. From the size, I would guess that it was made to fly when Bell Canada was hosting something where there were people from the American Bell System visiting (a meeting?). If this is the case, is quite possible that this is the only American Bell System flag that MT&T ever made. I would guess it was made no earlier than the 1950ís but most likely in the 1960ís, as you have already figured. My father was the one who worked with Bellís purchasing department; but I donít remember Bell flags being a big part of the business. Montreal Tent and Tarpaulin made covers for manhole repairs for Bell Canada and bags for Bellís repairmen. I spent many Saturdays at MT&T pulling freshly cut and sewn canvas pieces over metal frames that protected Bell repairmen from the elements!

Iím basing some of this on my (better) memory of a similar story about Tilden Rent-A-Car (Canada) and National Car Rental (USA). For a meeting between National Car Rental and Tilden Rent-A-Car at Tildenís Montrťal headquarters, my father made a ďgarrisonĒ flag for Tilden to fly. It had the National Car Rental logo, not the Tilden logo. MT&T made the single flag for Ted Tilden (MT&T did business supplying Tilden Rent-A-Car outlets with flags normally) I remember the dimensions of that flag being 6íx9í which seemed HUGE to me as a child.
This would have been in the 1960ís or early 1970ísÖ

So I canít answer your question with 100% confidence, but I would say that I am 99% sure that the flag you have flew over a Bell Canada building and never crossed the 49th parallel! Iím pretty sure that it is a unique (truly one of a kind!) piece.

The American Bell System logo on the flag you have (and thank you for the photos, by the way, they were a great trip down memory lane for me), reminds me of that story and it seems perfectly likely that my father would have had a single flag made for someone at Bell, either to fly for a meeting or as a joke of some kind. I wish my dad were still alive to ask about this as I am sure all the details of the story would be rich!

I will be in Montreal in May and will check with my one of my uncles (who worked at Bell!) to see if he has any memory of this flag. I will pass along anything I get. But I do appreciate you sharing this puzzle (and those photos) with me. It was so great to see another piece of my familyís work that has survived!

Warm regards,
Maureen Griffin

Offline HarrySmith

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Re: Update on Bell System Flag Made in Canada
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2018, 05:01:56 PM »
Very interesting. Thanks for researching & sharing it with us. Pretty cool if it is the only one they ever made. I hope her uncle has more to add!
Harry Smith
ATCA 4434

"There is no try,
there is only
do or do not"

Offline Butch Harlow

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Re: Update on Bell System Flag Made in Canada
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2018, 05:58:18 PM »
Sounds like this might be a "to be continued" story. See what a little interest and research can glean? You seemed to make her day while also making yours. Very interesting, and I hope you get the whole story someday. I kind of like the practical joke angle, wouldn't that be funny?
Butch Harlow

Offline Duffy

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Re: Update on Bell System Flag Made in Canada
« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2018, 09:56:49 AM »
Thanks guys,

The research pays off after you find out that it isn't your average Bell System flag. Unlike the others that are pumped out by the hundreds at the flag factory. And that is what it is all about, finding the special one.  :)

Offline Duffy

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Another Update on Bell System Flag Made in Canada
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2018, 09:03:01 AM »
I received a little more information on this Bell System flag. I had been in contact with the curator of the Telecommunications Museum in Montreal, Quebec. I had told him about the flag and that I was looking for information on it. He contacted the Bell Canada Archives in Montreal and they sent him this and he forwarded it on to me.
"Your flag was flown on Bell buildings in Canada as shown in attached documents I received from Bellís archivist. Yours is the 1924 version which was replaced in 1951. I believe the 1951 document is also a Blue Bell, which was an internal company publication."

I still haven't heard back from Maureen Griffin the Great Granddaughter of William H. Griffin - Montreal Tent and Tarpaulin Co Limited

Offline Ktownphoneco

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Re: Update on Bell System Flag Made in Canada
« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2018, 09:13:24 AM »
Excellent information Doug.     That kind of clears up a lot of questions regarding your flag, especially since most of us didn't know that much about it, and it's relevance to Bell Canada and the Bell System here in Canada.     Good job !!