Illustration of a red flag with a symbol in the bottom right and a blue rectangle in the upper left over black text on a white background
SWEET CAPORAL CIGARETTE BUTTONS MADE BY WHITEHEAD & HOAG CO NEWARK, N.J.
The red ensign became the unofficial flag of Canada in 1870. The official flag of Canada at the time was the Royal Union Flag. The red ensign during this period did not have a standard design and flag makers would embellish the shield in the bottom left corner with wreaths and crowns. The shield itself was also changed as more provinces joined Canada. Today the national flag of Canada features three vertical stripes. The left and right stripes are red and the center stripe is white with a red 11 point maple leaf.
Designed and manufactured by Whitehead & Hoag Co. advertisers like Sweet Caporal cigarettes were able to insert their own backings to this button. Sweet Caporal was a brand of cigarettes created by the Kinney Brothers Tobacco Company in 1878 and sold to the American Tobacco Company in 1911. Sweet Caporal was a very popular brand, especially in Canada during the early part of the 20th Century. In 1908, 50% of cigarette sales in Canada were comprised of the Sweet Caporal brand.