British Columbia Province

The province's name was chosen by Queen Victoria, when the Colony of British Columbia, i.e., "the Mainland", became a British colony in 1858. It refers to the Columbia District, the British name for the territory drained by the Columbia River, in southeastern British Columbia, which was the namesake of the pre-Oregon Treaty Columbia Department of the Hudson's Bay Company. Queen Victoria chose British Columbia to distinguish what was the British sector of the Columbia District from that of the United States ("American Columbia" or "Southern Columbia"), which became the Oregon Territory on August 8, 1848, as a result of the treaty.

Mapped Location

The mapped location is an approximation and should not be used for navigation or wayfinding.


  • Feature Type: Province
  • Capital City: City of Victoria
  • Established as a Crown Colony: Monday, August 2, 1858
  • Articles of Confederation: Thursday, July 20, 1871

Official, historical, colloquial and alternative spellings for British Columbia

British ColumbiaOfficial
New CaledoniaHistorical. The fur-trading district of the Hudson's Bay Company comprised mostly of north-central portions of present day British Columbia. Colony name was changed by Queen Victoria to 'British Columbia' in 1858.
New HanoverHistorical. The fur-trading distrcit of the Hudson's Bay Company running along the interior BC Coast.
New GeorgiaHistorical. The fur-trading district of the Hudson's Bay Company from the BC Sunshine Coast to the end of Puget's Sound
New CornwallHistorical. The fur-trading district of the Hudson's Bay Company starting at around Prince Rupert and northwesterly along the coast.

Quoted remarks, origin notes and general history for British Columbia

British Columbia. Named by Her Majesty Queen Victoria in 1858. In the Letters of Queen Victoria, which were published in 1907, appears one having an historical interest for this province. It is dated Osborne, 24 July 1858, and was addressed by the Queen to Sir E. Bulwer Lytton. At that time objections were being made in France to the name of New Caledonia being given to the proposed colony between the Pacific and Rocky Mountains. The Queen wrote:-

"The Queen has received Sir E. Bulwer Lytton's letter. If the name of New Caledonia is objected to as being already borne by another colony or island claimed by the French, it may be better to give the colony west of the Rocky mountains another name. New Hanover, New Cornwall and New Georgia appear from the maps to be names of subdivisions of that country, but do not appear on all maps. The only name which is given to the whole territory in every map the Queen has consulted is 'Columbia,' but as there exists also a Columbia in South America, and the citizens of the United States call their country also Columbia, at least in poetry, 'British Columbia' might be, in the Queen's opinion, the best name."

And in this way and for the reasons stated the province was named British Columbia by Queen Victoria.”

Captain John T. Walbran, British Columbia Coast Names
  • Walbran, Capt. John T., British Columbia Coast Names 1592-1906, 1909, pp. 63
Last edited on 11/21/2016