Canada’s first uniform currency

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The first banknote issued by the Montreal Bank, signed by cashier R. Griffin and bank president John Gray, features the port of Montreal. The smaller image below depicts the goddess Britannia, a symbol of the British Isles.

Before Montreal Bank came on the scene in 1817 to issue Canada’s first banknotes, the colony had no currency of its own, and cash was chronically in short supply. Most transactions in the domestic market were conducted under a system of barter. Merchants made do with a mish mash of currencies that included shillings and francs, British Army notes, American dollars, Hudson’s Bay tokens and even pesos.

The banknote represented the Montreal Bank’s promise to pay the bearer, on demand, the face value of the note in gold and silver coins.


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