19th Century Canada Genuine Trade Tokens.

A talk given to The London Numismatic Club on Tuesday 5th February 2008.

(Click on any image to view it enlarged)

“Genuine Trade Tokens” is a term borrowed from writers on British 18th Century copper tokens. Such tokens should contain sufficient information for their issuers to be located and enable businesses and the public to redeem their tokens.

The map of Eastern Canada (Figure 1.)  shows the locations of Provinces whose names appeared on tokens. It also shows the reason for an important increase in the population which occurred after the loss of the thirteen American Colonies. The brown arrows indicate the migration routes of thousands of Loyalists and their Mohawk Indian Allies to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Ontario.

Figure 1

Over thirty years later a number of halfpenny tokens dated 1815, were issued in Halifax Nova Scotia, two different obverses are shown (Figure 2.) on the left is a bust of George III for Hosterman and Etter and on the right an Indian with bow, arrows and a hunting dog for an issue by Starr and Shannon. The respective reverses, (Figure 3.) show on the left, the front elevation of the Nova Scotia Legislative Building with a promise to redeem the tokens; on the right, an English frigate with most sails set. Halifax the main town of the province would have been small enough at this time for the name alone to enable the token issuers to be found. Tokens using designs calculated to appeal to the Loyalist families made it more likely that they would be accepted. This must be seen in the context of a shortage of small change and supplies of anonymous and often lightweight tokens which were circulating. Whilst Regal English pennies were used, most were well worn and the private trade tokens were always halfpennies.

Figure 2.     Figure 3.

Both of these tokens were struck in England, possibly by Halliday for the Hosterman piece, though it is not up to his standard and could have been by one of his apprentices. John Sherriff of Liverpool cut the dies and struck the Starr and Shannon piece, their address is known to have been 230 Upper Water Street in Halifax, but no details of the partners have been found. Much is known about Hosterman and Etter however. Thomas Hosterman was married to one of Etter’s daughters. Etter had come from Switzerland having trained as a watchmaker and their business was described as Hardware merchants and Watchmakers.

The Halfpenny of John Alexander Barry was also dated 1815, but used a different bust of George III for the obverse (Figure 4.) and an English frigate for the reverse, it is well made, but 24% lighter than the Halifax standard of 8.15 grams. Barry was a Dry-goods merchant, selling many varieties of cloth and the son of Robert Barry who also was in the first group of Loyalists to arrive in Shelbourne Nova Scotia in 1783. John, a prominent Methodist, went into politics, standing for election to the Nova Scotia Assembly six times, being elected on three occasions. It was a turbulent time and he was expelled from the Assembly on one of these and jailed during another. This did not seem to adversely affect his career and he was one of the leaders during a major disturbance named “The Barry Riots after him. He married Mary a daughter of William Black, another token issuer whose tokens will be covered later.

Figure 4.

Miles White was also from a Shelbourne Loyalist family, he was in business from 1812 as an Importer of Ironmongery, Hardwares (sic) &c. His token was probably made in Birmingham and no doubt most of his imports also came from Britain at the height of its Industrial Revolution. The Obverse design of his halfpenny (Figure 5a) shows a barrel on its side with an inscription on the top and on the staves. This is difficult to read, but if turned ninety degrees anticlockwise, (Figure 5b) the top reads “SPIKES & NAILS” with &c on the staves. The reverse, (Figure 6) enables the token holder to know that it is PAYABLE followed by the details making this a genuine trade token. It helps to inspire acceptance and so long as individuals know it is also acceptable by a number of traders it is probable that only they might accumulate enough tokens to make it worth cashing them in. In 1816 White’s brother, Cornelius and George B. Creighton became Partners in the renamed firm of White, Creighton and Co. Miles died in 1822.

Figure 5a.   Figure 5b.   Figure 6.

An enigmatic token having a well designed thistle obverse, (Figure 7) uses the Latin inscription “NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSET” meaning nobody may hurt me with impunity. The reverse (Figure 8) has a frigate and the promise of “payment at the store of J. Brown”. With no location and no date it was often attributed to Scotland, but no specific town provided any evidence for this. The thistle however was also the Provincial emblem of Nova Scotia until in Victorian times this was changed to Mayflower blossom. Documentary evidence in Canada dates the issue to Halifax in1815 where Brown is now known to have had two stores. He sold “dry goods” wholesale and retail, i.e. cloth, silk, drapery and haberdashery from one store. From the other, linen, flannel, cotton sheets, blankets, etc. The token has a reeded edge and is 20% lighter than the Halifax standard.

Figure 7.     Figure 8.

Brown and his stores would have been well known in Halifax and we can stretch a point and count this issue as a genuine trade token.

A token dated 1816 has on the obverse the front elevation of a building, (Figure 9) presumably the wholesale and Retail Hardware Store of the surrounding inscription. The reverse, (Figure 10) has agricultural tools including a reaping hook to the right and a scythe blade to the left, but there is no issuer’s name. However a similar token shares the obverse and has a similar reverse, but instead of Halifax Nova Scotia, has “Payable at W.A. & S. Black’s, Halifax N.S.” There are two possibilities, if the named token came first, then the un-named one may have been produced after the Nova Scotia law of 1817 stating that all tokens should be removed from circulation over the next three years. Because nothing was provided to replace them, anonymous tokens continued to be issued but, undated or backdated to 1816. More likely the name was omitted on the first token, which was issued anyway since Black’s was well known and highly respectable and the named version followed. The fortunes of the Black’s family provide some background for life in early nineteenth Century Canada. William Anderson and Samuel were the sons of the Reverend William Black, founder of Methodism in Nova Scotia. The former was born in 1789 the latter in1792. The brothers were in partnership with Nathanial Parker as Hardware merchants until he joined Hosterman in 1812. The brothers then set up a Jewellery and Silversmiths business which they enlarged into Importers and later Ship Owners. Samuel died in 1826, William not until 1867, at the age of 75. He was prominent locally as The Honourable William Black a member of the Nova Scotia Legislature. He married Mary Ann another of Benjamin Etter’s daughters. In 1842 he became Lt. Colonel in the Fourth Halifax Regiment; Etter also served in the Militia and was ADC to the Duke of Kent (Queen Victoria’s father) when he visited Halifax. It seems that some token issuers were important members of Nova Scotia life and there was intermarriage amongst them. Incidentally Etter had seventeen children by three wives!

Figure 9.     Figure 10

The firm of Lesslie and Sons was founded when Edward Lesslie sent his son John and an employee William Lyon Mackenzie to Upper Canada in 1820. John established a Drugstore (Chemists) in York, which changed its name to Toronto in1834. A branch was also opened in Dundas and managed temporarily by Mackenzie. James another son opened a third Store in Kingston in late 1822 or early 1823 and their father arrived in that year bringing 3000 dollars in tokens. Although the tokens used in Upper Canada, were halfpennies, Edward Lesslie brought halfpennies and twopences. Most of the latter must have been melted down since they are extremely rare, one specimen coming from beneath a disused foundation stone during 1978 rebuilding work. The obverse of the halfpenny (Figure 11) includes the names of the three stores. The reverse (Figure 12) is bilingual and several further issues were struck between 1824 and 1827 all with plain edges. Issues from 1828 to 1830 have reeded edges. Edward Leslie died in 1828 and John Leslie took over the Dundas Store trading as Leslie Brothers.

Figure 11.        Figure 12.

A Lower Canada token weighing 5.38 grams, about 37% below standard, may have been struck in North America judging from the style of engraving. The obverse, (Figure 13) shows a ship under full sail, the edge is plain and there are long denticles on each side. The reverse (Figure 14) names the issuer’s firm as Francis Mullins & Son an Importer of Ship’s Chandlery. It is known that he imported four kegs of tokens about 1828 and that three of them were shipped to Upper Canada, possibly because it was then one of the few places where such lightweight tokens might have been accepted. Unfortunately the ship foundered with total loss. The piece has been described as “issued by a firm that never existed”, because Mullins’ son never joined it. A deeply damaging scratch on this specimen obliterates the word “of” and might have been more appropriate, though still unacceptable, if it had obliterated “& Son”.

Figure 13.         Figure 14.

Another version of an obverse design uses implements, and includes an anvil with hammer and tongs and a bench vice to the right (Figure 15). Struck on a copper flan it was a better weight than most, being 11% below standard and would have been accepted in Lower Canada. This issue was condemned by the newspaper “Le Populaire” as a “profiteering scam,” however specimens are often well worn and appear to have had long use. The reverse (Figure 16) names the issuers as T.S. Brown and Co a Montreal Importer of Hardwares (sic). Undated it is known that two kegs were sent from Birmingham and issued about 1832. Thomas Storrow Brown was born in 1803 and became a leader of young revolutionaries, mainly of French descent, during the 1837 Rebellion against the Establishment. He lost an eye in one encounter and after a further fight with British troops fled to Florida. He did not return home until the amnesty of 1844. He then had better fortune, re-established his firm and lived a long and prosperous life.

Figure 15.        Figure 16.

A similar piece, also probably struck in Birmingham, uses the same style of obverse and design, including tools etc arranged around a kettle, (Figure 17). J. Shaw was also an Importer of “Hardwares” and there was even a newspaper complaint in “Le Canadien” where the term “profiteering fraud” was used. The issuer, J. Shaw was able to reply to this accusation by pointing out that his tokens were providing much needed small change and were redeemable on demand. They were not issued until 1837: this was the year that the Quebec Bank belatedly issued large quantities of good weight halfpennies. Shaw therefore withdrew his tokens the same year, but some of these may have stayed in circulation since specimens are usually well worn.

Figure 17.

An attractive copper penny was issued for the Magdalen Islands in 1815 (Figure 18), these comprised sixteen small Islands covering 86 square miles in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. They were discovered by Jacques Cartier in the 16th Century and by the 19th Century were administered by Quebec Province. Remote, they were populated by French speaking fishermen and the nearest land is Prince Edward Island 100 miles to the southwest. After the American Revolution, they were given to Sir Isaac Coffin for services to the British Crown. He was born in Massachusetts in 1759 and rose to the rank of Admiral in the Royal Navy. He only visited the Islands once, in 1815, when he brought a supply of tokens and a coining press with him. Struck in Birmingham by Sir Edward Thomason, the dies were probably cut by Thomas Halliday. Designs of obverse and reverse (Figure 19) are appropriate, but the choice of pennies, struck to full British weight of 18.8 grams, was not. This was a sixth heavier than the Halifax standard and as elsewhere halfpennies were the commonly used small change. Halfpennies are said to have been intended as well, but none seem to have been struck. They were intended to be a genuine trade token, but since they could be sold for scrap for more than face value, that was probably their fate. Certainly some circulated since there are newspaper reports or some being found in Nova Scotia tills.

Figure 18.        Figure 19.

Coffin’s heirs sold the Islands in 1903 and the inhabitants were able, with the help of the Canadian Government, to buy their leased holdings.

Newfoundland was a Crown Colony and did not join Canada until 1949 when it became their 10th Province. Like other parts of Canada it received intermittent supplies of British copper coin during the 18th and 19th Centuries. Its tokens have a similar history to those of Canadian Provinces during the 19th Century and are often catalogued with them.

In 1840 the brothers Robert and I.S. Rutherford opened a General Store in St, John’s. The first of their prolific issues of tokens were probably struck by Boulton and Watt in 1840 and a second issue around this time is undated. It appears that whilst Boulton and Watt were given the orders and Ralph Heaton the second made the dies, they subcontracted the striking since these issues are not mentioned in the Soho order books. These issues are further complicated by having thick flans weighing over 10.3 grams and thin flans between 9.1 and 9.7 grams. (Contemporary British halfpennies were struck at 9.45 grams). It is possible that the undated issue came first and the issue dated 1841 was post dated. The obverse used a suspended fleece design familiar to British token collectors and the reverse shows the Rutherford family arms, (Figure 20).

Figure 20.

Unfortunately their business was burnt down when fire destroyed the St. John’s commercial district in 1846. However two other Rutherford brothers also came to Newfoundland in 1840 and George and Andrew set up their General Store at Harbour Grace, about 25 miles away. The obverse of their token, (Figure 21) is similar in style but named Harbour Grace and was struck in large numbers. The reverse, (Figure 22a) has 1846 under the arms and enlarged, (Figure 22b) the minute letters of “R” and “H” over the 8 and 4 of 1846 can be seen. The order had been given to Ralph Heaton and Sons who may not have had any presses at the time, since it was 1850 when that firm bought the Soho presses. If so they may have had to subcontract the striking of the 1846 tokens. Thirty years later in1876 the Rutherford brothers were bankrupt and their partnership dissolved. Their excessive production of tokens of good weight had given rise to the expression “not worth a Rutherford ram” and Newfoundland’s regal decimal cents from 1865 made them redundant.

Figure 21      Figure 22a.      Figure 22b.

A very interesting Company that issued genuine trade tokens is the Hudson’s Bay Co, which received its first Charter on 2nd May 1670 from Charles II. It is said to be the oldest commercial Company still in business. In 1686 it lost all its Trading Posts in the north of Canada due to French attacks. Gradually as a result of Treaties following success in European wars territory was returned to them and after Wolfe’s victory in Quebec in 1759 the whole of “New France” came under British control. When the 49th parallel was agreed as the Canada – USA border, Hudson’s Bay Company was confirmed in its vast holdings. About 1854 they issued four tokens using the unit of “One Made Beaver” referring to .completed the set. These were never intended for the general public to use instead of coins, but rather for the trappers who could be paid for their pelts and then us the tokens to buy goods from the stores. To that extent they are genuine, but could be abused if store prices were manipulated.

The obverse of a quarter Made Beaver, (Figure 23) uses the Company arms, described as “a silver shield bearing the cross of St. George in red with four brown beavers, one in each quarter. It is supported by two elk.” The only symbols on the reverse which are understandable, (Figure 24) are HB conjoined at the top and the numeric value. E M stands for “East Main” a vast area of the Company’s land in Eastern Canada. N B was a mistake and should have been M B for “Made Beaver.” The tokens do not seem to have had much use, but specimens with a punched hole between N and B are known and are thought to have been cancelled.

Figure 23.      Figure 24.

The reluctance of the authorities to provide adequate small change, in early 19th Century Canada led to traders issuing their own tokens and this honest attempt, was often undermined by poorly made, underweight, anonymous issues. Documentary evidence is patchy, but provides an insight into historical and monetary aspects of the period covered. Much of the information used comes from a series of articles in The Canadian Numismatic Journal by R.C.Willey and others.