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3 posts from November 2013

27 November 2013

The Canadian $4 Bill: Awkward Notes


Image:  Specimen Canadian $4 bill, 1902. (BL reference: F5215)

Our colleague, Jennifer Howes, Curator, Visual Arts, writes:

Have you ever seen a $4 bill? The specimen bank note shown here was from the Canadian $4 bill’s final issue, in 1902. Here are three awkward notes about the $4 bill. 

Awkward note 1 – The picture at the centre shows a ship passing through the Canadian locks of the Sault Ste Marie Canal. Completed in 1895, the canal straddled the Canada-U.S. border, and connected Lake Superior to a major shipping route which lead to the Atlantic Ocean.  The $4 bill’s previous issue, in 1900, mistakenly showed the locks on the American side of the canal. It was swiftly recalled, and replaced with this one, which definitely shows the Canadian locks.  

Awkward note 2 – Canadian money usually features a portrait of Canada’s ruling monarch,  but the $4 bill doesn’t. In 1901 Queen Victoria died, and her son, Edward VII, became King. Instead of picturing him on the $4 bill of 1902, there are portraits of the Earl of Minto, Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound (1845-1914), and his wife, Mary. The Earl of Minto was the 8th Governor General of Canada, from 1898 to 1904. In this role, he was the British monarch’s representative in Canada. He went on to become the 17th Viceroy of India from 1905 to 1910. 

Awkward note 3 (the obvious one) – It is simply absurd to have a $4 bill! Perhaps this is why in 1912,  the Canadian $4 bill was removed from circulation to make way for the more sensible $5 bill.

The British Library’s $4 bill will feature, along with a selection of maps, stamps, coins and other bank notes, in a small exhibition in the Maps Reading Room Foyer from December 2013 to March 2014.


 [Team America now makes a note to investigate the Stella]




22 November 2013

The Transition


Image: 'Lyndon B. Johnson taking the oath of office, November 1963' by Cecil W. Stoughton, White House Press Office.  Usage: Public Domain.

Naturally enough, Team America's minds have today turned to US Presidents, as all US government buildings fly their flags at half-mast in commemoration of the death of John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Johnson, pictured above, took the oath of office on a cramped Air Force One in a moment of improvised constitutional continuity a little over two hours after the Kennedy assassination.  A Catholic missal stood in for a Bible, and he was sworn in by Federal Judge Sarah Hughes, making Johnson the first, and so far only, president to have his oath officiated by a woman.  Jackie Kennedy has turned from the camera to avoid the Hasselblad recording her husband's bloodstains. (If you haven't read Robert Caro's account of this transition, you're missing out.)

Johnson's presidency (like Kennedy's) continues to be reassessed; the next few years will no doubt see a series of publications, conferences and debates on the turbulent years of the mid-to-late sixties: the War on Poverty, the Space Programme, the Cold War, Civil Rights and Vietnam.  A quick search of our holdings reveals a collection of photographs of Johnson, preserved as part of the Endangered Archives project, 'Rescuing Liberian history - preserving the photographs of William VS Tubman, Liberia's longest serving President'.

President Tubman (who himself survived an assassination attempt in 1955) visited Washington in 1968 (the official toasts are recorded at the American Presidency Project) at a time when the USA saw Liberia as a useful African ally in the Cold War and Liberia sought foreign investment.  During the visit, Tubman laid a wreath at the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame memorial at Arlington Ceremony as a mark of respect to the fallen president.  The moment is recorded in a photograph preserved as part of the Rescuing Liberian History project, and it is online at the University of Indiana.




15 November 2013

Team Americas celebrates Movember

D Legault, Chef de Police de la Cite de Montreal Photo B (HS85-10-12818)

 Above: Montreal's Chief of Police, 1902

Public Domain Mark
These works are free of known copyright restrictions.

We've brought you cats, we've brought you dogs, now Team Americas bring you some fine examples of early twentieth century Canadian facial hair! The evidence from the photographs digitised as part of Picturing Canada would seem to suggest that late nineteenth and early twentieth century Canada was a place of fantastic facial ornamentation, as you can see from this small selection. As always, you can find more on Wikimedia Commons and, believe me, you'll find a lot more.

The members of the Legislature of British Columbia Photo A (HS85-10-11597)

 Above: The Members of the Legislature of British Columbia, 1900

Lord Grey Photo A (HS85-10-15715)

Above: Lord Grey, 1905


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