OTD: Bank of Canada opens doors to public

Today marks the Bank of Canada’s 86th anniversary.

On today’s date in 1935, following severe drought and a worldwide economic slump, Canada’s central bank launched its first banknote series as it began operations across the country.

Now commonly known as the 1935 Series, the bank’s first notes were unilingual with separate versions available in English or French. It’s the only series issued by the bank with dual unilingual notes.

“The English-speaking population is inclined to mutilate the French notes, and the French population complains they cannot get enough of their own notes,” wrote John Osborne, then deputy governor of the Bank of Canada, in a letter to a colleague in England in May 1935.

The 1935 Series was the only series issued by the Bank of Canada with dual unilingual banknotes.


The face designs include portraits of members of the royal family and former Canadian prime ministers while the backs show allegorical figures symbolizing Canada’s agricultural, industrial and commercial prosperity.

Denominations included $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $25, $50, $100, $500 and $1,000, and all but the $25 note began circulating on March 11, 1935.

Each of the notes includes the words “Ottawa, Issue of 1935” atop the obverse except for the $20 note, which has the words below the serial number.

The series is the only Bank of Canada series with $25 and $500 notes (with the $500 being inspired by past Dominion of Canada notes). It’s also the only series carrying the official seal of the Bank of Canada.

The 1935 Series is the only Bank of Canada series to include a $500 denomination.


Designed by the Canadian Bank Note Company and the British American Bank Note Company (now BA International), both of which designed and printed preceding Dominion of Canada notes, the 1935 Series was printed on material consisting of 75 per cent linen and 25 per cent cotton.

Each of the banknotes measures 152.4 millimetres by 73.025 millimetres.

The security features include raised ink, which was thick and easily felt on both sides, intricate fine-line patterns and small green planchettes randomly scattered in the paper.

After releasing the 1937 Series in June 1937, the Bank of Canada began gradually removing the 1935 Series from circulation.

Black rights activist and Nova Scotia businesswoman Viola Desmond (left) is the first Canadian woman to be portrayed on a regularly circulating Bank of Canada note.


In 2018, the Bank of Canada issued the first note from its as-of-yet-unnamed eighth series.

Canada’s first vertically oriented note, the $10 bill features the portrait of Black rights activist Viola Desmond.

“Banknotes are not only a secure means of payment that Canadians can use with confidence. They also tell the stories that have shaped our country,” said Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz in November 2018. “Now, each time this new vertical $10 bill changes hands, it will remind us of our continued pursuit of human rights and social justice in Canada.”

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