Bank of New Brunswick incorporated

On today’s date in 1820, the Bank of New Brunswick was incorporated in Saint John, N.B. as the first Canadian bank to operate under a charter.

Soon after, the Bank of New Brunswick began issuing its first bank notes, which is would continue after Confederation until 1906. Denominations issued were $1, $2, $3, $4, $5, $8, $10, $20, $50 and $100.

The Bank of New Brunswick was established on March 25, 1820 in the pre-Confederation province of New Brunswick. Located in a new building on Prince William Street in Saint John, the bank was founded by prominent businessmen from the area. At the time, Saint John was the Maritime’s largest city, exceeding both Halifax and Toronto in population for some time during the 19th century. By the 20th century, the bank lacked the capital necessary to remain competitive, so its shareholders accepted an offer to merge with the Bank of Nova Scotia in February 1913. The large city of Saint John wasn’t attracting overseas investment despite higher returns when compared to Upper Canada. 

The bank’s early notes are very rare, often selling for around $1,000.

The bank’s early notes are very rare, often selling for around $1,000.

Generally, investors chose Central Canada. The bank’s headquarters moved to Montreal, with investors moving west as the country opened up. The Saint John Board of Trade, along with many others, wished for “commercial union” with the U.S.; however, the Toronto Board of Trade opposed commercial union. At the time, the House of Commons was controlled by Ontario’s 100 seats – 59 of which were Conservative, including Toronto – while New Brunswick had 19 seats, with 3 Liberals from Saint John. Former The Macdonald government voted down the commercial union bill of 1888, which would have granted Saint John access to a much larger U.S. market, continuing its economic power. Instead, the city was cut off from much of Central Canada and experienced a quick decline over the next century.

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