Macdonald signs Canadian Pacific Railway contract (1880)

On today’s date in 1880, John A. Macdonald (1815-91) signed a provisional agreement with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) syndicate to build the CPR.

The group consisted of Bank of Montreal President George Stephen; U.S. rail financier Duncan Mclntyre; and Ontario-born Minnesota entrepreneur James Jerome Hill. Donald Smith, of the Hudson’s Bay Company, withdrew support for Macdonald during the Pacific Scandal.

In 2005, the CPR was featured on the Royal Canadian Mint’s $8 silver coin set, marking the 120th anniversary of the historic railway. The CPR will also be featured on the Mint’s annual $15 Fine silver coin — the eighth in the series, dubbed Building the Canadian Pacific Railway — later this year.

The reverse design, by Canadian artist John Mantha, pays tribute to the 30,000 workers who helped complete the transcontinental railway project with a scene embodying the arduous nature of laying railroad tracks through the mountains. Two navigators are driving a spike while another worker hauls gravel to fill the gaps between railway ties. The coin commemorates one of the monumental achievements of post-Confederation Canada – the construction of a trans-continental railway.

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