Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dollars to Doughnuts

There is always one smart ass in the crowd who likes to spoil things. My blog from a couple days ago elicited a response i didn't expect.  This morning I had an email waiting from Dr Dave Christensen with a link to a claim that the picture on the 1954 Canadian $1 dollar bill was actually from Alberta.  I should have known he would find something.  I wrote some time ago "Dave doesn't solve problems; that is what grad students are for. His job is to give them problems.  I know this".

Here is what the link had to say:

Bluesky is in the Peace River Country of north western Alberta just north of the banks of the Burnt River, NW of Edmonton. The scene on the back of the old (1954) Canadian dollar bill is of Bluesky. For those unfamiliar with the back of the old Canadian $1 bill, the scene illustrated is taken from a few miles east of Bluesky looking west towards Fairview on NO.2 highway. The elevators at the end of the dirt road stand out silhouetted against the western skyline with a dark cloud hanging over a typical Peace River sunset.

Albertans would claim that Christ and eleven of the twelve apostles were from Alberta; (Judas being from Ontario), so the notion they would try to claim the Saskatchewan prairie dollar is quite in keeping with their provincial character.

I tracked down the author; no easy task as the website had no contact information and emailed him to provide documentation for his claim.  I also asked “Saskatchewan Farmboy” for documentation that in fact the picture was of Fleming and old Number 1 Highway.  Him I heard back from, twice already with the following two links.

Wikipedia identifies it as “Saskatchewan prairie”, original source being The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Government Paper Money, Tenth Edition, p.206, edited by W.K. Cross, The Charlton Press, Toronto, ON, 1997, ISBN 0-88968-190-2.

The late Ron Petrie, wrote the following column for the April 25, 2011 Leader Post:
For an entire generation of Saskatchewan children, the green dollar bill with its backside depiction of a storm brewing over prairie landscape was wealth itself, enough money on a Saturday afternoon for a three bottles of pop, seven licorice whips, two bags of Cheezies and a stomach ache (plus bonus agony, if dad didn't believe that you spent the buck at the barbershop, as instructed, for touch-up on the old buzzcut).

Never has one image of Saskatchewan been more widely viewed by the rest of Canada than that panoramic view on the back of the dollar. Nor has any banknote been the subject of more urban legend.

On all denominations in the 1954 issue, squinting Canadians swore that in the curled hair above the left ear in the portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth II, they could make out the ghostly countenance of the devil himself. Story had it that the man who engraved the banknote's plate was a mischievous anti-monarchist from Quebec.

Nonsense, according the Bank of Canada. Also without any proof are the stubborn claims by dozens of towns in Saskatchewan that their community was the one depicted on bill's distant horizon, at the vanishing point of a dirt road and telephone poles.

The village was a creation of the artist's imagination, says the bank. To this day, however, the one community that most adamantly claims ownership is also one of my favorite towns, Fleming. Patrons of the historic Windsor Hotel beverage room say they can even prove Fleming was in front of the artist's easel, with simple a test: if you step out the hotel's front door, gaze straight east while holding the old dollar bill at eye level, and then wave frantically, in the bill you'll spot your own self waving back. (The test is also useful in determining whether you're OK to drive home from the Windsor.)

I’ll go with Fleming. Wiki can be questioned but not Ron Petrie.

Update Feb 27, 2013:  I heard back from Ralf Brooks who assured me his claim was correct, based on that most accurate of prairie sources:  legend, hearsay and tradition and besides "some of his family were there".  Many thanks, Ralf, and I look forward to what you learn from Senator Jean Leo Cote's book.  I shall do a blog post about your father soon too, if you don't mind.

Update August 2019: That the picture of the elevator on the 1954 dollar bill is of the Fleming elevator is confirmed:

Email dated Monday, August 19, 2019 7:14 AM

The town featured on the $1 bill is Fleming Saskatchewan which is located on the Manitoba border.
The town was famous for its iconic grain elevator, visible on the bill, which sadly burned down in 2010.

Scott Thomas
Visitor Services Coordinator | Coordonnateur des services aux visiteurs
Bank of Canada Museum | Musée de la Banque du Canada 

Tel./Tél. : (613) 782-8914
30 rue Bank Street, Ottawa (ON) K1A 0G9
bankofcanadamuseum.ca | museedelabanqueducanada.ca


  1. Oh, you made me laugh out loud with this one. "Christ and eleven of the twelve apostles were from Alberta; (Judas being from Ontario)" - still chuckling!

    And I shall test Fleming's claim to fame the next time I pass through on one of my many road trips to Manitoba. If I see myself waving back, I'll just return to the hotel for another cold one.

  2. According to "Saskatchewan Farmboy" there is currently 4' of snow on the old Number 1 Highway, so you had best wait for spring.

  3. Obviously a picture of the Mississippi Delta in the spring before the cotton comes up - with a cotton seed silo in the background... how it ended up on the Canadian dollar we may never know.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  4. Darn the Ol'Buzzard stole my line, but I was thinking more like Nebraska.

    1. I thought USA elevators were all huge with metal bins. Did they build smaller wooden ones too?

  5. The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan entry on Fleming saying it is pictured on the 1954 dollar bill. The entry is by David McLellan of the Canadian Plains Research Center (CPRC) at the University of Regina and author of the book Our Towns: Saskatchewan Communities from Abbey to Zenon Park which also says Fleming is pictured on the dollar bill.

    However we may never know for sure since a lot of places on the prairies looked like that. I saw a response from the curator of the Bank of Canada that they do not know since they had hundreds of pictures and the ones they based it on did not reference the location or the photographer.

  6. DC Power also emailed me this information feeling it was too long for a comment. I will include it so everything is all in one place.

    On the link http://www.ebrandon.ca/messagethread.aspx?cat_id=13&message_id=252389 I saw the following response from the Curator at the Bank of Canada

    In response to your inquiry, the question on the location of the scene depicted on the back of the 1954 1-dollar note has often been asked, and sadly we always have the same answer to give: it is not known where exactly the image was taken. When the Bank of Canada was in the process of designing the 1954 series of notes, it selected images of scenes that showed the diversity of Canada’s landscape and that represented the different parts of the country. Sorting through hundreds of images from several sources, the Bank selected a handful of images, including the one attached that was used for the back of the 1-dollar note. Unfortunately there was no information accompanying the image identifying neither its source, nor the photographer who took the image. For that we are unable to conclude when and where the image was taken. We call upon the citizens of Canada to find the location for us. I hope this information is useful to you.
    L. David Bergeron, M.A.Curator/Currency Collection - Bank of Canada
    Tel: 613 782-8146Fax: 613 782-7747

  7. Thank you for all of this information! I was a youth in the 1960's, and several of these bills 'passed through my hands' back then. In real life, I had been able to view several similar scenes of lone grain elevators in the distance.

  8. Bob, thanks for dropping by and commenting. Always happy to find something that brings back memories of when we were young

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