Canadian Silver Voyageur Dollar 1935 King George V

Canadian Silver Voyageur Dollar 1935 King George VCanadian Silver Voyageur Dollar 1935

Canadian Silver Voyageur Dollar 1935 King George V
1935 Commemorative Dollar - Silver Jubilee

The obverse of the first Canadian silver dollar struck for circulation was used to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the accession of George V: his Silver Jubilee. His Majesty’s portrait was work of Percy Metcalfe, artist and sculptor. This design has been introduced a few years earlier on other Commonwealth coinage (Fiji, Southern Rhodesia, Australia, New Zealand).

The reverse was a very modern design for its time and was a work of eminent Canadian sculptor Emanuel Hahn. His initials EH appear in the water below the left end of canoe. Explorers and trappers with native aboriginal guides helped shape the country’s beginning and few designs have been better able to depict the scene than the “Voyageur”.
The design shows a voyageur (travelling agent for a fur trade company) and native aboriginal paddling a canoe with an islet bearing two wind-swept trees in the background. The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) are in the background. The canoe also carries several bundles of fur. On the front bundle are the incuse initials HB. This signifies Hudson’s Bay Company, which played major role in Canada’s early history. Since 1935, the “Voyageur” design has been used to form the regular, non-commemorative, reverse on Canada’s silver dollars and later on, beginning in 1968 on nickel dollars.

Obverse Design: Percy Metcalfe
Reverse Design: Emanuel Hahn
Reverse Legend: CANADA DOLLAR 1935
Diameter: 36.00 mm
Weight: 23.327 grams
Composition: .800 silver, .200 copper
Edge: reeded
Mintage: 428,120

In Canadian numismatic history, the 1935 silver dollar design is the watershed between colonial and Canadian imagery. The unprecedented inclusion of a dominant Canadian theme was, however, neither sudden nor unexpected in light of the Canadian temper of the 30' s - a period of increasing national realization. The year 1935 marked the silver jubilee of George V's reign, and the Canadian silver dollar commemorates that event. The design for the reverse of the coin was executed by Emmanuel Hahn, the Toronto sculptor. Because of the popularity of the Hahn design, it continues to appear on the silver dollar. Until the issue of this coin, Canadian coins bore only the traditional features: the bust of the monarch, a descriptive inscription in Latin GEORGIVS V DEI GRATIA REX ET IND: IMP, the name of the country, a wreath of leaves, (The exceptions are the 1920 design for the penny and the 1922 design for the nickel in which individual maple leaves were used.) the date and of course, the value of the token. Such iconography reflected the Imperial colonial ties of the Canadian nation; coins from other British colonies followed the same pattern. (The 1923 one half anna coin from India is similar to the Canadian coins from the same period. Even the wreath of leaves surrounding the value and the date would pass for the maple leaves on the Canadian version.)
  The 1935 silver dollar obverse retains the traditional bust of the King, however the reverse is uniquely Canadian: a voyageur, an Indian, a canoe laden with provisions, an islet with trees, the Northern Lights. The well clad voyageur contrasts vividly with the muscular torso of the Indian but there is no conflict. They travel in an idyllic calm; only gentle waves ripple the water. The men do not battle the elements of nature; they do not wrestle with the indomitable forces of a tempestuous sea. They are in harmony with the landscape and thus contribute to the compositional balance and stability of the coin. Strong vertical and horizontal divisions, pivoted about the central tree, give the coin a structural tranquility. The figures too belong to a timeless, stable world; these are not specific characters en route to a particular locale.
  The classical vision of man in an ordered world is promised by the stability and balance of the composition but this promise is not fulfilled in the individual elements which depict a magnificent and awful nature. The trees are bent dramatically by stormy winds; the Northern Lights flicker in the sky overhead. The eclectic nature of the elements is obvious. The windblown tree implies a violent storm with rough waves and an overcast sky; certainly there should be no visible aurora. Hahn selected and abstracted from nature to produce a universal image of exploration, travel and trade that is Canadian in character and setting.

  Emmanuel Hahn (1881-1957), R.CA. was, for many years, associated with the Ontario College of Art as were many members of the Group of Seven. Hahn shared with them a love for the northern country; he even spent his honeymoon there in 1926. Elements of the coin design suggest the specific influence of the Group, not only in subject but also in style. Witness the windblown tree in the central background; it is reminiscent of trees painted by the Group (c.f. Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay (1920) by Frederick Varley). Hahn has presented the tree in a low relief with broad plain areas and little minor detail (This is a sharp contrast with the Early Canadian designs which feature high relief and much minor detail). It would appear that the Group of Seven had been recognized as a new Canadian school as early as the 1920's. In 1925, Newton Mactavish comments:

It is held by some observers that there is, even now, a Canadian School of Art and that its centre is the Group of Seven.

  Hahn's subject and style are not only consistent with his personal interests but are also in the current Canadian tradition. The 1935 silver dollar proved to be an auspicious beginning for Canadian coin design. Redesigned pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and fifty cent pieces followed, presenting a new range of images: the beaver, maple leaf, schooner, caribou and Canadian coat of arms.
  The appearance of these images in the 1930'S is indicative of a growing Canadian ethos. Many national institutions that are now an integral part of Canada's social, economic and cultural identity were established during that decade. By 1931 British control of the Mint had been relinquished and the Royal Canadian Mint became a branch of the Department of Finance. In 1934, the Bank of Canada was created and given exclusive responsibility for issuing paper money. (It, of course, gave opportunity for a standardized issue of coinage and bills that was Canadian in design. However, it didn't become a reality until the 1950'S when the bills issued by the chartered banks were withdrawn from circulation.) The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had been established in 1932 and in the same year the Earl of Bessborough organized the Dominion Drama Festival. The Governor General's Literary Awards began in 1936 and in 1939 the National Film Board was established.
  The era saw a growing pride in things Canadian. The literature and painting of the time reflected the national preoccupation with social and economic values.

Poets and prose writers alike turned away from the technical experimentation of the twenties towards the exploration of social and economic themes.

Russell Harper writes that the artists: . . . began to observe their own immediate environment.

  The continuing emphasis on Canadianism during the Depression is also found in the popular media i.e. the radio and the newspapers. The C.B.C. sponsored lectures on Canadian literature and frequently broadcast readings of Canadian poems and stories. Such programs as Yukon King convoyed the Canadian idiom into the home on a more popular level. Yukon King, the strongest lead dog of the North West, roamed the Canadian frontier, a land of howling winds peopled by noble mounties who battled for freedom, justice and the Crown.
  James Llewellyn Frise, a cartoonist for the Star Weekly gave the nation Birdseye Centre inhabited by Old Archie, Pigskin Peters, the giant Jack and Archie's pet moose. Many saw in Birdseye Centre, a familiar small Canadian town, drawn only a little larger than life.
  Such was the atmosphere of the 30' s but the design for the silver dollar was more than a simple reflection of current atitudes. Traditionally, the function of images on curIency is to set forth in visual symbolic form a statement of the convictions of the state. The symbol functions as a guarantee of the value of the token and should therefore be a valid image. Although governments and legislation may change radically, coinage need not record these surface changes. Only the fundamental shifts in ideology are stated.

It is generally found that monetary change follows some time after political revolution. People cannot immediately forego the coinage they are used to and even when this has no longer a raison d' etre, it is still continued or is imitated as nearly as possible.

New symbols placed on coins often lack the authority of the older images. Historically, two images, one old and one new, presented simultaneously have been used to indicate symbolically the support of the old order for the new. (The Ostrogoths and Vandals continued to issue coins in the Roman traditions but incorporated monograms of their own devise.) Clearly the 1935 silver dollar is such a statement. On the reverse is an image of Canada; on the obverse the conventional symbol of Royal Authority which stands in silent support of Canadian nationalism. (Only in the recent issues of the ten 1971 and five 1972 dollar bill have the dominant statements of monarchical power been removed in the lower denominations) The Ernmanuel Hahn design was created in a climate of active social, economic, political and artistic ferment out of which came a new awareness of the Canadian identity. The coin is a statement of that identity.


Voyageur Dollar

Canadian Silver Voyageur Dollar 1935 King George V