Did You Know That the Schooner on the Reverse of the Canadian Dime Was Called the Bluenose?

The U.S. and Canadian fishermen who plied the North Atlantic in fishing schooners in the 19th and early 20th centuries began racing their schooners in the 1880s. The (occasionally-less-than) friendly competitions served as a catalyst for the development of faster schooners designed for racing; one of these schooners, the Bluenose, built and launched towards the end of the age of sail-powered fishing schooners, sailed into numismatic fame when a depiction of the ship appeared on the reverse of the Canadian dime in 1937.

In 1920, a competition was organized between fishing crews in Gloucester, Massachusetts and Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, inaugurating the International Schooner Races. The first title went to the Gloucester-based Esperanto. The Bluenose was built and launched in 1921 for the second competition, which it won.

Through the 1920s and 1930s, the Bluenose competed many times and won several races. It became a symbol of the Canadian Atlantic fishing industry, though engine-powered ships were replacing schooners as World War II loomed. During the war, the Bluenose transported war materiel and other supplies in the Caribbean, a role it continued in peacetime until it struck a reef and sank in 1946.

With a new king came a new era of Commonwealth coinage and Canada took the opportunity in 1937 to update the reverses of their coinage as well as changing the royal portrait. Emanuel Hahn, the German-born Canadian sculptor responsible for the reverse of the familiar Voyageur Dollar (introduced in 1935) and caribou reverse for the quarter introduced in 1937, provided a dynamic depiction of the Bluenose at sea for the dime. The design remains in use today, more than eight decades later.

In 2021 the RCM struck colorized and non-colorized commemorative dimes celebrating the centennial of the Bluenose’s completion.

(Alone at Sea: Gloucester in the Age of the Dorymen, 1623-1939 provides a detailed history of the Gloucester fishery and includes a discussion of fishing schooner races and the Bluenose.)

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