Author: Michael Ryan, International Bank Note Society
The Hudson’s Bay Company issued promissory notes from 1820 to 1870 that served as paper money in the Red River Colony (near present-day Winnipeg, Manitoba) and adjacent parts of what is now Canada and the United States. These notes are a fascinating artefact of the fur trade, which the HBC dominated, and which played an important role in the earliest phase of European engagement with Canada and the United States. Although the HBC notes are well-known to numismatists and examples appear in numerous public and private collections in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, information concerning the notes has remained incomplete, including information about the number, timing and size of each issue. The author examines the HBC note registers and other records preserved in the HBC Archives in Winnipeg, and other public sources (including the collections of the museums referred to) and private collections to uncover this information and to construct a catalogue of the notes of the HBC series. This research allows some inferences to be drawn about the value of the issued notes outstanding at different intervals. Using contemporary records, the author also provides some insights into the role the notes played in the economic relationship between HBC and the Red River colonists. The discussion begins with a brief historical introduction.