The 1867 Confederation Medal

The Confederation Medal was the first honour of the Dominion. It was created to celebrate the birth of our nation. Since then, it has received little attention. This research paper details what is known of the "medal".

ID #20031 Credits: Ontario Archives, S3492

Illustration of the 1867 Confederation Medal reverse shows female figure representing Britannia. b

ID #20030 Credits: Ontario Archives, S3491

Illustration of the 1867 Confederation Medal obverse shows Queen Victoria. a

On 21 March 1967, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II approved the creation of The Order of Canada. One hundred years earlier, at the very dawn of the Dominion of Canada, her predecessor Queen Victoria approved a medal which has the appearance of being the first honour of the Dominion of Canada: the 1867 Confederation Medal. It met the criteria of: approval by the Sovereign, awarded for service or merit, open to anyone, and the recipients being vetted and approved by government at the highest level. After the necessary delay from production start-up, it was distributed from 1869, with the latest award of record being in 1937.

The National Archives holds the following Privy Council Order-in-Council 1:

On a Memorandum dated 3rd June 1868, from the Hon. the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, submitting that the Delegates to England on the subject of Confederation in 1867, thought it well that a medal should be struck commemorating the Confederation of the Provinces – he, therefore at their desire made arrangements for the preparation of the medal with MM. J.S. and A.B. Wyon Chief Engravers of Her Majesty’s Seals.

That Her Majesty was graciously pleased to approve of the design and the medal is now being prepared; he, therefore, recommends that a remittance be made to the Engravers of two thousand dollars, the sum voted for that object in the Estimates for 1869, and that they be instructed to prepare one Gold, fifty Silver and five hundred Bronze Medals, without delay.

The Committee advise that the recommendation of the Hon. the Minister of Justice be approved and acted on.

John A. Macdonald

An Order in Council (1869-680) was approved on 18th September 1869 authorizing a remaining balance of £350.3.4 Stg, acknowledging that ‘a sum of £710.19.2 has already been paid.’ Any money exceeding the appropriation was to be allocated under ‘Unforeseen Expenses.’

The Gold Medal was prepared for Queen Victoria. Silver Medals were distributed selectively. Bronze Medals were distributed more widely, but included the Fathers of Confederation.

Being ‘put up’ for this medal was received in different ways. Dr. Allan Marble reports that Sir Adams Archibald (first Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba followed by a term also as Lieutenant-Governor in Nova Scotia) thought so highly of his Silver Confederation Medal that he mentioned it in his will, leaving it to the son of his eldest daughter. 2 On the other hand, Patrick Power, M.P., writes from Halifax on 24 Dec 1869 to Sir C. Hastings Doyle 3:

“Your Excellency,

I beg respectfully to return herewith the Confederation Medal which Your Excellency was kind enough to send me.

I have ever been opposed to the Confederation Measure, believing that it would prove most injurious to the interest of this Province; and as I have yet seen no reason for altering that opinion, I feel that I cannot consistently retain this medal, commemorative of that Act.

I remain, Your Excellency’s
Most obedient Servant
Patrick Power”

The Records always refer to them as Medals. However, they do not have attachments for ribbons and were not worn.

The medals are 3 inches (76 mm) in diameter, and were prepared by Joseph Shepherd Wyon. The Obverse shows the bust of Queen Victoria facing the dexter with a scarf hanging at her neck from underneath the rear of the diadem. The inscription is “VICTORIA D: G: BRITT : REG : F D :” and beneath the truncation is “J.S. Wyon, SC.” The Reverse has the inscription “JUVENTAS ET PATRIUS VIGOR/ CANADA INSTAURATA 1867” meaning ‘Youth and patriotic strength/ Canada inaugurated 1867.’ 4 Shown is a seated female figure (representing Britannia) with helmet, shield showing the Union Badge, and trident. She is attended by a seated lion and is extending a scroll with the word ‘CONFEDERATION’ on it (representing the British North America Act) to four female figures who are grouped at the right in front of her. Each represents a province and holds a symbolic device. Clockwise from the top are: Ontario (a sickle and sheaf for agriculture), Quebec (with a fleur-de-lys on her shoulder, holding a canoe paddle for commerce), Nova Scotia (a shovel, for mining), and New Brunswick (an axe, for the forest industry). Near the foot of the seated figure is ‘J.S. and A.B. Wyon SC.’

The medal became a hit with numismatists. Gerald E. Hart in Montréal wrote on 4th December 1869:

“The Honorable
James Cox Aikens
Secretary of State
For Canada

Honorable Sir,

The Confederation Medals lately received by the Government and now being distributed to those entitled to receive them, has given me the occasion to address you in reference to obtaining a copy for my own private collection.

I have for many years past collected a large number of the coins and medals appertaining to our own Canadian History, and any nativity causing me to take a great interest in this branch of Numismatic Science, has emboldened me to ask for a copy of this Medal.

I, of course, don’t come under the free list, and shall therefore esteem it a great favour, if money will obtain a copy of this most interesting Medal commemorating the great event of Confederation, for my not incomplete series.

I have the honor
To remain
Your very obd Ser
Gerald E. Hart
Box 310 P.O.

The Under Secretary of State 5 wrote a short reply on 6th Dec 1869:


In reply to your letter to the Hon. J.C. Aikens of the 4th instant, transferred to this Department, applying for a copy of the Confederation Medal, I am directed to express to you the regrets of the Minister the Secretary of State that it is not in the power of the Department to comply with your request.”

Printed forms were used for distribution of the medals.

The Department of the Secretary of State of Canada,

Ottawa, ________ 18___


I have the honour, in accordance with an order of His Excellency the Governor General in Council, to inform you that I, this day, send to your address, by ______________________ ___________________________ a _______________________ copy of the Medal, struck in London, by order of the Canadian Government, in commemoration of the Confederation of the Provinces.

Herein is enclosed a form of receipt for the same, which you are requested to sign and return to this office.

I have the honor to be,

Your most ob’dt Servt.,

E. L. Parent
Under Secretary of State

Sometimes, errors in reporting were made, and these brought out the people who were very interested in being ‘promoted’ to the Silver copy. This apparently happened in December 1869. Mr. E. Parent, Under Secretary of State, wrote several letters in reply to communications that he had received from several people. He wrote 6 on 13 Dec 1869 to Colonel the Honourable J.H. Gray, M.P.:


In reply to your letter of this morning, claiming a Confederation Medal as Member of the Quebec Conference on Confederation, I am directed to inform you that the members of that Conference are, under the Order in Council on the distribution of these medals, entitled to one in Bronze only, and that the announcement you quote to the contrary is incorrect.”

This had followed the beginning of the distribution of the medals which had been authorized by Order in Council 1869-821. The Report submitted to His Excellency The Right Honourable Sir John Young, Baronet, Knight Grand Cross of the most honourable Order of the Bath and Knight Grand Cross of the most distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George, Governor General of Canada [later Baron Lisgar] shows that the persons present at the meeting were The Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald in the Chair, Sir George E. Cartier, S. L. Tilley, Hector L. Langevin, and Edw. Kenney.

Report of a Committee of the Honorable the Privy Council, approved by His Excellency the Governor General in Council on the 9th November 1869 7.

“On the recommendation of the Hon. The Secretary of State the Committee advise that the medals in Gold, Silver and Bronze, struck in London by order of the Canadian Government, in commemoration of the Confederation of the Provinces, be distributed in the manner recommended in his Memorandum dated 4th November 1869, hereunto appended.


Le soussigné a l’honneur de faire rapport que les médailles frappées à Londres par ordre du Gouvernement Canadien en commémoration de la Confédération du Canada, sont reçues et consistent, en une Médaille d’or, cinquante Médailles d’argent et cinq cents Médailles de bronze;

Et il a l’honneur de recommander

  1. Que la Médaille d’or soit présentée à Sa Majesté la Reine, de la part du Gouvernement Canadien 8;
  2. Qu’une Médaille d’argent soit donnée à chacun des seize membres de la Conférence tenue à Londres en 1866-7 pour régler les conditions de l’Acte de la Confédération;
  3. Qu’une Médaille d’argent soit donnée à chacun des 4 membres du Gouvernement Fédéral le 1er juillet 1867, qui ne formaient pas partie de la Conférence de Londres;
  4. Qu’une Médaille d’argent soit donnée à chacune des personnes dont les noms suivants, savoir:
  5. S.H.R. le Prince de Galles
  6. Le Trés. Honorable M. Cardwell
  7. Le Comte de Carnarvon
  8. Le Duc de Buckingham & Chandos
  9. Le Comte de Granville
  10. Le Comte de Derby, ex. Premier Ministre
  11. Le Vicomte Monck
  12. S. E. Sir John Young
  13. L’Honorable Colonel Gray (Sidi Prince Edward)
  14. L’Honorable George Brown
  15. L’Honorable John Rose
  16. Qu’une Médaille d’argent et une Médaille de bronze soient placées dans la Bibliothèque du Parlement Fédéral;
  17. Qu’une Médaille de bronze soit accordée:
    1. à chacun des 181 Membres de la Chambre des Communes du Canada;
    2. à chacun des 72 Membres du Sénat du Canada;
    3. à chacun des 17 Membres de la Conférence de Québec relative à la Confédération, qui ne formaient pas partie de la Conférence de Londres des Communes ni du Sénat;
    4. à chacun des Membres de la Conférence de Charlottetown, qui nont pas été membres des Conférences de Londres et de Québec, et ne sont membres ni du Sénat ni de la Chambre des Communes;
    5. au Vicomte Monck;
    6. à S. E. Sir John Young;
    7. au Greffier des Conférences de Londres et de Québec;
    8. à chacune des Institutions suivantes:
      1. Province d’Ontario:
        1. Victoria College, Cobourg Province d’Ontario;
        2. School of Medicine, Toronto;
        3. School of Medicine, Kingston;
        4. Canadian Institute, Toronto;
        5. Institut Canadien, Ottawa;
        6. Athenaum Institute, Ottawa;
        7. University College, Toronto;
        8. Education Office, Toronto;
        9. Knox College, Toronto;
        10. St. Basile College, Toronto;
        11. Trinity College, Toronto;
        12. Congregational College, Toronto; (Montreal)
        13. Queen’s College, Kingston;
        14. Regiopolis College, Kingston;
        15. Albert University, Belleville;
        16. 16.Hellmuth College or London Collegiate Institution, London;
        17. Ontario College, Picton;
        18. Le Collège d’Ottawa, Ottawa;
        19. Canadian Literary Institute, Woodstock;
        20. Law Society, Osgoode Hall, Toronto;
        21. Board of Arts & Manufacturers, Toronto;
        22. St. Michael’s College, Toronto;
        23. Legislative Library, Toronto;
      2.  Province de Québec:
        1. National History Society, Montreal;
        2. Literary & Historical Society, Quebec;
        3. Education Office, Quebec;
        4. McGill University, Montreal;
        5. Morrin College, Quebec;
        6. Lennoxville College, Quebec;
        7. L’Université Laval, Québec;
        8. Le Séminaire de Québec, Québec;
        9. Le Séminaire St. Sulpice de Montréal, Montréal;
        10. Le Collège de St. Hyacinthe, St. Hyacinthe;
        11. Le Collège de Nicolet, Nicolet;
        12. Le Collège de Lévis, Lévis;
        13. Le Collège de 3 Rivières, 3 Rivières;
        14. Le Collège de Ste Marie, Montréal;
        15. Le Collège de Ste. Marie Monnoir
        16. Le Collège de Rimouski, Rimouski;
        17. St. Francis College, St. Francis;
        18. Presbyterian College, Montreal;
        19. Le Collège de Ste Anne de la Pocatière;
        20. Le Collège de Ste Thérèse, Ste Thérèse;
        21. Le Collège de L’Assomption, L’Assomption;
        22. Le Collège de Rigaud;
        23. Le Collège de Masson, Terrebonne;
        24. Institut Canadien Français, Montréal;
        25. Mercantile Library Association, Montreal;
        26. Institut Canadien, Québec;
        27. Normal School McGill, Montreal;
        28. Jacques Cartier Normal School, Montreal;
        29. Laval Normal School, Quebec;
        30. Collège de St. Laurent, Co. of Jacques Cartier;
        31. Collège de Varennes;
        32. Legislative Library, Quebec;
      3. Province de la Nouvelle Ecosse:
        1. Dalhousie College, Halifax;
        2. St. Francis Xavier College, Antigonish;
        3. Acadia College, Wolfville;
        4. St. Mary’s College, Halifax;
        5. Education Office, Halifax;
        6. Legislative Library, Halifax;
        7. Province of New Brunswick:
        8. University of New Brunswick, Fredericton
        9. Baptist Seminary, Fredericton;
        10. Methodist Academy, Sackville;
        11. Presbyterian College, Miramiche;
        12. Roman Catholic College, Miramiche;
        13. Education Office, Fredericton;
        14. Legislative Library, Fredericton;

Signed, Hector L. Langevin
Secretaire d’État 

Now that the Privy Council had set out the categories for the awarding of the medals, it was left to the officials at the Department of the Secretary of State to prepare the specific list of names in the general categories. The record of this is found in RG6 Vol 156, file 2250. This is definitely a working copy, and had probably been prepared in advance of the submission to the Privy Council. Handwriting is interpretive.

Section 2: Médaille d’argent. 16 membres de la Conférence de Londres:

  1. Sir John A. MacDonald, Canada
  2. Sir G. E. Cartier
  3. Sir. A. T. Galt
  4. Hon. W. P. Howland, C.B.
  5. Hon. Wm MacDougal,l C.B.
  6. Hon. Hector L. Langevin, C.B.
  7. Hon. Charles Tupper, C.B,. N. Ecosse
  8. Hon. Wm. A. Henry
  9. Hon. Jonathan McCully, Senator
  10. Hon. A. G. Archibald, M.P.
  11. Hon. J. W. Ritchie, Senator
  12. Hon. S. L. Tilley, C.B.,N. Brunswick
  13. Hon. John M. Johnston
  14. Hon. Judge [Charles] Fisher.
  15. Hon. Peter Mitchell
  16. R. D. Wilmot, Senator.

Section 3: Médaille d’argent. As a member of the Federal Gov’t on the 1st July 1867, and of the Senate.

  1. Hon. Ed Kenny
  2. Hon. J. E. Chapais
  3. Hon. Alexander Campbell
  4. Hon. Fergusson-Blair

Section 6: Médaille Bronze:

  1. Sir E. P Taché
  2. Hon. G. Brown
  3. Hon. Oliver Mowat   
  4. Hon. T. D. McGee
  5. Hon. W. A. Henry
  6. Hon. John M. Johnson
  7. Hon. Charles Fisher
  8. Hon. Edward Chandler
  9. Hon. F. B. T. Carter
  10. Hon. Ambrose Shea
  11. Hon. Colonel Gray
  12. Hon. Edward Palmer
  13. Hon. W. H. Pope
  14. Hon. George Coles
  15. Hon. T. Heath Haviland
  16. Hon. Edward Whelan
  17. Hon. A. A. Macdonald

A Supplementary Report dated 5th November 1869 was also considered by the Privy Council on 9th November 1869 (1869-823).

Le soussigné a l’honneur de faire le rapport supplémentaire qui suit, au sujet des Médailles frappées en commémoration de la Confédération.

Le soussigné recommande qu’une Médaille d’argent soit accordée:

  1. À l’Honorable Sir E. P. Taché, Président de la Conférence de Québec;
  2. Au premier Ministre de chacun des Gouvernements de la Province du Canada, de la Province de la Nouvelle-Écosse et de la Province du Nouveau-Brunswick, immédiatement avant le premier juillet 1867, s’il n’y a pas déjà droit autrement;
  3. À Sir Hastings Doyle, Lt-Gov of Nova Scotia;
  4. À l’Honorable H. Wilmot, Lieutenant Gouverneur du Nouveau-Brunswick;

Le soussigné recommande aussi qu’une Médaille de bronze soit accordée:

  1. À chacun des Membres de chacun des Gouvernements des Provinces du Canada, de la Nouvelle Ecosse et du Nouveau Brunswick, immédiatement avant le premier juillet 1867, qui n’a pas droit a une Médaille d’argent ou à une Médaille de bronze, de quelqu’ autre manière;
  2. Au King’s College, Windsor, N. Ecosse;
  3. Au Presbyterian College, Woodstock, N.B.;
  4. Au Museum du Mechanics Institute, St. John, N.B.;
  5. Au Roman Catholic Dorchester Academy, Memramcock, N.B.;
  6. Au Collège du Montréal St. Sulpice, Montréal.

Signé, Hector L. Langevin
Secrétaire d’État

A list of addresses, Confederation Medals, for Nova Scotia has:

Name Location

Major General, Sir Hastings Doyle, Lt. Governor of Nova Scotia


Hon. Chas. Tupper, C.B., M.P.


Hon. A. W. Henry,


Hon. J. W. Ritchie


Hon. A. G. Archibald, M.P.


Hon. Jonathan McCully


Hon. J. H. Anderson


Hon. W. Miller


Hon. Jas. McDonald


Hon. Jas. McNab


Hon. S. L. Shannon


Hon. A. Jones, Esq., M.P.


Hon. P. Power


Hon. E. M. McDonald


The Clerk, Legislative Assembly


The Supt. of Education


Principal, St. Mary’s College


Principal, Dalhousie College


Hon. R. D. Wilmot,

Belmouth Sunbury

Hon. J. Locke,


T. Coffin, Esq., M.P.


Hon. R. B. Dickey


Hon. Alex’r McFarlane


Hon. John Creighton


Hon. J. Holmes


Hon. A. W. McLlelan


Hon. C. R. Bliss

Kings County

Hon. S. Campbell, M.P.


W. H. Ross, Esq., M.P.


F. Killam, Esq., M.P.


W. Ross, Esq., M.P.

St. Ann’s, Co. Victoria

J. F. Forbes, Esq., M.P.


J. W. Carmichael, Esq., M.P.

New Glasgow

W. H. Shipman, Esq., M.P.


A. Cameron, Esq., M.P.

Port Hood

A. W. Savary, Esq., M.P.


J. LeViscomte, Esq., M.P.


Hon. T. D. Archibald, Esq., M.P.


Hon. J. Kourinoh, Esq., M.P.


Hon. J. McKeagney, Esq., M.P.


Hon. J. McKinnon, Esq., M.P.


H. McDonald, Esq., M.P.


Principal, St. Francois Xavier College


Principal, Acadia College


Principal, King’s College



Addresses for New Brunswick:

Name Location

Hon. L. A. Wilmot


Hon. A. R. McChlans


Hon. J. Fergusson


Hon. J. Dever

St. John

Hon. W. H. Steeves

St. John

Hon. R. L. Hazen

St. John

Hon. D. Warde


Hon. W. H. Odell


Hon. J. Robertson

St. John

Hon. J. Glazier


Hon. A. E. Botsford


A. Renauld, M.P.


Hon. A. J. Smith, M.P.


John Costigan, M.P.

Grand Falls

Charles Burpee, M.P.


W. M. Caldwell, M.P.


John Wallace, M.P.


Hon. Chs. Connell, M.P.


Hon. T. W. Anylin, M.P.

St. John

G. Ryan, M.P.


R. Hutchinson, M.P.


John Pickard, M.P.


John Ferris, M.P.


The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly


Principal of the Presbyterian College


Principal of the Methodist Academy


Principal of the RC Dorchester Academy


Principal of the Presbyterian College


Principal of the Baptist Seminary


Principal of the Roman Catholic College


The Superintendent of Education


The President of the Mechanics’ Institute

St. John

The President of the University of New Brunswick


Hon. E. Williston


Hon. John McAdam

St. Stephens

Hon. John McMillan


Hon. Charles Fisher


Hon. Edward Chandler


Mr. John M. Johnston



C-043221 National Archives

1872 Confederation Medal reverse shows Indians of the northwest territories. d

C-043219 National Archives

Dominion of Canada Chiefs 1872 Medal obverse shows Queen Victoria. c

This matrix also appeared in 1872 with, however, an additional annulus and a different purpose. When treaties were signed with the tribes of the Northwest Territories, the Chiefs were given medals on neck-ribbons. There were difficulties with the production and size of these, and were replaced. Apparently, it was thought that this was a more impressive design for the signers of treaties. With the additional annulus, the diameter is now 3.75 inches. On the Obverse, there is ‘Dominion of Canada/ Chiefs 1872 Medal’. On the reverse is ‘Indians of the North West Territories.’

Some additional awards were made after the first large distribution. In RG2 of the National Archives of Canada, the microfilmed records of the Privy Council Orders-in-Council are not always complete, nor is the handwriting always clearly interpreted. It is even easy to misread the importance of a page and accidentally omit a name. They are supplemented by the records of the Department of the Secretary of State (SS) in ‘RG6, Secretary of State, Series A-1.’

OIC Date Type Nominee


7 Dec 1869


Numismatic and Antiquaries Society of Montreal


27 Dec 1869


Frédéric Gautier, Consul General of France


16 Jan 1872


H.E. The Governor General




Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald




Hon. Sir F. Hincks




Hon. Mr.. Howe




Hon. Mr. Morris




Hon. Mr. Aikens




Hon. J. H. Pope




Hon. Judge Dunkin




Lieut Col Bernard




His. Hon. Lieut Gov Tritch




Hon. Dr. Thelmek




Hon. Dr. Carroll




T. Scriver




Hon. George Alexander


17 Dec 1885


Hon. Chief Justice Hagarty, one of the Judges swearing in the first Governor General.




Hon. Gideon Ouimet, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Quebec.




John George Hodgins, Deputy Minister of Education, Ontario, and author of Canadian literary works.




The Library of the High Commissioner, London.




The Colonial and Indian Exhibition, 1886.


24 June 1886


The Most Rev. the Archbishop of Manitoba




The Most Rev. the Metropolitan of Manitoba




The Most Rev. the Archbishop of Montreal




The Hon. G. E. Foster, Minister of Marine Fisheries




Sir R. G. W. Herbert, K.C.B., Permanent India Secretary of State for the Colonies




Hon. J. B. Plumb, Senator




Hon. E. Gerin




J. C. Taché, Deputy of the Minister of Agriculture




Sandford Fleming, C.M.G.




Joseph Hictisone, General Manager of the Grand Trunk Railway




The Library Art and Natural History Association of Sherbrooke




The Ecole Polytechnique of Montreal




The Free Public Library of St. John, N.B.


3 Dec 1886


Hon. Cavendish Boyle, Colonial Secretary of Bermuda


16 Dec 1886


Mr. J. Gordon Brown, formerly Editor of the Toronto Globe


14 Nov 1889


Hon. John Schultz, Lt-Gov of Manitoba

1890 SS

19 Feb 1890


Hon. C. H. Tapper, Minister of Marine & Fisheries


19 Feb 1890


Hon. J. G. Haggart, Postmaster General


19 Feb 1890


Hon. Edgar Deneday, Minister of the Interior, Superintendent of Indian Affairs.


20 Mar 1890


Hon. J. A. Ouimet, Speaker of the House of Commons

1890 SS

24 Mar 1890


Hon. Sir Adams G. Archibald, KCMG, M.P.

1893 SS

7 Mar 1893


Sir John Thompson (replacement for one stolen from house)


7 Mar 1893


Hon. J. C. Patterson, Minister of Militia and Defense, member of the Privy Council of Canada.




Hon. T. M. Daly, Minister of the Interior & Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, member of the Privy Council of Canada.




Hon. A. R. Angers, Minister of Agriculture, member of the Privy Council of Canada.




Hon. W. B. Ives, President of the Queen’s privy Council


29 Mar 1893


Hon. Frank Smith, Senator, and member of the Privy Council of Canada.


15 Aug 1893


Sir Hugh Guion Macdonell, KCMG, CB, Her Majesty's Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary to the King of Portugal, for the service of his father and uncles, being five or six in number, during the revolutionary action in North America, to the ultimate benefit of Upper Canada and the later Dominion of Canada.


23 Apr 1894


Mr. Philippe Hebert, Canadian sculptor of the statue of the late Sir John A. Macdonald, at Paris, France.


On 9th April 1890, the Under Secretary of State counted the number of copies in the vaults of the Department, and recorded 50.

On 1st September 1893, the number was 37.

A draft letter to a Mr. Foster 9, dated 28th April 1894, the writer mentions: 

“…I beg to say that the distribution of copies of the Confederation Medal is regulated by Order in Council, on reports made from time to time by the Secretary of State. We have now very few copies of the Medal left, and are exercising particular care in their bestowal.”

With the passage of time, the corporate memory forgot some details. In 1916, there was discussion concerning a celebration for the 50th anniversary of Confederation. The Under Secretary of State, Mr. Thomas Mulvey, wrote to Dr. James Bonar, Deputy Master of the Royal Mint, Ottawa, on 12th August 1916 saying :

“It has been suggested that for the semi-centennial of Confederation there should be a re-issue of the Confederation Medal. As you no doubt know, this was a medal issued shortly after Confederation. It was in gold, silver and bronze. I have forgotten the exact number struck of each Medal, but I believe that there were two in gold, and that one was presented to Her late Majesty Queen Victoria and the other to the Governor General. Similar Medals were distributed to the Members of the Cabinet and other prominent Canadians, and the others to Members of Parliament, institutions, etc. The Medal was struck by Wyon and Company, London. I should like to know whether the die could be obtained from London, so that the new Medal could be struck at your Mint, and whether it could be slightly changed, to indicate a semi-centennial issue. I am sending you a copy of the Medal, which I shall be glad if you will return to me. Distribution is not free. I may only part with it on the issue of an Order-in-Council. I think, however, that if you will apply for a copy, it would be quite proper to have one sent to the Canadian Mint.”

The reply was sent 16 August 1916 from J. Bonar: 

Dear Mr. Mulvey,

The Confederation Medal, kindly enclosed by you on loan in your letter of the 12th, is very much admired here; and, if I may apply through you for the privilege of possessing a copy, I venture hereby to do so on behalf of the Mint.

My staff here however say frankly that with our present equipment, even if we had the die, we could not carry out in a satisfactory manner the work described in your letter, and we ought not to undertake it. They add that the work was not originally done by Wyon for the London Mint but by Wyon & co., as a private firm. This accounts perhaps for the absence of this medal from Mr. Hocking’s Catalogue of the Mint Museum. From the experience of more than one of my present staff who were in the Medal department of the London Mint, the work is beyond the powers of the London Mint also.

It might well enough be done by Pinches of London, perhaps the highest firm in reputation for that kind of work. The Paris Mint would be equal to it; their Annual Reports disclose a very wide field of activity in medal-making.

A Bronze copy was authorized to be sent to them by Order-in-Council dated 29 Sept 1916.

On 15 July 1927, Mr. L. M. Fortier at the Fort Anne, Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, part of the Canadian National Parks, wrote to Thomas Mulvey,

Dear Mr. Mulvey,

I know you will think me a nuisance, but I am going to ask you to have made and sent to me a complete list of the recipients of the Silver Confederation Medal (1867). This I find is necessary to satisfy enquiries, and seeing that the Museum of Fort Anne possesses one of these silver medals it will be interesting to know how they were all disposed of in the first instance.

Yours faithfully,

L. M. Fortier

After the clerk who attends to such matters returned from her vacation, a list was prepared, dated 3 August 1927 10.


I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 15th ultimo, and to inform you, in answer thereto, that the silver issue of the Confederation Medal was sent to the following:

  • Aitkins, J. C.
  • Archibald, A. G.
  • Baby, G.
  • Belleau, A. T.
  • Bernard, H. (Ld. Monck)
  • Blair, F.
  • Bowell, M.
  • Brown, G.
  • Buckingham, Duke of
  • Campbell, A.
  • Cardwell, M.
  • Carnarvon, Lord
  • Carroll, R. W. W.
  • Cartier, C. E.
  • Chapels, Thos.
  • Derby, Count [The Earl of]
  • Doyle, H.
  • Dunkin, C.
  • Ferguson, G. W.
  • Fisher, C.
  • Galt, A.T.
  • Granville, Count [The Earl of]
  • Gray, J.H.
  • Helmcken, J.S.
  • Henry, W.A.
  • Hincks, F.
  • Howe, Jos.
  • Howland, W.P.
  • Johnson, H. (J. M.)
  • Kenny, Ed.
  • King, E.
  • Langevin, A.L.
  • Lisgar, Lord (2)
  • Macdonald, J. A.
  • Masson, L.R.
  • McCully, J.
  • McDougall, Wm.
  • Mitchell, Peter
  • Morris, A.
  • Pope, W. H.
  • Ritchie, J. W.
  • Rose, John
  • Tache, E. S.
  • Tache, S.
  • Tilley, A. L.
  • Todd, A.
  • Trutch, J. W.
  • Tupper, Charles.
  • Wales, Prince of.
  • Wilmot, L. A.
  • Wilmot, R. D.

Apparently in 1927, a list was also prepared of the contents of the ‘Confederation Medals Box.’ It contains a list of copies of correspondence and notes. The later ones are:

Year Sec State File Number Item



Medal to Sir John Anderson



Medal to Lady Hingston for Macdonald family



Medal to H. E. Lord Minto.



Medal to HRH The Prince Arthur of Connaught



Medal to Dr. Doughty (unnumbered letter)



Medal to HRH the Duke of Connaught



Medal to M. A. Jamieson



Medal to the Royal Mint



Medal lent to Hamilton Semi-Centennial and sent to Sir Hugh John Macdonald


O. H. Cahan wrote to the Right Honourable W. L. Mackenzie King, on 4 March 1935 11 that:

A memorandum of Sir Joseph Pope on one of the files states that on the 1st of September 1896, no Silver Medals remained in the Department.

I find record of the presentation, by order of the Government, of 5 Medals since Confederation: The following were the recipients: -

  • Lt.-Col. Charles R. McCullough
  • Dr. Doughty
  • The Duke of Connaught
  • The Royal Mint
  • Hon. Hugh J. Macdonald.

On 1 July 1937, Fernand Rinfret, Secretary of State, reported that there were 22 of the Bronze Medals in the Department 12. On that date, he wrote the following letter:

My dear Prime Minister, -

I find that there are in the Department of the Secretary of State twenty-two of the Bronze Medals which were struck to commemorate Confederation. I also find that since Confederation, on several occasions, one of these Medals has been presented to a distinguished Canadian.

Since this year is the Seventieth Anniversary of Confederation, it seems to me appropriate that I should ask the Prime Minister of Canada to accept one of these medals. I therefore enclose the Medal.

With kindest regards,

Yours very sincerely,


Secretary of State

The Right Honourable
W. L. Mackenzie King, P.C., LL.D.,
Prime Minister,

The reply reads: 

Ottawa, July 16, 1937.

The Honourable Fernand Rinfret, P.C.,
Secretary of State,

My dear Rinfret,

Since my return to Canada, I have duly received your letter of July the first, kindly intimating that, as this is the seventieth anniversary of Confederation, it seems to you appropriate that, as Prime Minister of Canada, I should be presented with one of the bronze medals which were struck to commemorate Confederation. Your letter mentions that you find that since Confederation, on several occasions, one of these medals has been presented to a distinguished Canadian.

As I have held the office of Prime minister of Canada, for a period in all of over ten years, I imagine it is not likely that exception will be taken to my acceptance of one of the bronze medals. In the circumstance, it affords me great pleasure to accept the medal, which you have enclosed with your letter. In so doing, I desire to thank you very warmly for your kind thought in associating the gift with Dominion Day and the seventieth anniversary of Confederation.

With kindest regards,

Yours very sincerely,

W. L. Mackenzie King (signature)

In May 2003, a Bronze copy of the Medal was sent by the Department of Canadian Heritage to the Chancellery of Honours for display purposes 13.

Christopher McCreery, a man engaged in Ph.D. studies at Queen’s University at Kingston regarding the Canadian honours, writes 14:

“The gold issue was in 22k gold… The dies for the medals were held by John Pinches and Son, a London Jewellery firm, and I believe that they [were] deposited with the Franklin Mint... The dies have been defaced in that the date 1967 has been added to prevent forgeries being made. Sets of the silver and gold medals were made in 1967 were made by Pinches in 1967, 200 silver and 25 gold (22k), it is a stunning medal in gold, partially on account of its weight!”


As the researcher involved, I am left with some curiosity. Why did this seem to fade from importance, both in people’s minds and in process of distribution? Did the natural passage from life of the principals involved in the Confederation era have the major impact on its decline in importance? Or, did the small number of medals left produce a restriction on the deliberations in that the government was unable to make a decision because they feared that a more worthy candidate might appear later? Was it supplanted by something else 15? Do the families of the people who received these still hold them? This might make an interesting study for a thesis.

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