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A Simple Form Of Currency

Before there were institutional banks in communities across Canada, people had to barter or exchange goods and services to acquire what they could not produce for themselves. In Red River settlement the Settlers relied on bartering throughout the West. It was a common method of developing local commerce, but it was plagued with inconsistencies and limitations. In order for the economy to transition from mercantilism to industrialism a more consistent medium of exchange that could measure prices, and wages, and store that value was necessary.  As Canada grew and the West became more settled, bartering of more valued commodities was replaced by banking that used currencies similar to those found in England.

Long beaver tally stick from 1670-1870
1 Made Beaver Tally Stick, 1670-1870, Hudson's Bay Company archives and Bank of Canada Museum

Prior to having a central Bank of Canada in 1935, banknotes were created by each bank across the country. All of the “flat” currencies were difficult to control. In 1885, It created its own flat $5.00 notes. The Traders expanded operations from Ontario West after 1900. Manitoba’s population grew from 255,000 in 1901 to 400,000 seven years later. The establishment of a bank branch in Selkirk was vital to the community’s growth.

Very old 5 dollar bill from Commercial Bank of Manitoba
Commercial Bank of Manitoba $5.00 banknote, 1885, Bank of Canada Museum

Time for Renovations

In 1903, Garson Quarries laid the foundation at 389 Eveline Street for what would eventually become the Traders Bank building. In 1906, the J.M. Beattie Company constructed a 13,050 square-foot brick block on the limestone foundation that overlooked the Red River. It was of a neo-classical , typical of bank architecture. It displayed subtle Chicago School influences with its windows grouped in 3’s and included an angled corner door design to attract customers from the street. The exterior’s classical architectural forms aimed to express wealth, integrity, endurance, and confidence. The interior had oak woodwork and hardwood floors. The bank was void of any welcoming ambiance as the counter with heavy grated wickets separated the employee from the customer thereby creating a sense of security. Banking was a sober and serious business.

Black and white photo of the Dominion Bank, with 3 men in suits standing in front of the building
The Dominion Bank, 1913, Manitoba Archives

Upon completion in 1907, the first floor was divided between the Traders Bank and Moody’s hardware store. The second floor accommodated professional offices and the third-floor apartments finished in oak and skylights were strictly residential.  The Traders Building and the Merchants Hotel were the heart of Selkirk’s early business district and acted as both a physical and functional landmark.

From Traders Bank to Dominion

The Traders Bank would soon be replaced by the Dominion Bank. An ad placed by the Selkirk Branch manager, J. Grisdale, in the November 6, 1908 edition of the Selkirk Weekly Record for the Dominion Bank promoted a savings bank department, and offered interest paid at current rates on deposits of “one dollar and upwards.” It also outlined the total assets of the Dominion Bank as equalling $51,000,000, creating an air of confidence in this bank especially perhaps for those having no prior experience with it.

Side profile of the old Dominion Bank in black and white
The Dominion Bank, 1920s, Ian Reid

Richard Cobden (RC) Moody, a pioneer hardware merchant and undertaker was known to be highly spirited and supportive of numerous community enterprises. He moved Moody & Sons Hardware from an adjoining building on Manitoba Avenue to the first floor of the Traders Bank building. The hardware store occupied much of the first floor with the Dominion Bank using an office in the corner.  An ad for Moody’s & Sons describes it as the “headquarters” for general hardware, Stephen’s Paint and Oils, forks, rakes, scythes, barbed wire, Lake of the Woods flour, furniture, and undertaking supplies. It would have been difficult to accommodate Selkirk’s rapid growth without the supplies purchased from RC Moody and other entrepreneurs like him.

The Traders Bank Building on a sunny day
Trader Bank, Date unknown, Source unknown

In 1989, the Town of Selkirk designated the Trader (Dominion) Bank building a municipal heritage site. The designation recognized the heritage value of its Neo-classical revival style and its prominent location at the heart of what was once the main business district. It also acknowledged its original purpose as being essential to the growth of Selkirk. The Traders Bank building was designed as a blended commercial and residential facility and that holds true even today.  In its more recent history, it has had various tenants on the main floor including Daerwood Painting & Decorating, Academy of Learning, Mighty Kiwi, Jeremy M. Feuer-Law Corporation, and others. The upper floors continue to be used as apartments.

The Trader's Bank Collection