In early 19th century Canada, coinage was in short supply prompting merchants to issue paper scrip in small denominations or to import half-penny and penny tokens for use as change. The shortage was more or less fixed mid-century thanks to the currency legislation that accompanied Confederation. However, merchants kept on using tokens and scrip since—like customer loyalty cards of today— they helped publicize their business.
One form of this private money, called Commission scrip, saw limited use in Ontario in the early 1870s. Modelled after an American system patented by Tiffany Bros. of Buffalo, N.Y. these notes were coupons that entitled the bearer to a discount (usually of 5 %) off the value of a purchase. The notes only were good for use with a single purchase and the value of that purchase had to be equal to or exceed a particular sum as stated on the back of the scrip. They bore values ranging from a discount of 5 cents to 50 dollars and were decorated with allegorical figures and images of industry and agriculture in much the same way as the bank notes of the period. These notes probably were distributed to prospective clients by travelling salesmen as an incentive to encourage business.
In Canada, W.W. Kitchen of Grimsby, Ontario applied for a Canadian patent for this type of private money. It is unclear if he was successful. Mr. Kitchen though was a successful grape grower and wine producer. He is credited with being among the first wine producers on the Niagara Peninsula.
The notes today are rare. There are a scant 25 examples in the National Currency Collection (NCC) representing a handful of businesses from centres both large and small across Ontario. The only known issue from outside of the province comes from Montreal.
The NCC recently had the good fortune to purchase the Taylor and Wilson commission scrip pictured above. This note, like its counterparts in the NCC, is a testament to businesses of bygone days. The cigar pictured on the back of the note made clear to the bearer that the note had something to do with tobacco. The note appears to have been issued sometime between 1870 and 1875. According to period references, John Taylor started working as a tobacconist in 1861. About 1870, he partnered with Samuel Wilson and started Taylor & Wilson, a firm of tobacconists and cigar manufacturers, at 118 and 120 Yonge Street in Toronto. The firm remained at this address until about 1872 when it vacated 120 Yonge and took over premises next door at 2 Adelaide Street. By 1876 the business appears to have moved to 124 1/2 Yonge. By 1886 Taylor & Wilson was “among the largest cigar manufacturers” in Ontario, employing “50 to 75 skilled operators.” The firm’s brands of 5 and 10 cent cigars included Bouquet de Espana, Maple Leaf, Cricket, Club and Jolly Boys. The partnership was dissolved in 1888 and John Taylor continued business under the name of the United Cigar Factory.