OTD: Macdonald stamp marks first prime minister’s 200th birthday

On today’s date in 2015, a stamp honouring Sir John A. Macdonald, one of the Fathers of Confederation and Canada’s first prime minister, was unveiled by Canada Post in Kingston, Ont.

Designed by the Montréal studio Paprika and issued in booklets of 10 Permanent stamps, the issue marked the 200th anniversary of the influential politician’s birthday and was printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company using five-colour lithography.

It’s inscribed to the bottom-left side with “SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD” and to the top-right with the dates “1815-2015.” The word “CANADA” is also inscribed at the top.

Deepak Chopra, then president and CEO of Canada Post, helped to unveil the stamp, which he said commemorates a key player in Canadian history.

“Two hundred years after his birth, Sir John A. Macdonald remains a towering figure and this stamp celebrates his legacy,” added Chopra.

An official first-day cover was also serviced with a Kingston cancel.

The 2015 Macdonald issue is available in booklets of 10 stamps.

MACDONALD’S BIRTHDAY

It’s worth noting Macdonald’s exact birthdate is a bit of a mystery; while his birth record – which also misspells the family surname as “McDonald” – cites Jan. 10, 1815, as the date of his birth, his father’s journal lists Jan. 11, which was the day he and his family would celebrate.

Arriving in Canada as a small child, Macdonald first practiced law before entering local and then provincial politics. He participated in both the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences, which laid the groundwork for Confederation, and was either prime minister or leader of the opposition from the formation of Canada until his death on June 6, 1891.

After he died in office in 1891, Macdonald laid in state in the capital of the fledgling nation as thousands paid their respects. Many more lined the tracks to watch a train return his body to Kingston.

CONTROVERSIAL LEGACY

An official first-day cover was also issued as part of the 2015 Macdonald set.

In recent years, Macdonald’s legacy has come under the spotlight for his role in “clearing the plains” of Indigenous communities and establishing the residential school system, which forcefully removed 150,000 First Nation, Inuit and Métis children away from their communities and families.

Governments across the country have discussed removing Macdonald’s name from public buildings and tearing down statues erected in his honour.

In 2018, the City of Victoria in British Columbia spent $30,000 to remove one statue as a symbol of reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous communities.

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