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No. 11
Casting the Die of Agricultural History

by Norman M. Willis

Gold medal awarded at the Central Assiniboia Exhibition, Indian Head, Saskatchewan, 1899 (MFN-008673)
Gold medal awarded at the Central Assiniboia Exhibition, Indian Head, Saskatchewan, 1899 (MFN-008673)

Gold medal awarded at the Central Assiniboia Exhibition, Indian Head, Saskatchewan, 1899 (MFN-008673).

Agriculture occupies an important place in Canada's medallic history. Conversely, Canada's medallic heritage illuminates an important aspect of Canada's agricultural evolution. Other countries have plenty of agricultural medals too, but where there is a longer and stronger medallic tradition, as in Europe, agricultural medals are relatively less significant. Their special place in Canada is explained by a particular combination of historic circumstances.

Prosperity brings the medal to Canada

About 1850, eastern Canada emerged from the early pioneering stage of its development. At the same time, the medal was achieving a new degree of popularity in Europe, as it came increasingly under the auspices of the prosperous bourgeoisie. Canada was ready to follow this trend. Before this time, Canadians had been too preoccupied with basic practical tasks to have much thought for such cultural trappings as the medal. Now, Canada had a newly prosperous middle class, with the means and the inclination to adopt the medal and other sorts of refinements favoured by its counterpart in the Old World. The difference here was that Canada's affluent middle class remained associated with its agricultural base, whereas the rising Europeans derived their wealth more from industry. The consequence was that the medal, when it came into favour in Canada, was naturally much utilized for the promotion of agriculture.


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