TIMELINES: Canada’s first stamp, issued April 23, 1851, carries what image, instead of a monarch?

April 23, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

Monday, April 23, 2012


April 23, 1851, the Province of Canada, allowed for the first time to manage its own postal system, issued its first regular postage stamps. Designed by engineer and inventor Sandford Fleming, best known for his idea of Universal Time, the first stamps were worth 3 pence and featured a beaver—a somewhat controversial departure from the tradition of honoring monarchs on stamps. Fleming decided to feature the beaver because of the animal’s important role in Canada’s fur trade at the time. The Three Penny Beaver, as it was known, was the first of a three-part series, all released in 1851. The other two included a 6 pence stamp with Prince Albert and a Queen Victoria stamp worth 12 pence. Aware of the threat of counterfeiting even in the mid-1800s, Canada incorporated the same security features used in bank notes into the design of its first stamps. Canada gained independence from Britain 16 years later in 1867.


Today, as the United States significantly downsizes its federal postal service because of growing competition from private international carriers and e-commerce, Canada Post is implementing a $2 billion multiyear modernization plan. Canada Post President and CEO Deepak Chopra said, “We will ensure Canada Post remains relevant in an increasingly digital economy, with more packages and less letters.” Canada Post has 69,000 employees and operates approximately 6,500 post offices. In 2010, Canada Post delivered 10.6 billion pieces of mail to 15 million addresses in Canada—resulting in $7.5 billion in revenue.