Act of Incorporation

On March 30, 1832, royal assent was given to the bill incorporating “the President, Directors, and Company of the Bank of Nova Scotia”.   

With this document, Nova Scotia’s first chartered bank was born. The Bank held its first shareholders’ meeting at the Merchants Exchange Coffee House in Halifax on May 10 at which 13 directors were elected. The following day, the new board elected William Lawson as the Bank’s first President. The Bank would open its doors to customers at the end of August.  

The Bank of Nova Scotia's 1832 charter introduced an innovative new provision which would later become a standard for all bank charters:  the double liability of shareholders. This meant that “in case any loss or deficiency of the capital stock shall occur from the official mismanagement of the directors" each shareholder of the Bank should be liable to pay a sum not exceeding "the amount of the stock actually then held, in addition to the stock so held by him".   

In order to help preserve this important document reference photographs have been created and are used in place of the original whenever possible. 

Hollis Coin Bank

188-190 Hollis Street was the Bank’s first custom built building. It served as the Head Office and Halifax Main Branch from 1838 to 1931. 

This unique coin bank is a reminder of the Bank of Nova Scotia’s early days in Halifax. When the Bank first opened for business in 1832 it operated out of rented premises. In 1836, a lot at 190 Hollis Street was purchased and the following year construction began on a new building. It would open for business in 1838. The adjoining lot, at 188 Hollis Street, was purchased in 1874 and the bank was expanded, with a new sandstone front unifying the structure. After the grand new head office was opened at the corner of Hollis and Prince Streets this building was sold and it was eventually demolished in 1958. If you want to visit the original site, don’t look to the street numbers to guide you – they were changed in the 1960s. The building was located on the west side of Hollis, just north of George Street. 

Object No. 0006. Courtesy of the Scotiabank Archives

Jamaican Currency

Five-pound bank note from the first issue of bank notes by The Bank of Nova Scotia in Jamaica, dated January 2, 1900.

While this specimen represents the first time the Bank issued notes in Jamaica, it had already been operating in the country for over 10 years by the time it was released. The Bank of Nova Scotia became the first Canadian bank to operate in the West Indies when it opened a branch in Kingston, Jamaica in August 1889, and while it had been printing and distributing its own bank notes in Canada since it opened in 1832, it was only after an Act of Parliament passed in 1899 that it was able to do the same in Jamaica.

Part of RG279. Courtesy of the Scotiabank Archives.

Protectograph

This machine adds the dollar value to cheques. It simultaneously prints the value in ink and punches the paper, making it virtually impossible to alter the amount.

Protectographs or chequewriters were introduced in the 1870s as a way to reduce fraud. With a standard hand written cheque, a skilled forger could easily change the value. The Protectograph made this almost impossible by placing a mark or word before the digits of the value, so no more could be added, and by adding a tactile element to the cheque by pressing or punching the paper at the same time as adding ink. Even if a forger were to remove the ink, the impression would remain. These machines were supplied to all branches to help protect The Bank of Nova Scotia and its customers.

Object 0028. Courtesy of Scotiabank Archives.

Bank of Nova Scotia Calendar (1933)

This calendar features a painting by L.F. Nicolet which depicts the first visit of the Cunard ship S.S. Britannia to Halifax in 1840. 

Over the years The Bank of Nova Scotia produced a number of colourful advertising calendars for distribution to customers. The subject of this one, the Britannia, was the Cunard Line’s first steamship and this visit marked the commencement of regular steamship service across the Atlantic. This was a momentous event as it greatly reduced travel time between North America and Britain, for both mail and passengers.  

This image was also reproduced in mosaic in the banking hall at 1709 Hollis Street in Halifax, where The Bank of Nova Scotia’s head offices are located. The event holds special significance for Halifax as Samuel Cunard, who founded the Cunard line, was a Halifax native. He was also a customer of The Bank of Nova Scotia.  

Inandout Register Board

With this low-tech tool, one glance is enough to tell you which staff are currently in the office.  

Simple, clear and readable from both sides, this board is a reminder that all sorts of tasks in branches and offices once needed to be done manually. Each time staff came or left, someone needed to shift the red slider to update their status. 

This particular board was used in a National Trust office in Hamilton, Ontario. National Trust was acquired by Scotiabank in 1997 and their archives now form part of the Scotiabank Archives. 

Object 0063. Courtesy of the Scotiabank Archives

Intercom Telephone

Intercom systems facilitated direct communication between a limited number of people without the need to go through a switchboard.  

As an early advertisement stated, this meant “no switchboard, no operator, no waiting”. It also meant no one else was listening in on the line, and intercoms had the advantage of being able to easily connect multiple people on the same call. All very useful features for busy bank executives. This unit was used in the Bank’s General Offices in Toronto. 

Intercom systems included one or more master stations and a number of sub-stations. Master stations were equipped with lights for each sub-station so that they would know who was calling. This unit has only three lights: one for each of the master stations, held by the President and the General Manager, and a general light to indicate a line in use. Based on the labels it is likely that the user of this intercom could also connect to the Supervisor Investments, the Supervisor Staff, and the Chief Accountant.  

Object EC38. Courtesy of the Corporate History Program.

Corporate Flag

Introduced in 1957, after receiving approval from the College of Arms in London, England, the flag features the Bank’s coat of arms. 

Flags such as this one were flown outside Bank of Nova Scotia branches. It was designed to run both horizontally and vertically so that it would be suitable for flying as a flag from an upright or suspended from a horizontal arm as a banner. The style to be used varied with the branch.  

What is surprising to many today is that the flag was designed with a bright blue background. In the 1950s and 1960s, blue was the colour of choice for the Bank of Nova Scotia. While the shade varied, letterhead, annual reports and other corporate publications were awash in blue. It wasn’t until 1974 that red was officially adopted as Scotiabank’s new official corporate colour. 

Part of RG001. Courtesy of the Scotiabank Archives

Door Pull with Coat of Arms

Many branches opened or renovated in the 1950s and 1960s featured this stylized version of the Bank’s coat of arms as a decorative element.  

While the official coat of arms was reproduced in full colour on bank documents, descriptive literature and other materials, incorporating it into modern branch design proved a challenge. This prompted the Premises Department to create a stylized line drawing which could be used in a wider variety of ways. It was soon being carved into the side of buildings and rendered large in wrought iron. It also appeared on elevator doors, furniture panels, door hardware and was even incorporated into carpets and draperies. The stylized line drawing eliminated detail but retained all of the key elements of the coat of arms with the notable exception of the Bank’s motto. The words Strength, Integrity, Service, which normally appear on a banner at the base of the coat of arms, are absent. 

Part of RG048.  Courtesy of the Scotiabank Archives

Kiosk Lighter

Scotiabank installed a kiosk dressed in specially designed, brightly coloured posters in various locations to advertise its international operations. 

The kiosk, which was almost 5.5 metres tall, was a replica of the columns used to display advertising in various European cities and was decorated with posters for some of the many places where Scotiabank operated, such as London, New York and Jamaica. Installed in locations such as the Toronto Main Branch at 44 King Street and suburban shopping malls starting in 1963, the kiosk was a colourful way to promote Scotiabank’s international presence. This table lighter version was created in 1965 and it was distributed to winners of the President’s Award that year.  

Part of RG012.  Courtesy of the Scotiabank Archives.

Collections Corner

Did you know that the Scotiabank Archives contains more than just documents? While documents are great, many other items can help us tell the story of the Bank, from photographs to physical objects. Here are a few of our favourites, along with their stories.

1. Act of Incorporation

On March 30, 1832, royal assent was given to the bill incorporating “the President, Directors, and Company of the Bank of Nova Scotia”.

2. Hollis Coin Bank

188-190 Hollis Street was the Bank’s first custom built building. It served as the Head Office and Halifax Main Branch from 1838 to 1931.  

3. Jamaican Currency

Five-pound bank note from the first issue of bank notes by The Bank of Nova Scotia in Jamaica, dated January 2, 1900.

4. Protectograph

This machine adds the dollar value to cheques. It simultaneously prints the value in ink and punches the paper, making it virtually impossible to alter the amount.

5. Bank of Nova Scotia Calendar (1933)

This calendar features a painting by L.F. Nicolet which depicts the first visit of the Cunard ship S.S. Britannia to Halifax in 1840. 

6. Inandout Register Board

With this low-tech tool, one glance is enough to tell you which staff are currently in the office.  

7. Intercom Telephone

Intercom systems facilitated direct communication between a limited number of people without the need to go through a switchboard.  

8. Corporate Flag

Introduced in 1957, after receiving approval from the College of Arms in London, England, the flag features the Bank’s coat of arms. 

9. Door Pull with Coat of Arms

Many branches opened or renovated in the 1950s and 1960s featured this stylized version of the Bank’s coat of arms as a decorative element.  

10. Kiosk Lighter

Scotiabank installed a kiosk dressed in specially designed, brightly coloured posters in various locations to advertise its international operations.