The colourful history of ‘The Bluenose’: Canada’s finest stamp

This year marks the 101st anniversary of the launch of Bluenose, the most famous ship in Canada’s history.

The beloved schooner was born out of an intense rivalry between Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and Gloucester, Massachusetts. Each community wanted to see who could build the fastest and most successful fishing vessel.


The creation of the International Fishermen’s Trophy 

This battle led to the creation of the International Fishermen’s Cup Race, held for the first time in 1920. Bluenose was designed specifically to compete with the US winners of the first set of races.

It’s not clear where the ship’s name came from (the vessel was black, not blue), but legend has it refers to the colour the fisherman’s noses would turn in the cold Atlantic winds. Another myth claims it got its name because it was used to transport blue potatoes.

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Bluenose was launched from Smith & Rhuland Shipyard in Lunenburg in March 1921, and it won the International Fishermen’s Trophy in October of the same year.


Bluenose: the undefeated racing champion 

The Canadian racing ship went on to become the undefeated champion in the competition over the next 17 years, winning races in 1922, 1923, 1931 and 1938. Every single schooner that went up against Bluenose was eventually wrecked, and none of the original schooners have survived.

Bluenose has become a beloved symbol of Canadian pride: it’s been featured on the 10-cent coin almost exclusively since 1937. It’s on Nova Scotia’s license plate, and it was even commemorated in a song of the same name by folk legend Stan Rogers in 1977. It’s also the only non-human inductee into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

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In 1963, a replica schooner was built called Bluenose II to recapture the ship’s former glory. It was commissioned by Sidney Culverwell Oland as a promotional yacht for Oland Brewery. Oland donated the schooner to Nova Scotia in 1971, and it has since operated as a sailing ship and promotional tool for Nova Scotia tourism. In honour of her predecessor’s record, Bluenose II does not officially race.


Commemorating Bluenose on Canadian stamps 

Most importantly (for us), Bluenose has been featured on four previously issued Canadian stamps: Canada Stamp #913 commemorating the International Philatelic Youth Exhibition, Canada stamp #1228 along with Angus Walters and Canada stamp #1738 featuring W. J. Roué, the original architect.

But the stamp most cherished by collectors is ‘The Bluenose,’ a nickname for Canada Stamp #158, a dark blue 50-cent postage stamp issued by Canada Post in January 1929 as part of King George V’s Scroll Issue.


A valuable piece of Canadian history

This highly valued stamp, designed by the Canadian Bank Note Company, shows two different depictions of the Bluenose schooner racing in Halifax Harbour. The photographs for the engraved stamp were taken by W.R. MacAskill in 1922.

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Though it was issued after 1900, the stamp is considered a classic and is a favourite among philatelists. It has even been called ‘Canada’s Finest Stamp.’

Over 1 million copies of the stamp were made upon its release. In 2001, a Bluenose first-day cover sold for CAD $3,650 and one imperforate sheet of 100 stamps was auctioned in 2017 for US$52,580.


Start your own collection of historic Canadian stamps

If you’re interested in starting your own collection of Canadian and international stamps, we can help. Century Stamp & Coin has a huge collection of stamps and a knowledgeable and experienced team to support you with building your very own stamp collection.