The first postage stamp for the Province of Canada was issued 170 years ago today. The design was put forward by a noted Scottish-Canadian, Sir Sanford Fleming. Fleming felt that the beaver was the perfect symbol to represent the industrious spirit of this developing land. The beaver was also central to the colony’s history as its pelts were among the first articles of trade between Europeans and First Nations communities.

The design was not without controversy. The tradition till that point in the British Empire was to always use the effigy of the monarch on postage stamps. The design does include the VR monogram of Queen Victoria and the royal crown of England on a cushion of heraldic flowers. The stamp also saluted the colony’s three major sources of European immigration through the English rose, the Scottish thistle and the Irish shamrock.