The Dominion of Canada
School Competition Medal 1900-1901

by Earl J. Salterio, F.C.N.A., F.C.N.R.S.


At the turn of the century 1900, one hundred and one years ago, The Dominion of Canada was still a very young country, only 33 years of age as Confederation was 1867. From Ontario east, the country was relatively well populated, but the same could not be said for the western part of the country, where there was plenty of empty space. The Dominion Government was encouraging immigration especially from Britain. (Alberta and Saskatchewan didn't join Confederation until 1905.) Appeals were made in various forms, including lucrative land grants, to encourage young people from the "old country" to come to Canada.

In the school year 1900-1901, an Essay Competition was sponsored in England, by the Canadian Government, under the direction of the then, Ministry of the Interior. The Ministry prepared two publications which were offered by Canada to British Schools: "The Canadian Atlas for the Use of Schools", and "Canada, A descriptive Textbook". The Canadian Government offered a Bronze Medal to each school in England which would use the texts and permit their students to write an essay on the questions related to the two books. The two best essays from each school were selected and then forwarded to the Canadian High Commission in London for judging. The High Commissioner awarded a Bronze Medal to the student judged to have written the best essay from each competing school, along with a Medal to the school.

The Competition was so successful with approximately 950 schools participating that a second competition was held during the school year 1901-1902. It appears that the Government of Canada felt that school students were an impressionable target group for its quest for immigrants.

The Bishopstone E.G.S. School of the Village of Bishopstone, Swindon, Wiltshire England was one of the schools that participated in the program, and its student Elsie Stone was the winning essayist in 1900-1901. The School still exists, as the Bishopstone Church of England Primary School which serves the picturesque rural village of Bishopstone. The school is housed in an old Victorian building dating back to 1849 but now has only two classes with children aged from 4 to 11 years, being one of the smallest state primary schools in England with just 38 children on roll at present. The current Headteacher is Ms. Sue Walton.

Bishopstone School Photo courtesy of SwindonWeb

Bishopstone School
Photo courtesy of SwindonWeb

Elsie stone was born in that village in 1887, daughter of Emily and Edwin Stone, her father being a Bishopstone Innkeeper. She took her schooling there and would have been 13 years of age when she participated in the Essay Competition. As a very young woman, obviously intrigued and enthused with what she studied of Canada, she must have immigrated here late in the first decade or early in the second. Elsie was then "to find her way" to Calgary where she married a Mr. Harry Horsell an early Calgary building contractor and together they had one child Marjorie. Unfortunately Elsie passed away shortly thereafter leaving her husband Harry and daughter Marjorie as survivors. From what is gleaned from information received during research in England, the entire Stone family suffered from a hereditary illness that took many of them early in life. There is a large family gravesite in the Bishopstone Church of England Cemetery. Research has not as yet located Elsie's grave, but Harry we understand remarried and passed away in the 1950s and is buried in Calgary. Daughter Marjorie married a Calgarian named Rand in the early 1940s but as far as can be ascertained there are no immediate family survivors thus little is know of the family history in Calgary.

The medal Elsie was awarded in 1900-1901 was cherished, we are told, by her daughter Marjorie and was passed down through the family finally into the hands of a great nephew, by marriage of Elsie, Phil Rand of Calgary. The writer interviewed Mr. Rand, but unfortunately he was unable to add anything further to the family, its background or its descendants.

The Medal is struck in bronze 38mm in diameter, with an appendage at the top of the raised rim to which the ribbon is attached. The ribbon is 30mm wide and 32mm long of a fawn colour with narrow red white and blue stripes in its center.

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The OBVERSE, in an annulus around the upper rim is engraved, "SCHOOL COMPETITION 1900-1901" and around the lower rim, "Subject THE DOMINION OF CANADA". At the centre of the Medal is a crowned Shield marshalling the Provincial Arms of the seven provinces of Canada, as Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland had not joined the Dominion at that time.

The reverse centered within a wreath of Maple Leaves is engraved, "PRESENTED BY THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT 1900." The medal is unfortunately not named.The medal is housed in its original black hinged box, 104 mm in length by 55 mm in width. The interior on which the medal sits is red plush, with a white satin interior in its cover. On the satin the recipient has printed in ink, "Elsie Stone Bishopstone E.G.S. 1900-01". Without the foresight of Elsie placing the inscription in the box, the Medal would quite likely never have been identified.

The Archives of Canada in Ottawa has a specimen of each of the 1900-01 and 1901-02 Medals in their collection. Unfortunately the name of the manufacturer has not survived the years but quite likely it was a British manufacturer. The number of medals struck is not recorded, however considering that only 950 schools participated in the first competition, and there was only one student winner per school I'd suggest the mintage for the medal in question would probably be less than 2000. Here we have, another INTERESTING PIECE OF CANADIAN HISTORY.

Note: The author wishes to point out that due to less than complete turn of the century information he could not find in England, the facts presented here are correct to the best of his knowledge, but the accuracy of all family information recorded herein is not guaranteed.