Our Story Through Our Buildings
There were no branch design standards in the early days. If we had to, we pitched a tent, built a log
cabin or converted a home to be able to serve our communities.
1869 – Halifax, Nova Scotia
Our building on Bedford Row, Halifax, served as our first head office and Halifax branch from 1864 – 1879. We were known as the Merchants Bank from 1864 – June 21, 1869; the Merchants’ Bank of Halifax from June 22, 1869 – January 1, 1901; and The Royal Bank of Canada starting on January 2, 1901.
1899 – Bennett, British Columbia
When the bank opened at Lake Bennett, the country was in the grip of winter. The staff rented a shack, the floor of which had to be propped up to support the safe. The sign at the bottom left reads ‘dogs’ indicating that our branch would offer accommodation to large dogs employed for transportation through the Humber-Yukon Transport Co.
1905 – Rossland, British Columbia
The discovery of gold in Southern British Columbia in the late 1890s led Royal Bank to establish 10 branches in the province between 1897 and 1899.
1909 – Gowganda, Ontario
The Gowganda, Ontario, branch was typical of banking on the frontier. Quickly established, often modestly equipped, and staffed by new recruits, these branches gave Royal Bank a presence in communities with growth potential.
1910 – Rexton, New Brunswick
News of the coming of the Caraquet Railway led to the opening of a number of branches in New Brunswick’s hinterland. Rexton was a typical frontier branch, with upstairs living quarters for the manager.
1920 – Paris, France
Our initial presence in France was to handle the banking services of the thousands of Canadians involved in Europe after the First World War.
1920 – Santos, Brazil
The immediate success of our first Brazilian branch (Rio de Janeiro, 1919) inspired the opening of additional branches in Santos and Recife to capture the coffee and cocoa trade.
1920 – Rue St. Jacques, Montreal
147 rue St. Jacques (renamed 221 rue St. Jacques) served as our head office and Montreal main branch from 1908 – 1928. The building was originally dominated by statues representing agriculture, transportation, fisheries and industry.
1921 – Fort Smith, Northwest Territories
This ‘tent office’ in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, typified the makeshift branches erected at the head of the railway construction to win the confidence of railway workers and newly arrived immigrants.
1925 – Chinese Department, East End Vancouver, British Columbia
We were the first Canadian bank to have two branches in the same city west of Toronto with the opening of Vancouver, and Vancouver – East End (later Main & Hastings) branches, in 1897 and 1898.
1952 – Kemano, British Columbia
A Quonset hut served as a combination office/residence for our Kemano branch staff.
1964 – Basseterre – St. Kitts
The tropical region of the West Indies provided a mutually profitable opportunity for increased trade between Canada and the Caribbean. Our presence in St. Kitts was established in March 1915 with the opening of a branch in Basseterre.
The tools of our trade in the early days, such as fortress-like teller’s ‘cages’ and ledger-posting
1837 – Quebec Bank Charter
Charter from Canada’s second oldest chartered bank, the Quebec Bank, founded in 1818. In 1837, the Quebec Bank secured an extension of its charter for one year – this was the last banking measure passed by the Legislature of Lower Canada.
Circa 1838 – Voting box
The Quebec Bank (which Royal Bank purchased in 1917) used this voting box in their board room. Bank directors voted by dropping ballot balls in separate “Yea” or “Nay” drawers.
1890s – Household savings bank
This lockable cast iron household savings bank was a replica of the Traders Bank of Canada’s Head Office at Yonge & Colborne Streets in Toronto. Royal Bank acquired the Traders Bank in 1912.
1911 – Warming the branch
Once the cold weather set in, our branch in Macklin, Saskatchewan (then a branch of Union Bank of Canada) had to be warmed before the daily conduct of business; a job usually performed by the junior employee who arrived early to ‘fire-up’ the stove to permit the thawing of the ink wells.
1926 – Teller’s cage
The teller’s cage was the centre of all transactions with clients. The fortress-like security of the cage served a twofold purpose: protection against hold-ups and a visible signal to clients that their money was in safe hands.
1958 – Ledger-posting machines
Our Current Account Department, Toronto Branch, operated eight ‘modern’ ledger- posting machines, seen in this picture. The department boasted ‘16,000 postings a day.’
1960 – Electronic robot
A precursor to…e-mail: The ‘Electronic Robot.’ This ‘new’ communications system gave wings to messages between Head Office and a number of major branches.
The faces of our employees in any generation form a picture of community and camaraderie, in
our workplaces, serving clients, and at play.
1895 – Elmira, Ontario
1914 – Arthur, Ontario
1924 – Winnipeg, Manitoba
1928 – Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
1939 – Medicine Hat, Alberta
1949 – Grand Prairie, Alberta
1950s- Bridgetown, Barbados
1958 – RBC Dominion Securities, Toronto, Ontario
1961 – St. John’s, Antigua
1898 – Bowling Team, Toronto, Ontario
1937 – Bowling Team, Calgary, Alberta
1946 – Curling Club
1920 – Hockey Team, Winnipeg, Manitoba
1942 – Softball Team, Nassau, Bahamas
Our first advertising department was established in 1919. Ads appeared only in print until the late
1960s when we took to the airwaves with the message: “Will that be cash or Chargex?”
1921 – Attracting new immigrants
1931 – Making Royal Bank your family bank
1932 – A Cornerstone of the Community
1933 – Through Storm and Calm
1974 – Accepting business at Discover Banking