Swindle! Canadian Phantom Banks

26 June 2015 – 24 June 2016

Built around the story of one phantom bank, this exhibition included an evocative tableau that featured several historical re‑enactments and a host of key artifacts from the period. The latter included phantom and legitimate bank notes, gold and silver coins, a printing plate and even a publication that helped people decide which banks they should avoid and which they could reliably trust. Put together, these artifacts built a rich picture of the precarious economy of 1837 and the lives of Canadians who lived through this turbulent time.

Photo Gallery

Museum exhibition

The entire exhibit is designed to emulate the look of the 1830s with, of course, a banking theme.

Museum display case

Looking down the middle of the case again shows the curious behaviour of the “lenticular” photograph. Drop by and see it in action.

Old coin

It’s not just about the bank notes: coins and tokens help to round out the story of the economy of 1837 when hard currency became very scarce.

Exhibition title sign

Our title sign was hand-painted by one of the fast-disappearing breed of traditional sign makers. He later abused it to provide a look of age.

Museum display case

The background is a “lenticular” photograph. Depending upon your angle of view, the background will show a different image illustrating one of three chapters of our feature story.

Museum display panels

The black panels tell us about phantom banks and the stormy economic and political atmosphere in which they thrived.

Old bank notes

A good selection of notes from some very bad banks.

Museum display panels

On the big white panels, we tell the true story of the Bank of Ottawa: a fictional bank that distributed some very fictional money.

Old bank notes

Notes from a few of the many phantom banks that operated in the US and Canadian border regions during the 1837 US financial crisis.


This four-note copper printing plate is from the Commercial Bank of Montreal, a short-lived but legitimate bank.

Museum display panels

Curious historical snippets are scattered throughout the exhibit—glances into the life of Rebellion era Canada.

Old bank notes

Some legitimate bank notes of the era show just how believable the phantom bank notes were. Most people didn’t know whom to trust.

30 Bank Street
Ottawa, ON