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King and Canada’s Fifty Dollar Bill

Mr. and Mrs. John King with their son Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King at Scarborough Fair, circa September 1911      image credit: Library and Archives Canada

William Lyon Mackenzie King was Canada’s tenth prime minister. He served as PM three times, 1921-1926, 1926-1930 and 1935-1948. Major world events during his time in office included post-World War I reconstruction, the stock market crash of 1929 and World War II.

At first glance, it might be difficult to believe that Mackenzie King was a Canadian Prime Minister for a total of 22 years. Mild mannered, with no distinguishing image, and a reputation for conciliation, his political career was governed by his belief that “It is what we prevent, rather than what we do that counts most in Government.”

Here are some interesting facts, a mix of political and personal, I found interesting:

  • born December 17, 1874; died July 22, 1950
  • first appears on the $50 bill in 1975; will be removed from Canadian currency in the near future
  • had five (yikes!) university degrees – he is the only Canadian prime minister to earn a Ph.D.
  • during his time in office, he survived three major political scandals including controversy regarding the expansion of the Beauharnois Canal
  • Liberal Party leader, 1919-1948
  • said to have regularly contacted the spirits of those important to him including his mother, past pets, and influential historical figures
  • was never married

King’s legacy as Prime Minister was far-reaching. He was the only Prime Minister to be in office during the reigns of three monarchs. Political accomplishments include the introduction of old-age pensions, employment insurance, and tax credits for families.



  1. MoneySense
  2. Wikipedia
  3. Wikipedia bio
  4. William Lyon Mackenzie King
  5. Library and Archives Canada article

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