Two men reading

Banking with seal skin

BMO’s commitment to driving progress for a thriving economy has always seen us go above and beyond for our customers. On September 27, 1933, a customer made what was certainly a more unusual request at Bank of Montreal’s Waterloo Place branch in London, England.

While buying seal furs from a trapper in Spitzbergen, part of the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Circle, Lieutenant R. Greenwood had found himself without cheques – or, in fact, any paper at all. There, in one of the world’s most northerly inhabited areas, with no means to pay the trapper, Lt. Greenwood was forced to improvise and wrote a cheque upon a piece of sealskin.

An article about the story in the December 1933 issue of the bank’s Staff Magazine noted that endorsing the cheque “presented some difficulty.” The furry back of the sealskin proved to be a challenging surface to write on. Branch staff solved the problem by placing a pin in the sealskin and attaching a slip of paper to it. With that, the sealskin cheque was endorsed!

Image: Sealskin cheque endorsed at Waterloo Place branch, 1933.