Robert J. Grant

A Nova Scotia coal miner went on to run the United States Mint. Even more surprising, he also ran China’s mint!

Robert J. Grant was born in Springville, Pictou County, on November 12, 1862.

At the age of 18, he was working as a coal miner at the Albion Mines in Stellarton when he had a narrow escape – a roof collapse occurred where he was working and he decided that the life of an underground coal miner was not for him. According to Aubrey Dorrington’s “History of Stellarton,” Grant quit his job that day.

He left for Boston the following week. There, he worked for a printing firm while taking high school classes in the evenings.

However, Grant still was not done with mining. He became a mining engineer and worked in Canada, Australia, Mexico and the United States for two decades.

In 1921, he was appointed by President Harding to serve as Superintendent of the US Mint’s Denver facility.

Two years later, he was appointed Director of the Mint by President Calvin Coolidge, a job he held for ten years.

During his time at the Mint, he played an indirect role in some of the extraordinary events of that era. For example, the Mint prepared the gold medal presented by Congress to Col. Charles A. Lindbergh to commemorate his flight in the “Spirit of St. Louis” from New York to Paris in 1927. The Mint also prepared a medal presented to Thomas A. Edison in 1928 to commemorate Edison’s many revolutionary inventions.

After leaving the Mint in 1933, Grant moved to China and ran the Chinese National Government Mint in Shanghai and was a financial advisor to the Chinese government.

He returned to the US in ill health in 1941.

In his final years, Grant visited Nova Scotia, his first visit home in over six decades. According to Dorrington, a taxi picked Grant up from the Norfolk Hotel in New Glasgow. The taxi driver asked Grant if he was a stranger in these parts and was surprised when Grant said he was not, that he had lived in Stellarton in his teens.

When they reached Grant’s destination, Grant paid his fare with an American ten-dollar bill.

The driver asked his mysterious passenger what his name was and Grant replied that it was on the bill he had just given the driver. Bills printed during Grant’s tenure as Director of the Mint bore his signature.

Grant passed away in Pasadena, California, on November 24, 1949.

Historical accidents like Grant’s close-call are a key reason why the modern mining industry is so safety-focussed. Nova Scotia’s mining and quarrying industry has reduced its injury rate by 90% since the Westray inquiry report was released in 1997. We believe the most important thing to come out of a mine is the miner, and our modern safety record reflects this.

Aubrey Dorrington was a coal miner at the Allan Mine, which is now the site of Sobeys’ headquarters in Stellarton:

The Dorrington Softball Complex, on the site of the former Bye Pits, is named for him:

The inventor of the lightbulb, Thomas Edison, played a small role in Nova Scotia’s industrial history. He inspired the building of the first power plant in North America located at the mouth of a coal mine in Chignecto: