History of the Poppy

Province of Canada - The Canadian Who Started The Poppy Tradition

In 2004, the Royal Canadian Mint issued a quarter that featured a red poppy within a silver maple leaf. It was the first ever multi-coloured coin to go into circulation and was later hailed 'the most innovative coin' at a Mint Director's Conference in Paris, France. Then, in 2015, Canada Post issued a commemorative stamp that featured rows of red poppies on rolling hills. For over a century, the Royal Canadian Legion's trademarked red poppy has symbolized remembrance, be it in the form of a lapel pin, 25-cent-coin, or postage stamp, but perhaps the most significant use traces back to this one Canadian and his words.

John McCrae was born in Guelph, Ontario and grew up in a bungalow that now operates as a national historic site of Canada under the name, McCrae House. McCrae studied at the University of Toronto where he completed medical school. While studying, he tutored two students who became the first female doctors in Ontario. He went on to work in Canadian hospitals, teach at Canadian universities, and serve with Canada as a physician in World War I. The burial of his comrade prompted McCrae to write 'In Flanders Fields', a poem inspired by the growth of poppies around the graves of fallen soldiers.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.