300th Anniversary of the Launching of the First Commercial Ship on the Great Lakes
1 dollar, dual date 1679-1979, .500 silver
The reverse features the Griffon, the first full-sized European-style commercial vessel launched on the Great Lakes for sailing above the Niagara Falls. Griffon, a 45-ton brig about 60 ft (18 m) long, was described as a “carvel” or “pinnace of French design.” She was constructed in 1679 from spruce and oak on the banks of the Niagara River near the Niagara Falls under the direction of the French fur trader René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (1643-1687). She was designed to take a part in territorial expansion and the fur trade. By naming his ship Griffon, for a mythical beast with the head and wings of an eagle and the tail and hind-legs of a lion, La Salle honored Louis de Buade, Count Frontenac, the governor general of New France, who was his major financial backer and whose coat-of-arms had an escutcheon formed of two griffons. In August 1679 Griffon weighed anchor at Fort Niagara, the trading post La Salle established near present-day Buffalo, New York, with 34 men on board and La Salle at the helm. She crossed Lake Erie and Lake Huron, then reached the Baie des Puants on the west shore of Lake Michigan, where La Salle established a trading post at the site known today as Green Bay, Wisconsin. Here La Salle loaded the ship with pelts and sent her back to Fort Niagara with a crew of six. She was never seen again. In 1937 the wreckage of a ship was found off Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron, which may be Griffon’s wreck. In 1682 La Salle made an expedition to the Mississippi River. He reached the Gulf of Mexico, claimed the entire Mississippi Valley for France, and named the region Louisiana in honor of his king, Louis XIV.
The obverse depicts Queen Elizabeth II.