Jim Szilva (author and son of Ted Szilva, creator of the Big Nickel), Sudbury

A nickel and a prayer

In 1963, a firefighter named Ted Szilva entered a contest organized by the Canadian Centennial Committee in Sudbury. The committee asked residents of the city to come up with a unique way to celebrate and recognize Canada’s 100th birthday in Sudbury. Sudbury was a mining town, especially known for nickel production, so Ted thought that the city should build an attraction that would celebrate Sudbury’s heritage and encourage people to visit. He envisioned a giant replica of the 1951 Canadian five-cent piece, at least 30 feet tall, sitting atop a hill, illuminated by floodlights, advertising “Sudbury – The Nickel Capital of the World.” The 1951 nickel made perfect sense as it commemorated the 200th anniversary of the isolation of the metal known as nickel.

The committee scoffed at the idea, but Szilva had a vision. As a man of immeasurable faith, he prayed for an answer. With help from some truly remarkable people, his vision became a reality on July 22, 1964. Not only did it help launch the tourism industry in Sudbury, but for over 50 years, it’s been one of Canada’s most recognizable landmarks. His inspirational journey was documented in the book The Big Nickel: The Untold Story.

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