Saturday, July 08, 2006

US Currency

I was looking for information on US currency (see my rant on the dollar bill at my personal blog if you are interested in why) and found a fun fact worth sharing here:

Martha Washington is the only woman whose portrait has appeared on a U.S. currency note. It appeared on the face of the $1 Silver Certificate of 1886 and 1891, and the back of the $1 Silver Certificate of 1896. (From the Bureau of Engraving and Printing)

While there have been women on the various US coins, our paper money is completely male and mostly Presidents. The current portraits were all chosen in 1928 and have not been changed since even with the secruity upgrades that began in 1996 to prevent counterfeiting.

It is interesting to see who were the chosen few who made US banknotes (I actually knew all these, but the information can be verified at the link provided below for the larger denominations if you wish):
1 dollar: Washington
2 dollar: Jefferson
5 dollar: Lincoln
10 dollar: Hamilton (non-President)
20 dollar: Jackson
50 dollar: Grant
100 dollar: Franklin (non-President)

There were also some larger denominations that were produced at certain times (but are no longer printed):
500 dollar: McKinley
1000 dollar: Cleveland
5000 dollar: Madison
10,000 dollar: Salmon P. Chase (I provided this link in case you don't know who Chase is)
100,000 dollar: Wilson (this was never circulated in the general public)

It makes you wonder why these Presidents (and three others) made the current cut while others didn't (the US Treasury doesn't provide an answer on this either).

So let's discuss! Some are to be expected: Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson. Alexander Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury and Salmon Chase was also very important in the Treasury Department's history so this also makes a lot of sense - they are important in the history of currency so they should get a place on its front. Andrew Jackson had the big "bank war" that could be a reason...that could be interesting to discuss though. Some of the others really make you think: Why Ulysses Grant? Or Grover Cleveland? Who wants to defend these portraits? Anyone got a recommendation of who SHOULD be on our national currency? I personally think Franklin Roosevelt should get a place (although since our current portraits were decided in 1928, I think its clear why he didn't make it).

[NOTE: The reason why portraits probably have not, nor will be changed anytime soon, is that is how many bank workers are trained to find counterfeits - by the portrait/denomination combination. I'm not actually suggesting that we change them - I just want to discuss why these Presidents made it over others and who else could be considered for inclusion.]

5 comments:

elektratig said...

It is rather odd that Andrew Jackson, a "hard money" man, is on a bill. If he knew that the "general government" was printing paper money, he'd roll over in his grave -- or maybe he'd get up and challenge someone to a duel. He should be on a coin, not paper.

D. B. Light said...

Cleveland and Wilson are easy to understand. They represent an attempt at bipartisanship. They were the only Democrats to rise to the Presidency between 1860 and 1928 [unless you count Johnson, and he would hardly be commemorated]. Jackson might also be understood in the same vein, as the founder of the Democratic Party. We tend to forget these days but Grant and McKinley were once counted among the great presidents, especially during the Republican dominated "twenties".

Michael said...

"We tend to forget these days but Grant and McKinley were once counted among the great presidents, especially during the Republican dominated twenties."

Indeed. History often views presidents differently than they are at the times immediately after their presidencies. Grant's reputation went up, the down but is starting to recover. Truman left office considered a failed president but is now in many historians top 10 lists. Bush is currently unpopular but may rise high or stay where he is based on history rather than his current popularity polls.

You do not even want to contemplate how unpopular Lincoln was when he died...

I guess that is why this blog tends to avoid current politics and focuses more on history and broader presidential themes.

Nikko_D said...

Hi, this may sound out of the blue but I have a quick question.

Let's say I have a thousand dollar bill dated 1934.

Can I still use it to buy something? Will it still have a buying power?

Thanks.

Nikko_D said...

Hi, this may sound out of the blue but I have a quick question.

Let's say I have a thousand dollar bill dated 1934.

Can I still use it to buy something? Will it still have a buying power?

I would appreciate it if we can communicate through email. nikko.demecillo@gmail.com

Thanks.