With Presidents’ Day rapidly approaching, have you ever stopped to think about the faces on your currency? Chances are, you have images of a few of our past presidents in your pocket right now. As it turns out, the faces on our money had a lot to say about money. Let’s take a closer look at who they are and what they had to say.
George Washington – Dollar Bill & Quarter
Three presidents have the distinction of being represented on both a bill and a coin. George Washington easily comes to mind as his image is depicted on the one-dollar bill and quarter. Our first president, and a refreshingly “reluctant” politician, once opined, “Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble.”
Abraham Lincoln – Five Dollar Bill & Penny
Abraham Lincoln also comes to mind quickly when we think of dual representation on currency as he occupies space on both the five-dollar bill and penny. Lincoln is credited with saying, “That some should be rich, shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise” – a fitting quote from the man whose image adorns the humble penny.
Thomas Jefferson – Two Dollar Bill & Nickel
The final president to appear on both a bill and coin may be a little tougher to think of because it involves the often forgotten two-dollar bill. That president, of course, is Thomas Jefferson, who also adorns the nickel. In true matter of fact Federalist style, Thomas Jefferson once said, “Never spend your money before you have earned it.”
Franklin D Roosevelt – Dime
Aside from these three exceptions, all other individuals on our currency appear only once. Franklin D. Roosevelt, for instance, appears on the dime in large part due to his work with the March of Dimes. Known for his extensive work with social programs, Roosevelt believed that, “Taxes… are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society.”
Alexander Hamilton – Ten Dollar Bill
Being a president, though, is not a prerequisite for appearing on currency as Alexander Hamilton’s face on the ten-dollar bill demonstrates. As the United States’ first Secretary of the Treasury, his appearance here is interesting since the Secretary of the Treasury ultimately makes the final decision on who appears on our currency. Alexander Hamilton once said, “The creation of debt should always be accompanied with the means of extinguishment.” As we inject money into the economy faster than the COVID-19 vaccine is injected into human muscle, one can only wonder what Hamilton would have to say today.
Andrew Jackson – Twenty Dollar Bill
While the twenty-dollar bill is currently regaled with the face of Andrew Jackson, that may soon change, as it was announced in 2016 that he will be replaced by Harriet Tubman. Jackson, a lightning rod of a personality is known for his war against the National Bank and once stated, “If the people only understood the rank injustice of our money and banking system, there would be a revolution by morning.”
Ulysses S Grant – Fifty Dollar Bill
Ulysses S Grant appears on the fifty-dollar bill and died bankrupt after falling prey to a pyramid scheme. “When I went downtown this morning, I thought I was worth a great deal of money, now I don’t know that I have a dollar,” he commented to a friend. Dying from cancer, Grant spent his last days writing his memoirs which served to provide for his wife after his death.
Benjamin Franklin – One Hundred Dollar Bill
The final bill in general circulation of course is the one-hundred-dollar bill that features the only other non-president, Benjamin Franklin. Franklin is not short on quotes and while he famously quipped, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” also sagaciously pointed out that, “He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.”
The exact qualifications for inclusion on U.S. currency are vague as the current individuals who adorn them demonstrate. One stated qualification, though, is that you cannot be living, which prevents it from being an aspiration of mine anytime soon. On the other hand, as Benjamin Franklin wittily reminds us, “Many people die at twenty-five and aren’t buried until they are seventy-five.”