Of course, that’s George Washington’s face on a dollar bill. And it totally makes sense that #1 (the first president of the United States) would be featured on the one-dollar bill. But has he been there from the beginning? Nope. Not even close!
As it turns out, the first face to grace the U.S. paper dollar was a guy named Salmon P. Chase.
Who the heck is Salmon P. Chase? And how did his face end up on a dollar bill?
Let’s take a quick walk through history and see.
Though paper currency had been around for hundreds of years, it wasn’t common in the early years in the territory we now call the United States. In colonial times, people mainly bartered for goods and services. But when America declared its independence in 1776, the Continental Congress fired up the presses to print paper money to help fund the Revolutionary War.
Unfortunately, it didn’t matter whose face was on those dollar bills – the money wasn’t worth much more than the paper it was printed on. After the war, the new country made it a priority to figure out a better currency solution. Article I, Section 10 of the then newly-adopted U.S. Constitution expressly stated that only the United States Federal Government has the power to coin money for the country. And in 1792, the U.S. Mint was born.
But while the U.S. Mint coined “official U.S. money,” individual states were allowed to print their own paper bills. In fact, prior to 1860, there were approximately 10,000 different varieties of paper money in use throughout the United States. TEN THOUSAND. Talk about buying and selling confusion! It was nearly impossible to know what any of the money was worth. Between valuation concerns and counterfeit fears, bartering – and even foreign money – continued to be a safer option for people looking to engage in commerce.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, the U.S. government was faced with financing another war so it fired up the presses again. In 1862, the official “one-dollar bill” was born. And who was featured? None other than Salmon P. Chase. Chase was a U.S. senator, governor of Ohio, and a Supreme Court chief justice. He also just happened to serve as the U.S. secretary of the Treasury during the Civil War. Pretty convenient for printing his name and face on a dollar bill, right?
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After the war, the U.S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving took over the country’s currency production and it wasn’t long before Chase was off the money. In 1869, George Washington’s name and face first appeared on a dollar bill. Back then, the note was larger – just a little over 7 inches x 3 inches. In 1928, all U.S. paper currency was changed to the size we’re familiar with today. In subsequent years, the design changed multiple times until 1963 when today’s dollar bill –– still engraved with George Washington’s face –– came into being.
Be like Salmon Chase – put your face on a dollar bill. Personalize yours now!