Discover US Presidents on Money: A Fascinating History

Welcome to our article on the fascinating history of US presidents on money. The representation of presidential figures on US currency has a rich and captivating history, one that has endured for over a century.

From portraits on banknotes to security features on modern bills, this topic covers a lot of ground. In this article, we will explore the earliest instances of presidents on money, the evolution of presidential portraits on currency, controversies surrounding this practice, and more.

Whether you’re a history buff or simply curious, this article will provide you with a comprehensive overview of US currency featuring the faces of presidents.

presidents on money

Key Takeaways:

  • The US currency has featured presidents’ portraits for over a century.
  • The depiction of presidents on US currency has evolved over time.
  • Non-presidential figures and foreign leaders have also appeared on US currency.
  • Commemorative currency and security features are additional facets of this topic.
  • The future of presidential representation on US currency remains uncertain.

Early Beginnings: The First Presidents on Money

The tradition of featuring US presidents on money dates back to the late 1800s, when the government began to introduce banknotes with portraits of famous figures. The first president to be featured on US currency was George Washington, whose likeness appeared on the one-dollar bill in 1862.

The trend continued in the following decades, with other presidents gradually being added to banknotes. In the early 1900s, President Abraham Lincoln was added to the five-dollar bill, and Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, was featured on the ten-dollar bill.

PresidentDenomination and Year of Appearance
George WashingtonOne-dollar bill, 1862
Abraham LincolnFive-dollar bill, 1914
Alexander HamiltonTen-dollar bill, 1928

While these early portraits were simple in design and lacked the intricate details of modern banknotes, they paved the way for the tradition of featuring presidents on US currency.

presidents on money

As technology improved, so did the level of detail and complexity in presidential portraits. In the next section, we will explore the evolution of presidential portraits on US currency.

The Evolution of Presidential Portraits on Currency

The depiction of US presidents on currency has undergone significant changes over the years. From early portraits to modern designs, each update reflects the evolution of American culture and values.

Presidential PortraitYear IntroducedBanknote
George Washington1861$1 bill
Abraham Lincoln1914$5 bill
Alexander Hamilton1928$10 bill

The first US banknotes featuring presidents were introduced in 1861, with George Washington becoming the first president to be depicted on US currency. Over the years, the design of presidential portraits has been refined to convey more details and reflect the changing aesthetics of the time.

“Money, like everything else, reflects our society’s values and changes over time. It’s fascinating to see how the portraits of US presidents on currency have transformed over the years.”

As technology has advanced, so has the ability to create more detailed and lifelike depictions of presidents on US currency. In 1996, the Federal Reserve introduced new security features on banknotes, including watermarks and color-shifting ink, to deter counterfeiting.

While the portraits of US presidents on currency have evolved, their significance remains the same. They are a representation of American history, values, and achievements, and serve as a reminder of the leaders who have shaped the nation.

The Most Iconic Presidential Faces on US Bills

When you think of US currency, certain presidents might come to mind. These iconic faces have become synonymous with American money and are instantly recognizable.

One of the most famous is undoubtedly George Washington, whose portrait appears on the one-dollar bill. The image of America’s first president has been featured on the one-dollar bill since 1869 and has become an enduring symbol of American currency.

$1George Washington
$2Thomas Jefferson
$5Abraham Lincoln
$10Alexander Hamilton
$20Andrew Jackson
$50Ulysses S. Grant
$100Benjamin Franklin

Other notable presidents on US bills include Thomas Jefferson, who appears on the two-dollar bill, and Abraham Lincoln, who is featured on the five-dollar bill. Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, is on the ten-dollar bill, while Andrew Jackson, the seventh president, graces the twenty-dollar bill. Ulysses S. Grant, who served as the eighteenth president, is on the fifty-dollar bill.

While these presidents may be the most easily recognizable, they are not the only ones to have been featured on US currency. The next section will explore the process behind choosing presidents to appear on banknotes.

US currency with faces of US presidents

Behind the Scenes: Choosing Presidents for Currency

Have you ever wondered how the US government chooses which presidents to feature on money? The selection process is not as straightforward as you might think.

Firstly, the individual must be deceased, and must have been deceased for at least two years. The only exception to this rule is for living former presidents, who may appear on commemorative coins.

Secondly, the decision is made by the Secretary of the Treasury, taking into account recommendations from the Director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. The Secretary of the Treasury has the final say.

The criteria used for selection varies, but typically includes the president’s lasting impact on American history, their contributions to the development of the country, and their ability to unite and inspire the American people.

Lesser-Known Presidents on Money

While some presidents are universally recognizable, others may have left a lesser-known legacy. For example, both James A. Garfield and William McKinley appear on US currency, despite serving only a few months in office before their assassinations.

Garfield appears on the $20 bill, and McKinley on the $500 bill, which is no longer in circulation. Similarly, Grover Cleveland appears on both the $20 and $1,000 bills, despite serving non-consecutive terms as president.

Lesser-known presidents are not always featured on mainstream currency, but may appear on commemorative coins or special editions. For example, Chester A. Arthur, who served just one term as president, is featured on a presidential $1 coin, released in 2012.

US Currency and its presidential figures

The final decision on which presidents appear on US currency is not just about honoring their legacy, but also considers the practicality of their portrayal. Some presidents, such as John F. Kennedy, whose portrait appears on the half-dollar coin, have been depicted in profile to make the design fit better on the coin’s rounded surface.

The selection process for featuring presidents on US currency is not just a matter of historical significance or patriotic pride. It involves careful consideration, debate, and ultimately, a decision that honors the president’s legacy while being practical for use in daily transactions.

Controversies Surrounding Presidents on Money

While the representation of US presidents on money is widely accepted and celebrated, there have been controversies surrounding the inclusion of certain historical figures. Critics have argued that some presidents have had questionable actions or beliefs that do not deserve to be celebrated on US currency.

The most notable controversy in recent years has surrounded Andrew Jackson, the 7th US president and a face on the $20 bill. Jackson’s role in the forced removal of Native Americans from their land and support of slavery have led to calls for his removal from the bill and replacement with another historical figure.

There have also been debates over the lack of diversity among the faces featured on US currency. While there have been efforts to include non-presidential figures, such as civil rights activist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, some argue that more representation is needed to truly reflect the diverse history of the United States.

“We have to remember the reasons we put our political heroes on banknotes is to inspire future generations and to recognize their leadership and contributions, not to glorify them without reservations,” said historian Joseph Ellis.

Despite these controversies, the tradition of featuring US presidents on money remains a significant and enduring aspect of American culture. As the United States continues to grow and evolve, it will be interesting to see how the representation of historical figures on banknotes adapts to reflect the changing values and perspectives of society.

controversial presidents on US currency

Celebrating Diversity: Honoring Non-Presidential Figures on Currency

While US currency is primarily known for featuring presidents, there have been instances of non-presidential figures being honored on banknotes. These individuals have made significant contributions to American history and culture, and their inclusion on currency reflects the importance of recognizing diverse voices.

Harriet TubmanSacagaweaMartin Luther King Jr.
Harriet Tubman on the twenty dollar billSacagawea on the one dollar coinMartin Luther King Jr. on the six dollar bill

One of the most notable examples of a non-presidential figure on US currency is Harriet Tubman, who will soon replace Andrew Jackson on the twenty dollar bill. Tubman was an abolitionist and political activist who led enslaved people to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Her legacy as a hero in the fight against slavery makes her a fitting addition to US currency.

Another example is Sacagawea, who is featured on the one dollar coin. Sacagawea was a member of the Lemhi Shoshone tribe and served as a guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the early 19th century. Her bravery and resilience in the face of adversity have made her an inspiration to many.

Martin Luther King Jr. has also been honored on US currency, appearing on the six dollar bill. As a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, King fought tirelessly for equality and justice. His message of hope and unity continues to inspire people around the world.

While these figures represent just a few examples, their inclusion on US currency is a testament to the meaningful impact they have had on American society. It also serves as a reminder that diversity and representation matter.

Foreign Leaders on US Currency

While US currency primarily features American presidents, there have been instances where foreign leaders have been depicted. One notable example is the $2 bill, which features a portrayal of Thomas Jefferson on the front and a depiction of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on the back.

Among the signatories is John Trumbull, a painter and American revolutionary who served as an aide to General George Washington. However, the inclusion of Trumbull on the bill was not the result of a decision on which foreign figures to recognize, but rather a tribute to his artistic contribution to American history.

Another instance of a foreign leader on US currency is the $5 bill, which features a portrait of former President Abraham Lincoln on the front and a vignette of the Lincoln Memorial on the back. The Memorial, which stands in Washington D.C., features a sculpture of Lincoln designed by the French artist Daniel Chester French.

While French himself is not depicted on the bill, some have viewed the inclusion of the Memorial as recognition of his contribution.

Additionally, the $20 bill features a portrait of Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, on the front. While Jackson was not foreign, he is notable for his opposition to centralized banking and his efforts to promote the use of gold and silver as currency. Jackson’s views were shared by many during his time and helped shape the financial policies of the US government.

Overall, the inclusion of foreign leaders on US currency is rare, with American presidents being the primary representation. However, when foreign figures are recognized, it is often in tribute to their contributions to American history and culture.

US currency with foreign leaders

Commemorative Currency: Special Editions and Collectibles

Commemorative currency goes beyond the standard bills we use every day. These special editions and collectibles celebrate historical events, honor special people, and capture significant moments in American history. They often feature presidents, but also noteworthy figures, events, and symbols that are significant to the American people.

Some commemorative currency is circulated and used in everyday transactions, while others are released in limited editions and intended for collectors. The latter are often more valuable and sought-after due to their rarity and unique designs.

One notable example is the $2 bill featuring Thomas Jefferson, which is often considered a collector’s item due to its infrequent circulation. Another example is the series of $10 bills featuring notable women in American history, such as Susan B. Anthony and Harriet Tubman, which were released in 2020 to celebrate the centennial of women’s suffrage.

Commemorative currency

Commemorative currency has been used to celebrate significant events as well. For example, the US Mint released quarters featuring national parks and other historic sites in each state between 1999 and 2008. Additionally, in 2019, a special edition $20 bill was released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, featuring astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

These special editions and collectible banknotes offer a unique glimpse into American history and culture while celebrating notable figures and milestones that have shaped the nation. They are a fascinating addition to any collection and a testament to the importance of commemorating significant events and individuals in American history.

Security Features on US Currency

US currency is known for its intricate and innovative security measures to prevent counterfeiters from replicating the bills. These measures are essential to maintaining the integrity of the money supply and the economy.

One such measure is the use of color-shifting ink on the number located in the bottom right corner of each bill. When the bill is tilted, the number changes color, making it difficult for counterfeiters to reproduce.

Another security feature is the use of microprinting, which is the printing of tiny text that is difficult to replicate. Microprinting is located throughout the bills, including the eagle on the back of the $1 bill and the word “USA” on the coat of arms of the $5 bill.

Security FeatureDescription
WatermarkA watermark is an image that is embedded into the paper of the bill and can be seen when held up to the light.
Security threadA security thread is a thin strip of plastic embedded into the paper of the bill that glows under ultraviolet light and can be seen when held up to the light.
Raised printingRaised printing is a technique that produces ink that is raised on the surface of the bill, giving it a unique texture that is difficult to reproduce.
Intaglio printingIntaglio printing is a technique that produces images that are engraved into a metal plate, giving the bill a unique and intricate texture that is difficult to copy.

Additionally, the Federal Reserve often redesigns bills with new security features to stay ahead of counterfeiters. The most recent redesign was the introduction of the $100 bill in 2013, which featured a 3D security ribbon and a color-changing bell in the inkwell.

Thanks to these advanced security features, US currency with presidents remains a trusted and reliable form of payment in the United States.

Security features on US currency

The Future of Presidents on Money

The representation of US presidents on currency has a rich and storied history, but with the ever-changing landscape of politics and culture, what does the future hold for these iconic figures?

One potential change on the horizon is the inclusion of more women and people of color on US currency. The Treasury Department has announced plans to feature Harriet Tubman, an abolitionist and prominent Black woman, on the $20 bill, replacing Andrew Jackson. This move has been met with both praise and criticism, highlighting the ongoing discussions around representation and diversity in American society.

Another possibility for the future of presidents on money is the integration of technology. The introduction of digital currencies and mobile payment systems could eventually render physical banknotes obsolete. However, if traditional currency continues to be used, it’s likely that security features and design updates will continue to be implemented to prevent counterfeiting and keep up with modern aesthetics.

Finally, the future of presidents on money may ultimately be shaped by the outcome of current events and political developments. With the ongoing debates surrounding controversial figures, such as Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, it’s possible that we may see changes in which presidents are most commonly featured on US currency.

Regardless of what changes may come, one thing remains certain: the history and legacy of US presidents on money will continue to be a fascinating topic for years to come.

US currency with the Statue of Liberty in the background.


Presidents on money are an integral part of American history and culture. They represent the nation’s leaders and pay homage to their contributions to society. From the early beginnings of featuring portraits on banknotes to the evolution of presidential depictions on modern bills, US currency has been a significant representation of the country’s values and ideals.

While controversies surrounding the representation of historical figures on banknotes have arisen, the inclusion of non-presidential figures and foreign leaders on US currency serves as a celebration of diversity and recognition of international significance.

Commemorative currency, security features, and potential future changes all play a role in the ongoing conversation surrounding presidents on money. As technology advances and societal values evolve, it will be interesting to see how US currency will adapt and evolve in the years to come.

Overall, the history and evolution of presidents on money provide a fascinating glimpse into American history and culture. Whether it be collecting special edition banknotes or simply appreciating the artistry on a dollar bill, the representation of presidents on US currency will undoubtedly continue to hold a significant place in American society.


Q: What is the significance of featuring US presidents on money?

A: Featuring US presidents on money highlights their importance and significance in American history. It serves as a way to honor and remember these influential figures.

Q: Who were the first US presidents to be featured on money?

A: The first US presidents to be featured on money were George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Q: How have presidential portraits on US currency evolved over the years?

A: Presidential portraits on US currency have undergone changes and updates, reflecting the evolving artistic styles and design preferences of each era.

Q: Which US presidents are considered the most iconic faces on US bills?

A: The most iconic presidential faces on US bills include George Washington on the $1 bill and Abraham Lincoln on the $5 bill.

Q: How are presidents chosen to be featured on US currency?

A: The selection process for presidents to be featured on US currency involves criteria such as their historical significance, impact on the nation, and cultural recognition.

Q: What controversies surround the inclusion of presidents on money?

A: Controversies surrounding the inclusion of presidents on money revolve around debates regarding representation, historical accuracy, and the exclusion of other important historical figures.

Q: Have non-presidential figures ever been featured on US currency?

A: Yes, there have been instances where non-presidential figures, such as civil rights activists and women’s rights pioneers, have been honored on US currency.

Q: Have foreign leaders ever been featured on US currency?

A: Yes, there have been instances where foreign leaders, such as Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill, have been featured on US currency to recognize their significant contributions.

Q: Are there special editions and collectibles featuring presidents and notable figures?

A: Yes, there are commemorative currency editions and collectibles that feature presidents and other notable figures, providing unique and valuable collectible items.

Q: What security features are implemented on US currency?

A: US currency incorporates various security features, such as watermarks, security threads, and color-shifting ink, to prevent counterfeiting and ensure the integrity of banknotes.

Q: What does the future hold for presidents on US currency?

A: The future of presidents on US currency may include potential changes in design, advancements in security features, and the possibility of featuring a more diverse range of historical figures.