A Short History Of
he U.S. One Dollar Bill

In its present design the one dollar bill came off the presses for the first time, 32 bills at a time, during the year 1957. 

The dollar bill pictured above will only buy a dollar's worth of peanuts -- and in the year of 2013, fewer peanuts can be bought with it every month or so -- as inflation skids to new heights.  You think I'm kidding?  In just the last four months the one dollar bill has lost one third of its peanut purchasing powers.

In stark contrast, the dollar bill shown below is a genuine "SILVER CERTIFICATE".  If you can find one of these gems it will buy a dollar's worth of silver because each dollar was worth an ounce of the precious gray stuff.  Right this minute in the year 2013 CE. the dollar bill below will purchase $31.08 of silver.


That's a whole lot of peanuts!

If we had used 34 of these silver certificate dollars -- and bought a single ounce of gold, then right this minute, we would have $1683.00 to jingle.

The very first one dollar bill appeared on the American scene way back in the year of 1862 CE..  It was issued as a Legal Tender Note (a United States Note) with a portrait of Salmon P. Chase, who was the brilliant and ambitious Secretary of the Treasury under President Abraham Lincoln. 

Under his hand, the first U.S. federal currency that came to be known as the greenback demand note, was printed in 18611862. These greenbacks formed the basis for all of today's paper currency. It was Chase's responsibility to design the notes. Perhaps in an effort to help people recognize him in order to further his political career, it was Salmon's face that appeared on a variety of U.S. paper currency. 

All of it started with the $1 bill you see below, in a reduced size.

File:US $1 1862 Legal Tender.jpg 

Before Roosevelt introduced the 1935 series, our one dollar bills really were worth money because they were backed up three ways: by gold, by silver and by copper. Today our one dollar bills are backed up only by accident.

As you study this history of the waylaid bill You will see the halls of history peel away to reveal the dreams of our nation, tottering towards extinction, on one side, then soaring with the eagles on the other.


Back in the old days, when real money was scarce, trading WAS accomplished by a system called "barter".  For example, a pound of tobacco was worth a penny just about anywhere in America for many decades, while a hog could be bought with 50 chickens one month but cost 75 chickens in the following month. 

"Barter" has been a medium of exchange for at least 6 millennium.  Shrewd businessmen would strike their finest offer, then say, -- "if you throw the rooster in for boot."  It usually clenched the sale, but not always.

In the barter system, "shrewd" people always held the upper edge.  "Legal Tender" levels the playing field.  "You said the price was $1 and that's all you're agunna git outta me!"

The fascinating tomes of numismatic history records that the first woman to appear on U.S. currency was none other than Martha Washington, wife of the first president, George Washington.  In 1886 Martha was featured on the obverse side of the one dollar bill.

(obverse is the opposite of reverse, therefore, obverse means FRONT when we look at or talk about money)

Martha was not stuck on one of the cheap imitation bills like you see today, either!  Her home in history was on the obverse side of a genuine "Silver Certificate" and therefore it was just as valuable as real money.

The reverse side of the note featured a rich, ornate design which decorated the entire scene, if you don't count the borders.


In 1869 the $1 United States Note was redesigned with a portrait of George Washington in the center and a vignette of Christopher Columbus sighting land just to the left of George. The obverse of the note featured green and blue tinting. Although this note is technically a United States Note, the term of TREASURY NOTE appeared on it instead of UNITED STATES NOTE.

This lasted until the year of 1874 when the Series of 1869 United States Note was revised. Changes on the obverse included removing the green and blue tinting, then adding a red floral design around the word WASHINGTON D.C., and changing the term TREASURY NOTE to the term of UNITED STATES NOTE.

The reverse was completely redesigned. This note was also issued as Series of 1875 and 1878

When the year of 1880 rolled in the red floral design around the words ONE DOLLAR and WASHINGTON D.C. on the United States Note was removed and replaced with a large red seal. Later versions also had blue serial numbers and a small seal moved to the left side of the note.

More changes appeared in the one dollar bill in the year of 1891. The reverse of the Series of 1890 Treasury Note was redesigned because the treasury felt that it was too "busy" claiming this would make it too easy to counterfeit.  If this idea seems far fetched just remember that $1 was worth a whole lot of money back then.

Consequently, more open space was incorporated into the new design.  However, the obverse was left pretty much the way it had been.

The year of 1896 bid welcome to the famous "Educational Series" -- a Silver Certificate. The entire obverse was covered with artwork of allegorical figures representing "history instructing youth" In front of Washington D.C..

The reverse featured portraits of George and Martha Washington surrounded by an ornate design that covered almost the entire note.

During this period of U.S. history, children on the farm could work an entire month for $1 back then, but usually didn't get to keep it -- as their parents usually needed it to help feed the family.  So for three years, the educational bills did little educating.

And thus it came to pass that in 1899 the $1 Silver Certificate was again redesigned. The obverse featured a vignette of the United States Capitol nestling behind a Bald Eagle that was perched on an American flag. Below the flag, appeared the small portraits of Abraham Lincoln (on the left) and Ulysses S. Grant on the right.  This bill lasted all the way up to 1917.

Now we need to pause again to remember that in the year of 1913 the United States reinvented the Personal Income Tax, and it invented the Federal Reserve Bank.  Significant changes were thus destined to be made in U.S. currency 

Now, on to the year of 1917 again, when the first glimmerings of changewere being made manifest.  The obverse of the one dollar United States Note was changed slightly with the removal of those ornamental frames which had surrounded the serial numbers.  Pretty small changes, huh?  Just wait until you see the one dollar bill that sprouted in 1918!

At this point, the only overblown, large-sized, Federal Reserve Note-like $1 bill was issued as a Federal Reserve Bank Note (Now, these are not to be confused with Federal Reserve Notes.  They came later). Each note was an obligation of the issuing Federal Reserve Bank and could only be redeemed at that corresponding bank. The obverse of the note featured a borderless portrait of George Washington to the left -- and wording in the entire center. The reverse side of the bill featured a Bald Eagle in flight.  It was clutching an American Flag.

In 1923 both the one-dollar United States Note and the Silver Certificate were redesigned. Both notes featured the same reverse and an almost identical obverse with the same border design and a portrait of George Washington.

The only difference between the two notes was the color of ink used for the numeral 1 crossed by the word DOLLAR, treasury seal, and serial numbers along with the wording of the obligations.

These dollar bills were the first and only large-size notes with a standardized design for different types of notes of the same denomination; this same concept would later be used on small-size notes.

In 1929, all U.S. currency was changed to match its current dimensions. The first one-dollar bills were issued as Silver Certificates under Series of 1928.

The treasury seal and serial numbers were dark blue. The obverse was nearly identical to the Series of 1923 $1 Silver Certificate, however -- the treasury seal featured spikes around it and a large gray ONE replaced the blue "1 DOLLAR".

The reverse, too, had the same border design as the Series of 1923 $1 bill, however, the center featured a large ornate ONE superimposed by ONE DOLLAR. These were appropriately named "Funnybacks" due to that rather odd-looking "ONE" on the reverse.

These $1 Silver Certificates were issued until 1934.  In 1933 the Series of 1928 $1 United States Notes were issued to supplement the supply of $1 Silver Certificates.

Its treasury seal and serial numbers were red and there was different wording on the obverse of the note.  Strangely enough, just one short month after their production, it was realized that there would be no real need for these notes -- and production was immediately halted.  Only a small number of these $1 bills ever entered official circulation in the continental United States -- and the rest were kept in treasury vaults until 1949 when it is claimed the rest of them were issued to U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico.

In 1934, the design of the $1 Silver Certificate was changed to reflect the Silver Purchase Act of 1934. Under Washington's portrait, ONE SILVER DOLLAR was changed to ONE DOLLAR. The treasury seal was moved to the right and superimposed over ONE, and a blue numeral 1 was added to the left. The reverse remained the same.
A year later, in 1935, the design of the one-dollar bill was changed again. On the obverse, the blue numeral 1 was changed to gray and made smaller, the gray ONE to the right was removed, the treasury seal was made smaller and superimposed by WASHINGTON D.C., and a stylized ONE DOLLAR was added over the treasury seal. The reverse was also changed to its current design, except for the absence of IN GOD WE TRUST.

Special issue $1 Silver Certificate was produced for the Allied troops in North Africa
World War II brought about special issues of one-dollar bills in 1942. Special $1 Silver Certificates were issued for the islands of Hawaii, just in case a Japanese invasion succeeded. HAWAII was printed vertically on the left and right side of the obverse and also horizontally across the reverse. The seal and serial numbers were changed to brown.

Special Silver Certificates were also issued as payment for Allied troops in North Africa about to begin their assault into Europe. The only difference on these one-dollar bills was a yellow instead of blue seal. Both of these types of notes could be declared worthless if they fell into enemy hands.

The next change came in 1957 when the $1 bill became the first piece of paper U.S. currency to bear the motto IN GOD WE TRUST; it was added over the word ONE on the reverse. Initially the BEP began printing the motto on notes which were printed with the new 32 note press that printed 32 dollar bills at a clip. but soon Series of 1935G bills printed on a 16 note press featured the motto.

The final production of $1 Silver Certificates occurred in late 1963. In 1964 the redemption of Silver Certificates for silver coin was declared at an end and in 1968 the redemption of Silver Certificates for silver bullion ended completely.

Production of one-dollar Federal Reserve Notes was undertaken in late 1963 to replace the soon-to-be obsolete $1 Silver Certificate. The design on the reverse remained the same, but the border design on the obverse underwent considerable modification, as the mostly abstract filigrees were replaced with designs that were mostly botanical in nature.

In addition, the word "one", which had appeared eight times around the border, in small type, was eliminated. The serial numbers and treasury seal were printed in green ink. This was the first time the one-dollar bill was printed as a Federal Reserve Note.

Though bill denominations of $5 and higher have been redesigned twice since 1995 as part of ongoing anti-counterfeiting efforts, however the $1 bill is no longer worth the effort to be counterfeited and therefore, there are currently no plans to redesign it.

"Before Roosevelt introduced the 1935 series our one dollar bills were also  worth money because they were backed up three ways: by gold, by silver and by copper.  Today our one dollar bills are backed up only on an accident."  -- Lin Stone

"Legal Tender" is anything which -- when offered in payment -- extinguishes the debt it is being applied to. Therefore, personal checks, credit cards, debit cards, and similar non-cash methods of payment are not usually considered to be "legal tender". The law does not relieve the debt obligation until payment is accepted. Certain coins and banknotes are usually defined by law as "legal tender" while anything else, including eggs and chickens, may be legally refused by the receiving party.  Occasionally, not even clams will take the place of legal tender.

Some jurisdictions around the world may forbid or restrict payment made by anything besides legal tender. For example, such a law might outlaw the use of foreign coins and bank notes -- or perhaps, require the purchase of a license before one can perform financial transactions in a foreign currency.

In some jurisdictions legal tender can be refused as payment if no debt exists prior to the time of payment (where the obligation to pay may arise at the same time as the offer of payment).

For example vending machines and transport staff are not compelled to accept the largest denominations of banknotes. Shopkeepers may reject large banknotes: this is covered by the legal concept known as invitation to treat.

However, restaurants that do not collect payment until after a meal is served must accept that legal tender for the debt incurred in purchasing the meal.

The Federal Reserve claims the average life of a $1 bill in circulation is 5.9 years before it must be replaced because of wear.

Approximately 42% of all U.S. currency produced in 2009 were one-dollar bills.

The inclusion of the motto, "In God We Trust," on all currency was required by law in 1955, and first appeared on paper money in 1957.

Until recently our American dollar bills were known as PAPER MONEY.  Have you ever sent your money wandering through the washing machine on an accident and noticed it did not come to pieces like you would expect paper to do? 

Almost any kind of paper you can buy gets wet and soggy in a sudden storm.  Dollar bills may get wet too, but they don't get soggy, nor do they stick together easily.  That's because dollar bills are manufactured from a cotton and linen blend material, with minute silk fibers of red, white and blue weaved through it. 

Consequently, ironing will straighten them right out.  If you sprinkle on some starch your greenbacks will snap back as crisp as a brand new dollar bill. 

We have been taught to call our money GREENBACKS because of the slight tint on the back side. 

But, maybe we should begin calling our dollar bills "Canvas Backs!"  That would be especially appropriate since -- like ducks -- they leave our hands so quickly and fly away.

On The Front

A special blend of ink is used in the printing, the contents of which are known only to our enemies.  Next, the one dollar bills are overprinted with symbols.  After the final printing they are starched to make them water resistant and pressed to give them that snappy, crisp look we all love.

If you look on the front of the bill, on the right hand side, pasted below the superimposed word "ONE" you will see the United States Treasury Seal. At the top in the center you will see the scales -- the symbol for a national desire for a balanced budget and for justice. Just below the scales there is a chevron with thirteen stars.  Underneath the chevron, and still inside the Seal, is a key, symbol of the authority of the United States and its Treasury.

In 1834

20 dollars would buy an ounce of gold.  By the end of the Civil War it took 40 --  And you had to walk a ways to find a bank that would honor your patriotic request.  Today you'll need $1437.97 to buy an ounce.  Of course, one ounce could cover an acre if you pound it thin enough.

As a revolutionary American creation, the Great Seal is a unique combination of natural elements (eagle, olive branch, stars, cloud, light rays, eye) and universal symbols (pyramid, arrows, shield). 

The story of how President Franklin Delano Roosevelt decided to put both sides of the Great Seal on the back of the one-dollar bill is recorded in a letter from then Secretary of Agriculture (and later Vice President) Henry A. Wallace.

The Masons Are Coming!

Are some of these hidden symbols on the one dollar bill really (gasp) Mason symbols?
The real answer to that question is NO. But, rephrase the question SLIGHTLY and the real answer will be YES!
George Washington was a Mason. Benjamin Franklin was a Mason. The Sons of Liberty had a nucleus of Masons, but that soon ran out as new members joined and the Masons became badly out numbered.

Why were there so many Masons involved in the Revolutionary War? Because one of the most important premises of Masonry was FREEDOM. You talk freedom and people that favor freedom might well be tempted to join. Those with greater intelligence (in any free organization) will rise to the top provided they espouse the aspirations of the organization.

Masons, at least during the beginning of our country, were for generating more freedom, more intelligence, and more stability within the community. It is only natural that both Franklin and Washington would be attracted to an organization that offered opportunities to discuss these principles in safety.

Being a Mason back then held great doors of opportunity open for discussion of scientific advancement.  When Franklin laid his kite down he had only to write to some of his Mason friends in France and England to have his findings discussed among Masonic Lodge members, many of whom were influential in scientific spheres. Before long, Franklin was famous.

When Franklin was sent to France as part of the Diplomatic Corps of the evil and illegal American Rebellion that insisted kings could be defied, he did not land in Paris, but much to the south. Franklin knew that if one would be seen as great then one must be properly announced. Franklin wanted to insure he would be favorably announced in Paris, rather than to receive ACCIDENTAL press reviews by uninformed reporters and rumor mongers.

Therefore, he began sending missives directly to his Masonic friends only incidentally influential in the French Court circles. This gave the Court time to formulate a welcome for this American Ambassador that would be separate from his official persona and therefore would not break the French King's treaty with Britain and thus start a war.

As part of the Colonial Ambassador Corps of illegal revolutionaries Franklin was no more effective than the other members had been and continued to be. But, with a scientific reputation jazzed up and built up for him in the circle of influential Court Circle members, DOCTOR Franklin was able to move through massive doors and talk freely behind closed doors with important figures. Secret shipments of Money, cannon, rifles and ammunition were soon being routed through secret routes to the American shoreline where competent, professional smugglers could assimilate these precious commodities into use by the Colonial Cause.

Therefore, Yes. BECAUSE Americans who were Masons used that affiliation to further the cause of freedom, Masons were there in the building of America, in force.




Directly beneath the seal is the signature of the Secretary of the United States Treasury.  Just to the left of his (or her) signature is the series year -- 2001, 1957, etc.

On the left hand side of the bill, on the bottom, is the signature of the Treasurer of the United States, who oversees the U.S. Mint and Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

George Washington, Father of His Country, has his picture in the center of the previous dollar bill.  He was the First President of our Republic.  First in War, and First in Peace, so isn't it only fitting that he should have his picture decorating the One Dollar Bill as if a mere copy of his picture could protect the value of the dollar?

There are two big 1s in both upper corners.  There are two smaller 1s in both lower corners.  The two big numbers on top are enclosed in different settings.  The two smaller numbers on bottom are enclosed in the same setting.

Directly below the big number 1 on the upper top of the one dollar bill is a large letter, and a small number.  The letter indicates which row the bill you are looking at was taken from. 
The number beside the letter indicates the position of the bill on that row. 

Just above the small one on the right hand side of the one dollar bill is a very small number and letter combination which tells exactly which specific plate was used to print this particular bill.

Now we reintroduce the Seal so that you can go directly across George's picture to the Bank seal on the left hand side in the same position.  You will notice it has a LARGE letter in the center of the seal.  These letters identify the bank that issued the bill.  The letter K, for example, indicates that the Federal Reserve Bank in  DALLAS Texas issued the bill.  The Letter J identifies the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City Missouri.  If the letter B is there the bill was issued in New York.  The letter D indicates the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland Ohio.  The letter H indicates the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis Missouri.  E indicates the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond Virginia, etc..

Now we are ready to look at the SERIAL NUMBERS.  There is one in the lower left hand portion of the one dollar bill, and a matching number in the upper right hand portion.  The letter which precedes the numbers must be the same number that you saw identifying the Federal Reserve Bank.  J for J.  B for B, and D for D. 

The letter which trails after the numerals in serial number reveals how many times the exact same serial number has run.  The letter A identifies it as the first run, and the letter Z identifies it as the 26th run with 32 bills printed on each run.  Consequently, there can only be 832 bills printed with the same numbers.

Interestingly enough, if you read off the serial number and give a DIFFERENT first letter than the one actually on the bill, the Treasury Department can tell instantly that you have made a mistake, or that you have a counterfeit bill in your hands.  In the upper left hand corner -- beside the ROW identifier I mentioned previously, you will find a NUMBER. 

It is rather inconspicuous unless you are looking for it.  This number is yet another identifier of the issuing bank.  The number "2" (for example) must match the letter B in the issuing bank's seal.  The same number will be found similarly in close proximity to each of the number 1s in each of the four corners of the one dollar bill. 

When you turn the bill over, you will first notice that the Supreme Court has not forced the removal of "IN GOD WE TRUST" from this currency yet. 

Then you will notice two large circles, one on each side with the word ONE in the center. Together, both circles comprise an image of both halves of the Great Seal of the United States.

The First Continental Congress requested that Benjamin Franklin and a group of men (including Thomas Jefferson and John Adams) come up with a Seal. It took four years and two more committees to accomplish this task and yet another two years to get it approved. It wasn't until June 13, 1782 that Charles Thompson, Secretary of Congress, made the final submission.  He incorporated elements from all three committees. 

If you look at the left-hand circle of the Great Seal, you will see a pyramid. This pyramid was not a part of the proposals for the Great Seal until the third committee, and it was NOT suggested by either Jefferson, Franklin, or Adams.  Charles Thompson said the pyramid represented "Strength and Duration."  Furthermore, Francis Hopkinson, a literary man of letters, is credited with being the first to use the pyramid on American money.

Notice the face is lighted, and the western side is dark.

Although there is no "official" explanation for the shading, some have chosen to interpret this as a reflection that our country was just beginning.

We had not even begun to explore the West.  Indeed, only a scant few years before this, Virginia's official state boundaries had extended from the Atlantic ocean all the way to the Pacific ocean.  Nor had America decided what we could do for Western Civilization.


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The Pyramid is un-capped, This is supposed to signify that we were not even close to being finished in the building of our Republic.

Inside the capstone you have the all-seeing eye, said to be an ancient symbol for divinity. It was Ben Franklin's belief that one man couldn't do it alone, but a group of men, with the help of God, could do anything. His committee wanted the seal to include some symbol of divine providence and he discussed a variety of themes -- including the Children of Israel in the Wilderness.  Then again, wise old Ben is also credited with wanting the wild turkey (unique to America) to be the overall symbol of the United States, not the eagle.  Of course, wise old Ben is also credited with starting the rumor that he was only joking, and that does make more sense.

Charles Thomson, the Secretary of the Continental Congress wanted a symbol that soared. The American Bald Eagle was selected as a symbol with the power to bridge heaven and earth in victory: The eagle is not afraid of a storm; he is strong, and he is smart enough to soar above it.  The real question is, what does he want to see, from up there above the storm? The stars are beyond his reach.

Isn't everything an eagle wants to eat down there, below the storm?  So, now that aeroplanes have been invented, how many eagles have actually been spotted up there, above the storm?

The Latin above the pyramid, ANNUIT COEPTIS, is supposed to mean: "God has favored our undertaking."

The Latin below the pyramid, NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM, means, "a new order for the ages."  Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to change the meaning slightly to "a new order has begun," wanting to connect that inscription with the building of a "New Deal".

At the base of the pyramid is the Roman Numerals symbol for 1776.

If you look at the right-hand circle, and check it carefully, you will notice that it is reproduced on every National Cemetery in the United States. It is also on the Parade of Flags Walkway at the Bushnell, Florida National Cemetery, and it is the centerpiece of most monuments for heroes of our nation. Only slightly modified, it is recognizable as the seal of the President of the United States, and it is always visible whenever s/he speaks.

Also, notice the shield is unsupported. This United States has fought the war for Independence and has now earned the right to print its own money. At the top of that shield you have a white bar signifying the acts of Congress.  The United States is still the only country that ever was formed for the express purpose of guaranteeing the right to promote his own business to every citizen. By giving man the right tools to build up his own business Congress was the benefactor of every citizen. In the Eagle's beak is a ribbon on which you will read the words: "E PLURIBUS UNUM", meaning, "Out of many, one".

Above the Eagle, you have thirteen stars, representing the thirteen original colonies that struggled for Independence and the right to human dignity.  The stars can be seen because any clouds of misunderstanding were rolling away.  These symbols are taken from the American flag where, officially, the red represents hardiness and valor, the white represents purity and innocence, and the blue, vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

It is important to notice what the Eagle holds in his talons. In one he holds an olive branch and the other holds arrows. We might want peace, but we will never be afraid to fight in order to preserve peace for ourselves and our trading partners. The Eagle always wants to face the olive branch, but in time of war, his gaze turns toward the arrows.

Have you ever heard that the number 13 is an unlucky number?
This is almost a worldwide belief, isn't it?  It is so strong you will usually never see a room numbered 13, or any hotels or motels with a 13th floor.

But think about the thirteens we have associated with our country:

  1. 13 original colonies,
  2. 13 signers of the Declaration of Independence,
  3. 13 stripes on our flag,
  4. The final version of the Great Seal was submitted on the thirteenth of June
  5. There are 13 steps on the Pyramid,
  6. 13 letters in the Latin above,
  7. 13 letters in "E Pluribus Unum",
  8. 13 stars above the Eagle,
  9. 13 bars on that shield,
  10. 13 leaves on the olive branch,
  11. 13 fruits, and if you look closely, 13 arrows.
  12. And, for minorities: the 13th Amendment.
  13. Okay, 13 steps up to the gallows where justice is promptly served.

SHARE THIS PAGE WITH EVERYONE, so they too can learn the rather complete history of the UNITED STATES ONE DOLLAR BILL -- and what it stands for...

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Leave A Legacy: Be Your Own Banker! Money you are already spending can make you rich, provide a stable income over your whole lifetime, and still leave millions of dollars for your heirs. 

There are many magic tricks that involve a one dollar bill.  You Can Make paper clips leap off your dollar bill.  This staple magic trick is where twin paper clips are attached to a dollar bill.  The clips will first link together and then leap from the bill -- like magic.  Your audience will be astounded.

All you will need is a dollar bill and two paper clips. Curve the bill into an S shape. Place the paper clips over the top of the S to close it. You place one paper clip over the top loop of the S and the other closing the bottom loop of the S. Now slowly pull the ends of the bill. This will make the clips slide towards the center of the bill, when they meet they will link up and jump off the bill!

the end

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