One is not the loneliest number: The fascinating history of the dollar bill
The one-dollar bill is synonymous with US currency. It’s handled in millions of transactions every day and is a standard used around the world. With its portrait of George Washington, the dollar bill is a ubiquitous influence in economies both domestic and abroad.
By George, that’s not the president
While Americans have grown used to seeing George Washington on their money, it wasn’t always this way.
The first person to be depicted on the bill was Secretary of Treasury Salmon P. Chase, who served under President Abraham Lincoln. Issued in 1862, this dollar bill had a treasury seal in red ink and featured 34 spikes representing the 34 states in the union.
It wasn’t until 1869 that President George Washington became the face of the dollar bill. The bill itself was shrunk down in size by about 30 percent and underwent a major redesign.
As the years went by, the dollar went through several iterations. English and Latin mottos were added, including the iconic “In God We Trust.” The redesigns also focused on discouraging counterfeiting. In 1990 the US government began incorporating several new features such as watermarks, colored strands embedded in the paper, and highly detailed artwork.
Saved by the machines
Did you know that the dollar bill was nearly phased out of American currency in 2012? A government report suggested that switching from dollar bills to dollar coins would save $4.4 billion over 30 years. However, most Americans reported that they didn’t want to get rid of dollar bills.
There have also been plans to redesign the dollar again, but these were never implemented due to the impact on the vending machine industry. With so many machines already in use, it would cost too much money to re-do their dollar-scanning hardware. For now, the dollar bill remained unchanged.