The Art of American Money

This post is about money. Great, heaving gobs of filthy lucre.

Actually it is about the denominations and art of American money, but why quibble?

Check out this $5 bill from 1896. The design, which is titled, Electricity as the Dominant Force in the World, was part of a set of engravings now known as the Educational Series. The two faces on the backside are Ulysses S. Grant and Philip Sheridan, a US Army general.

art of american money

Because of public reaction to the inclusion of bare-breasted women, and because of artistic in-fighting at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, this version of the $5 bill got scrapped after just three years in circulation. However, it is a beautiful design and the amount of detail work that went into it dwarfs today’s US paper money.

An example of an earlier design and denomination is the 10 cent note, issued between 1862 and 1876. The picture isn’t of a US President, it is of a pouty-looking William M. Meredith, a former Secretary of the Treasury:

old money ten cents 2

Going back further, we have a confederate $100 bill. Kind of brazen of them to incorporate an image of slaves toiling in the fields.


Rewinding the US history clock to the very beginnings, we get the following: a third of a dollar, issued by Congress in 1776 and printed at a private print shop, Hall & Sellers.


Bonus Trivia: The US currently prints only in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100.  Yet it hasn’t always been this way; the U.S. once publicly circulated denominations of $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000. Although there was a $100,000 note, it was only used for internal transactions of the Federal Reserve, so it doesn’t really count. Here then, is the legendary $10,000 bill that you could have carried around in your wallet, but most likely never gotten change for:

old money ten-thousand-10000-dollar-bill

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