The Presidents on Money: A Comprehensive Guide to US Currency featuring American Leaders


Whether you’re buying groceries, paying rent, or traveling abroad, chances are you’ve come across US currency featuring the faces of American leaders. But do you know who those faces belong to? For many people, particularly those outside of the US, the pictures on US currency may be a mystery. But don’t worry, this article aims to solve that problem by providing a comprehensive guide to US presidents on American money.

From Washington to Kennedy: A History of US Presidents on Currency

The practice of featuring US presidents on American currency dates back to the mid-19th century with the introduction of the first federal banknotes. The first president to appear on a US banknote was George Washington. His portrait appeared on the $1 bill, a denomination which is still being printed today. Over the years, the design of US currency has evolved, with updates and changes to security features, denominations, and the portraits depicted on the bills. For instance, the $2 bill, which was first introduced in 1862, originally featured Thomas Jefferson. But by 1869, his portrait was replaced with that of Alexander Hamilton, the founding father and first Secretary of Treasury who is best known for his role in creating the US financial system.

Show Me the Money: A Guide to Presidents Featured on American Bills

The US currency currently in circulation includes seven different denominations: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. Each denomination features a different US President. Here’s a quick rundown of the Presidents currently featured on US currency:

  • $1 – George Washington: The first President of the United States and commander-in-chief during the American Revolutionary War.
  • $2 – Thomas Jefferson: One of the founding fathers and the primary author of the Declaration of Independence.
  • $5 – Abraham Lincoln: The 16th President of the US, who served during the Civil War and issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • $10 – Alexander Hamilton: The founding father and first Secretary of Treasury who helped establish the US financial system.
  • $20 – Andrew Jackson: The 7th President of the US, who is known for his role in the Indian Removal Act and expansion of US territory.
  • $50 – Ulysses S. Grant: The 18th President of the US, who led the Union Army to victory during the American Civil War.
  • $100 – Benjamin Franklin: One of the founding fathers and key figure in the American Enlightenment, who was not a President but a famous polymath and inventor.

Each President represents an important era or achievement in American history and culture. Many of the bills feature elements that pay tribute to the President’s legacy, such as the Lincoln Memorial on the back of the $5 bill or the US Treasury building on the back of the $10 bill.

The Faces Behind the Dollars: A Spotlight on US Presidential Currency

Did you know that there are interesting facts and controversies surrounding specific Presidents’ portraits featured on US currency? Here are some examples:

  • Abe Lincoln’s portrait on the $5 bill was nearly replaced with that of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, but the idea was ultimately scrapped due to public pushback and legal constraints.
  • The portrait of Alexander Hamilton was nearly replaced with that of Susan B. Anthony, but Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III instead suggested that Anthony should be on a newly designed dollar coin.
  • The portrait of Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill has been the subject of controversy in recent years, with some advocates pushing for his removal due to controversies surrounding his treatment of Native Americans and ownership of slaves.

The portraits featured on US currency reveal a lot about American culture and history, and they also raise important questions about representation and legacy.

Money Talks: Exploring the Symbolism of US Presidents on Bills
Money Talks: Exploring the Symbolism of US Presidents on Bills

Money Talks: Exploring the Symbolism of US Presidents on Bills

So why do we put Presidents on US money in the first place? There’s no clear answer, but one theory is that it symbolizes the power, stability, and legitimacy of the US government and economy. By featuring Presidents who have upheld the Constitution and defended American ideals, US currency becomes a symbol of national identity and unity. In fact, the use of national symbols, such as the bald eagle and the American flag, on US banknotes further reinforces the link between US currency and American democracy.

Presidential Portraits: How and Why American Leaders Ended Up on Money

But how are Presidents chosen to be featured on US currency, and why do some make the cut and others don’t? The criteria for who gets to be on US currency is complex and ever-changing. Generally, the person must be deceased and have made significant contributions to American history or culture. Additionally, there must be a high level of public recognition and acceptance of the person in question. However, not all Presidents have been featured on US currency, and some have been replaced over time. For example, Grover Cleveland was the only President to have served two non-consecutive terms, but he was only featured on a US banknote during his second term. Additionally, several early Presidents, such as John Adams and James Madison, were considered for inclusion on US currency, but never made the cut.

What Do Andrew Jackson and Benjamin Franklin Have in Common? A Look at US Currency

Although US presidents are the primary subjects on US banknotes, there are a few exceptions to the rule. Andrew Jackson, as mentioned earlier, was never a US President; he was, however, a war hero and an influential figure in American history. The choice to feature him on the $20 bill is largely due to his role in popularizing the Democratic Party and the concept of populism. Benjamin Franklin, on the other hand, was never even a politician. He was a renowned scientist, inventor, and statesman who played an important role in the American Enlightenment and the founding of the US. His portrait has been featured on the $100 bill since 1928, making him the only non-president to be featured on US currency.

From Nickels to Hundreds: An Overview of US Currency featuring Presidents

In summary, US currency featuring US Presidents is a rich and complex aspect of American culture. It symbolizes national identity and unity, honors American leaders who have contributed to the country’s history and principles, and raises important questions about representation and legacy. Here’s a quick overview of which Presidents are featured on each denomination of US currency:

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

Next time you use US currency, take a closer look at the portrait and symbols on the bill. You might learn something new about American history and culture.


In conclusion, this comprehensive guide to US currency featuring American leaders aims to provide a better understanding of how US Presidents ended up on American money in the first place, which Presidents appear on which denomination of US currency, and what symbols and memorial marks are used to represent the legacies of these Presidents. We also explored some interesting facts, controversies, and debates surrounding the use of US presidential portraits on currency. If you’ve ever wondered who the faces on your money belong to, now you know. US currency, with its distinctive design and iconic imagery, is a testament to the history and ideals of the United States, a topic that will continue to be studied, explored, and debated for generations to come.

Webben Editor

Hello! I'm Webben, your guide to intriguing insights about our diverse world. I strive to share knowledge, ignite curiosity, and promote understanding across various fields. Join me on this enlightening journey as we explore and grow together.

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