The Faces of Power: A Guide to Identifying the Presidents on U.S. Currency


Have you ever looked at a piece of U.S. currency and wondered which president is featured on it? Knowing which president is on which bill or coin is more than just a fun trivia fact – it’s an important aspect of American history and culture. U.S. currency has been in circulation for over 150 years, and among its most distinctive features are the portraits of presidents that adorn the banknotes and coins. In this article, we’ll take a comprehensive look at the American presidents who have been featured on U.S. currency, tracing their evolution over time, and exploring the stories behind their portraits.

The Faces of Power: A Guide to Identifying the Presidents on U.S. Currency

Let’s start with a guide to identifying the presidents who are currently featured on U.S. currency. The following presidents are currently represented on American currency:

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

In addition to these banknotes, there are several coins that also feature U.S. presidents, including the Lincoln penny, Jefferson nickel, Roosevelt dime, Washington quarter, and John F. Kennedy half-dollar. To help you remember which president is on which bill or coin, here are some tips:

  • Create a mnemonic device, such as “Washing-ton” for the $1 bill
  • Remember fun facts, such as “Hamilton was the first Secretary of Treasury” for the $10 bill
  • Study the portraits – for example, Andrew Jackson’s severe expression on the $20 bill is a reflection of his reputation as a strict military commander and president

From Washington to Jackson: Tracing the Evolution of Presidents on American Bills

Now that we know which presidents are currently featured on U.S. currency, let’s explore how these portraits have evolved over time. The first U.S. banknotes were issued in the mid-1800s, and the portraits of early presidents were often crude and unrealistic. For example, the first $1 bill featured a portrait of Salmon P. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury under President Lincoln, rather than Lincoln himself.

It wasn’t until the 20th century that U.S. currency began to feature more realistic and detailed portraits. The $1 bill, for example, has always featured a portrait of George Washington, but the design of the bill has changed over time. The modern $1 bill features a portrait of Washington on the front, and the Great Seal of the United States on the back.

Later banknotes, such as the $5 and $20 bills, featured portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson, respectively. Lincoln’s portrait first appeared on the $5 bill in 1914, while Jackson’s portrait was added to the $20 bill in 1928. In the mid-1900s, security features were added to banknotes, including a watermark portrait of the president, helping to prevent counterfeiting.

Behind the Portraits: The Stories of the Presidents Featured on U.S. Banknotes

While the portraits of U.S. presidents on currency are often iconic, many people don’t know much about the presidents themselves. Here is a brief bio of each president featured on U.S. currency, along with some interesting facts about them:

  • George Washington – First president of the United States, Founding Father, known for his leadership during the Revolutionary War and for establishing many of the democratic principles that still guide the United States today.
  • Thomas Jefferson – Third president of the United States, Founding Father, known for writing the Declaration of Independence, establishing the Library of Congress, and for his role in the Louisiana Purchase.
  • Abraham Lincoln – 16th president of the United States, known for his leadership during the Civil War, for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, and for delivering the Gettysburg Address.
  • Alexander Hamilton – First Secretary of the Treasury, Founding Father, known for establishing the first national bank of the United States, for co-authoring the Federalist Papers, and for his role in shaping American economics.
  • Andrew Jackson – 7th president of the United States, known for his military leadership during the War of 1812, for his controversial policies toward Native Americans, and for his Populist political style.
  • Ulysses S. Grant – 18th president of the United States, known for his military leadership during the Civil War, for his role in passing the 15th Amendment, and for his efforts to rebuild the South after the war.
  • Benjamin Franklin – Founding Father, inventor, and statesman, known for his role in drafting the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, as well as for his many inventions and philosophical works.

It’s worth noting that some presidents, such as Lincoln and Franklin, are featured on multiple bills – Lincoln on the $5 and the penny, while Franklin appears on the $100 bill and used to be on the $50 bill as well.

Why These Seven Presidents Were Chosen to Grace American Currency

It’s clear that the U.S. government has gone to great lengths to ensure that the portraits of presidents on currency are both iconic and meaningful. But what criteria were used to choose which presidents would be featured on U.S. currency?

The answer is that the choice of which presidents to honor through currency has been influenced by a number of factors, including political popularity, historical importance, and cultural significance. For example, Washington and Lincoln are two of the most universally respected and beloved presidents in American history, and their portraits have been featured on U.S. currency for over a century.

Jackson, on the other hand, was chosen for his role in expanding democratic values in America, despite his controversial policies and reputation as a military commander. Alexander Hamilton, although never a president, was chosen for his important role in shaping American economic policy during the early days of the country.

Interestingly, there were many other designs and proposals considered for U.S. currency over the years which ultimately did not make the cut. For example, in the 1860s, some banknotes featured portraits of civil servants, generals, and even Indian chiefs. In the 1920s, proposals were made to feature women such as Martha Washington on the $1 bill.

Dollars and Presidents: A Historical Timeline of Who’s Featured on U.S. Bills

With the exception of the dollar bill, which has always featured George Washington, the portraits of U.S. presidents on currency have changed over time. Here is a brief timeline of which presidents have been featured on U.S. currency:

  • 1862 – Salmon P. Chase (Secretary of the Treasury) replaces Washington on the $1 bill
  • 1869 – Washington returns to the $1 bill; Lincoln first appears on the $10 bill
  • 1902 – Andrew Jackson replaces Columbus on the $20 gold certificate
  • 1914 – Lincoln replaces Alexander Hamilton on the $5 bill
  • 1928 – Jackson replaces Grover Cleveland on the $20 bill
  • 1934 – Grant replaces William McKinley on the $50 bill
  • 1969 – Benjamin Franklin replaces the previous design on the $100 bill

As you can see, the addition of new presidents to U.S. currency has reflected changing cultural and political trends throughout American history.

Coins and Presidents: The Fascinating Link Between American History and Currency Design

U.S. coins, like banknotes, have also featured the images of presidents since the late 1800s. The first president featured on a coin was George Washington, whose likeness appeared on the quarter in 1932. However, unlike banknotes, coins have also featured other symbols and images that are uniquely American, such as buffalo, eagles, and landmarks.

One of the most popular coins in the United States is the quarter, which features George Washington on the front and the image of a state on the back. The state quarters program, which began in 1999, has proved to be a hit with collectors and casual coin enthusiasts alike. Each quarter minted between 1999 and 2008 depicted one of the 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and several U.S. territories.

The process of designing and redesigning coins over time has been a fascinating reflection of American culture and history. From early designs such as the Liberty Head nickel to modern ones such as the Sacagawea dollar, U.S. coins are a reminder of the diversity and enduring legacy of American design and identity.


In this article, we’ve explored the many fascinating stories and facts behind the U.S. presidents who have been featured on American currency. From Washington to Franklin, these portraits have been an enduring symbol of American culture and history. By understanding the origins and evolution of U.S. currency, we can better appreciate the role that these presidents have played in shaping the United States and its values.

If you found this article helpful, please share it with others who may also find it informative and interesting. We hope that it has shed some light on the diverse and fascinating history of U.S. currency, and the presidents who have graced its banknotes and coins.

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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