The faces on every U.S. bill in circulation include five American presidents and two founding fathers. They are all men: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant and Benjamin Franklin.
But who are the faces on larger denominations that are out of circulation – the $500, $1,000, $5,000, $10,000 and $100,000 bills – are also those of men who served as president and Treasury secretary.
- 1 Who Decides the Faces On Every U.S. Bill
- 1.1 Why No Living Person’s Face Is Allowed on a U.S. Bill
- 1.2 Suffrage
- 1.3 $1 Bill – George Washington
- 1.4 $2 Bill – Thomas Jefferson
- 1.5 $5 Bill – Abraham Lincoln
- 1.6 $10 Bill – Alexander Hamilton
- 1.7 $20 Bill – Andrew Jackson
- 1.8 $50 Bill – Ulysses S. Grant
- 1.9 $100 Bill – Benjamin Franklin
- 1.10 $500 Bill – William McKinley
- 1.11 $1,000 Bill – Grover Cleveland
- 1.12 $5,000 Bill – James Madison
- 1.13 $100,000 Bill – Woodrow Wilson
- 1.14 Share this:
- 1.15 Like this:
- 1.16 Related
Who Decides the Faces On Every U.S. Bill
The person with the final say over whose faces are on every U.S. bill is the secretary of the Department of Treasury. But the exact criteria for deciding who appears on our paper currency, save for one glaring detail, are unclear. The Treasury Department says only that it considers “persons whose places in history the American people know well.”
Why No Living Person’s Face Is Allowed on a U.S. Bill
Take a look at the faces on every U.S. bill. Notice anything? That’s right. They’re all dead people. That’s because federal law prohibits any living person’s face from appearing on our currency. States the Treasury Department: “The law prohibits portraits of living persons from appearing on Government Securities.”
The federal agency responsible for printing the seven denominations, however, was planning to reintroduce a woman to a U.S. bill for the first time in a century in upcoming years. The Department of Treasury announced in 2016 it was planning to bump Jackson to the back of the $20 bill and place the face of Harriet Tubman, the late abolitionist and former slave, on the front of the currency in 2020 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which acknowledged and guaranteed the right of women to vote.
The inclusion of Tubman’s face on the $20 bill was part of a redesign of all $5, $10 and $20 bills to honor women’s suffrage and civil rights movements announced by the Treasury in 2016. Tubman would be the first woman represented on the face of paper currency since First Lady Martha Washington’s portrait appeared on the $1 silver certificate in the late 1800s.
But the election of Donald Trump in November 2016 may have halted those plans. The Republican president’s administration has not yet signed onto the idea of swapping out Jackson with Tubman.
Trump himself has declined to endorse Tubman being on the $20 bill, stating before his election that he preferred to keep his favorite president there: “I would love to leave Andrew Jackson and see if we can maybe come up with another denomination.”
So whose faces are on every U.S. bill now? Here’s a look.
George Washington certainly fits the bill as being among the “persons whose places in history the American people know well,” the Treasury department’s only known criteria for deciding whose face goes on a U.S. bill.
Washington is the first president of the United States. His face appears on the front of the $1 bill, and there are no plans to change the design. The $1 bill dates back to 1862, and at first, it didn’t have Washington on it. Instead, it was Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase whose face appeared on the bill. Washington’s face first appeared on the $1 bill in 1869.
President Thomas Jefferson’s face is used on the front of the $2 bill, but that wasn’t always the case. The nation’s first Treasury secretary, Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, was the first person to appear on the bill, which was first issued by the government in 1862. Jefferson’s face was swapped in 1869 and has appeared on the front of the $2 bill since then.
President Abraham Lincoln’s face appears on the front of the $5 bill. The bill dates back to 1914 and has always featured the 16th president of the United States on it, despite being redesigned several times.
Founding Father and former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s face is on the $10 bill. The first $10 bill was issued by the government in 1914 and had President Andrew Jackson’s face on it. Hamilton’s face was swapped in 1929, and Jackson moved to the $20 bill.
President Andrew Jackson’s face appears on the $20 bill. The first $20 bill was issued by the government in 1914 and had President Grover Cleveland’s face on it. Jackson’s face was swapped in 1929, and Cleveland moved to the $1,000 bill.
President Ulysses S. Grant’s face appears on the $50 bill and has since the denomination was first issued in 1914. The Union general served two terms and helped the nation recover from the Civil War.
Founding Father and famed inventor Benjamin Franklin’s face appears on the $100 bill, the largest denomination in circulation. Franklin’s face has appeared on the bill since it was first issued by the government in 1914.
$500 Bill – William McKinley
President William McKinley’s face appears on the $500 bill, which is no longer in circulation. McKinley is noteworthy because he is among the few presidents who were assassinated. He died after being shot in 1901.
$1,000 Bill – Grover Cleveland
President Grover Cleveland’s face appears on the $1,000 bill, which like the $500 bill dates to 1918. Hamilton’s face initially appeared on the denomination. The Fed and Treasury discontinued the $1,000 bill in 1969. It was last printed in 1945, but the Treasury says Americans continue to hold the notes.
$5,000 Bill – James Madison
President James Madison’s face appears on the $5,000 bill, and always has since the denomination was first printed in 1918. The Fed and Treasury discontinued the $5,000 bill in 1969. It was last printed in 1945, but the Treasury says Americans continue to hold the notes.
$10,000 Bill – Salmon P. Chase
Salmon P. Chase, a onetime Treasury secretary, appears on the $10,000 bill, which was first printed in 1918. The Fed and Treasury discontinued the $10,000 bill in 1969. It was last printed in 1945, but the Treasury says Americans continue to hold the notes.
$100,000 Bill – Woodrow Wilson
Yes, there is such a thing as a $100,000 bill. But the denomination, known as a “gold certificate,” was used only by Federal Reserve Banks and was never circulated among the general public. In fact, the $100,000 was not considered legal tender outside of those Fed transactions. If you’re holding onto one, chances are it’s worth more than $1 million to collectors.