United States Note

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Large-sized Series of 1880 United States Notes; the $20 note displays Alexander Hamilton and a red scalloped Treasury seal, and the $10 note displays Daniel Webster and a large red spiked Treasury seal. USNotes.jpg
Large-sized Series of 1880 United States Notes; the $20 note displays Alexander Hamilton and a red scalloped Treasury seal, and the $10 note displays Daniel Webster and a large red spiked Treasury seal.

A United States Note, also known as a Legal Tender Note, is a type of paper money that was issued from 1862 to 1971 in the U.S. Having been current for 109 years, they were issued for longer than any other form of U.S. paper money. They were known popularly as "greenbacks", a name inherited from the earlier greenbacks, the Demand Notes, that they replaced in 1862. Often termed Legal Tender Notes, they were named United States Notes by the First Legal Tender Act, which authorized them as a form of fiat currency. During the early 1860s the so-called second obligation on the reverse of the notes stated: [1]


This Note is a Legal Tender for all debts public and private except Duties on Imports and Interest on the Public Debt; and is receivable in payment of all loans made to the United States.

By the 1930s, this obligation would eventually be shortened to:

This note is a legal tender at its face value for all debts public and private

They were originally issued directly into circulation by the U.S. Treasury to pay expenses incurred by the Union during the American Civil War. During the next century, the legislation governing these notes was modified many times and numerous versions were issued by the Treasury.

United States Notes that were issued in the large-size format, before 1929, differ dramatically in appearance when compared to modern American currency, but those issued in the small-size format, starting 1929, are very similar to contemporary Federal Reserve Notes of the same denominations with the distinction of having red U.S. Treasury Seals and serial numbers in place of green ones. Also, while a variety of denominations were issued as United States Notes during the large-size era, only the $1, $2, $5, and $100 denominations were ever issued as small-size notes.

Existing United States Notes remain valid currency in the United States; however, as no United States Notes have been issued since January 1971, they are increasingly rare in circulation and command higher prices than face value as items of numismatic interest.


Demand Notes

Comparison of a $5 Demand Note (upper image) and an 1862 issue $5 United States Note (lower image). Note the removal of the words "On Demand" and of the phrase "Receivable in Payment of All Public Dues". Also note the Treasury Seal added to the United States Note. Demand Legal comparison.jpg
Comparison of a $5 Demand Note (upper image) and an 1862 issue $5 United States Note (lower image). Note the removal of the words "On Demand" and of the phrase "Receivable in Payment of All Public Dues". Also note the Treasury Seal added to the United States Note.

During 1861, the first year of the American Civil War, the expenses incurred by the Union Government much exceeded its limited revenues from taxation, and borrowing was the main vehicle for financing the war. The Act of July 17, 1861 [2] authorized United States Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase to raise money via the issuance of $50,000,000 in Treasury Notes payable on demand. [3] These Demand Notes were paid to creditors directly and used to meet the payroll of soldiers in the field. While issued within the legal framework of Treasury Note Debt, the Demand Notes were intended to circulate as currency and were of the same size as banknotes and closely resembled them in appearance. [4] During December 1861, economic conditions deteriorated and a suspension of specie payment caused the government to cease redeeming the Demand Notes as coins.

The beginning of 1862 found the Union's expenses increasing, and the government was having trouble funding the escalating war. U.S. Demand Noteswhich were used, among other things, to pay Union soldierswere unredeemable, and the value of the notes began to deteriorate. Congressman and Buffalo banker Elbridge G. Spaulding prepared a bill, based on the Free Banking Law of New York, that eventually became the National Banking Act of 1863. [5]

Recognizing, however, that his proposal would take many months to pass Congress, during early February Spaulding introduced another bill to permit the U.S. Treasury to issue $150 million in notes as legal tender. [6] This caused tremendous controversy in Congress, as hitherto the Constitution had been interpreted as not granting the government the power to issue a paper currency. "The bill before us is a war measure, a measure of necessity, and not of choice," Spaulding argued before the House, adding, "These are extraordinary times, and extraordinary measures must be resorted to in order to save our Government, and preserve our nationality." Spaulding justified the action as a "necessary means of carrying into execution the powers granted in the Constitution 'to raise and support armies', and 'to provide and maintain a navy'". [7] Despite strong opposition, President Abraham Lincoln signed the First Legal Tender Act, [8] enacted February 25, 1862, into law, authorizing the issuance of United States Notes as a legal tender the paper currency soon to be known as "greenbacks".

Initially, the emission was limited to $150,000,000 total face value between the new Legal Tender Notes and the existing Demand Notes. The Act also intended for the new notes to be used to replace the Demand Notes as soon as practical. The Demand Notes had been issued in denominations of $5, $10, and $20, and these were replaced by United States Notes nearly identical in appearance on the obverse. In addition, notes of entirely new design were introduced in denominations of $50, $100, $500 and $1,000. The Demand Notes' printed promise of payment "On Demand" was removed and the statement "This Note is a Legal Tender" was added.

A political cartoon from the 1864 election depicting Secretary Fessenden of the Lincoln administration operating "Chase's Mill" at left to flood the country with Greenbacks. RunningtheMachine-LincAdmin.jpg
A political cartoon from the 1864 election depicting Secretary Fessenden of the Lincoln administration operating "Chase's Mill" at left to flood the country with Greenbacks.

Legal tender status guaranteed that creditors would have to accept the notes despite the fact that they were not backed by gold, bank deposits, or government reserves, and had no interest. However, the First Legal Tender Act did not make the notes an unlimited legal tender as they could not be used by merchants to pay customs duties on imports and could not be used by the government to pay interest on its bonds. The Act did provide that the notes be receivable by the government for short term deposits at 5% interest, and for the purchase of 6% interest 20-year bonds at par. The rationale for these terms was that the Union government would preserve its credit-worthiness by supporting the value of its bonds by paying their interest in gold. Early in the war, customs duties were a large part of government tax revenue and by making these payable in gold, the government would generate the coin necessary to make the interest payments on the bonds. Lastly, by making the bonds available for purchase at par in United States Notes, the value of the latter would be confirmed as well. [3] The limitations of the legal tender status were quite controversial. Thaddeus Stevens, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee of Ways and Means, which had authored an earlier version of the Legal Tender Act that would have made United States Notes a legal tender for all debts, denounced the exceptions, calling the new bill "mischievous" because it made United States Notes an intentionally depreciated currency for the masses, while the banks who loaned to the government got "sound money" in gold. This controversy would continue until the removal of the exceptions during 1933.

By the First Legal Tender Act, Congress limited the Treasury's emission of United States Notes to $150,000,000; however, by 1863, the Second Legal Tender Act, [9] enacted July 11, 1862, a Joint Resolution of Congress, [10] and the Third Legal Tender Act, [11] enacted March 3, 1863, had expanded the limit to $450,000,000, the option to exchange the notes for United States bonds at par had been revoked, and notes of $1 and $2 denominations had been introduced as the appearance of fiat currency had per Gresham's law driven even silver coinage out of circulation. As a result of this inflation, the greenback began to trade at a substantial discount from gold, which prompted Congress to pass the short-lived Anti-Gold Futures Act of 1864, which was soon repealed after it seemed to accelerate the decrease of greenback value.

The largest amount of greenbacks outstanding at any one time was calculated as $447,300,203.10. [12] The Union's reliance on expanding the circulation of greenbacks eventually ended with the emission of Interest Bearing and Compound Interest Treasury Notes, and the passage of the National Banking Act. However, the end of the war found the greenbacks trading for only about half of their nominal value in gold. [3] The Secret Service was founded on July 5, 1865, to minimize counterfeiting, which accounted for up to half of the currency. [13]

Post Civil War

At the end of the Civil War, some economists, such as Henry Charles Carey, argued for building on the precedent of non-interest-based fiat money and making the greenback system permanent. [14] However, Secretary of the Treasury McCulloch argued that the Legal Tender Acts had been war measures, and that the United States should soon reverse them and return to the gold standard. The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to endorse the Secretary's argument. [15] With an eventual return to gold convertibility in mind, the Funding Act of April 12, 1866 [16] was passed, authorizing McCulloch to retire $10 million of the Greenbacks within six months and up to $4 million per month thereafter. This he proceeded to do until only $356,000,000 were outstanding during February 1868. By this time, the wartime economic prosperity was ended, the crop harvest was poor, and a financial panic in Great Britain caused a recession and a sharp decrease of prices in the United States. [17] The contraction of the money supply was blamed for the deflationary effects, and caused debtors to agitate successfully for a halt to the notes' retirement. [18]

During the early 1870s, Treasury Secretaries George S. Boutwell and William Adams Richardson maintained that, though Congress had mandated $356,000,000 as the minimum Greenback circulation, the old Civil War statutes still authorized a maximum of $400,000,000 [nb 1] —and thus they had at their discretion a "reserve" of $44,000,000. While the Senate Finance Committee under John Sherman disagreed, being of the opinion that the $356,000,000 was a maximum as well as a minimum, no legislation was passed to assert the committee's opinion. Starting in 1872, Boutwell and Richardson used the "reserve" to counteract seasonal demands for currency, and eventually expanded the circulation of the Greenbacks to $382,000,000 in response to the Panic of 1873. [19]

Series of 1901 $10 Legal Tender depicting military explorers Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and an American bison. US-$10-LT-1901-Fr.114.jpg
Series of 1901 $10 Legal Tender depicting military explorers Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and an American bison.

In June 1874, Congress established a maximum for Greenback circulation of $382,000,000, and in January 1875, approved the Specie Payment Resumption Act, which authorized a reduction of the circulation of Greenbacks towards a revised limit of $300,000,000, and required the government to redeem them for gold, on demand, after January 1, 1879. As a result, the currency strengthened and by April 1876, the notes were on par with silver coins which then began to re-emerge into circulation. [20] On May 31, 1878, the contraction in the circulation was halted at $346,681,016—a level which would be maintained for almost 100 years afterwards. [21] While $346,681,016 was a significant figure at the time, it is now a very small fraction of the total currency in circulation in the United States. The year 1879 found Sherman, now Secretary of the Treasury, in possession of sufficient specie to redeem notes as requested, but as this brought the value of the greenbacks into parity with gold for the first time since the Specie Suspension of December 1861, the public voluntarily accepted the greenbacks as part of the circulating medium. [15]

While the United States Notes had been used as a form of debt issuance during the Civil War, afterwards they were used as a way of moderately influencing the money supply by the federal government—such as through the actions of Boutwell and Richardson. During the Panic of 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt attempted to increase liquidity in the markets by authorizing the Treasury to issue more Greenbacks, but the Aldrich–Vreeland Act provided for the needed flexibility by the National Bank Note supply instead. Eventually, the perceived need for an elastic currency was addressed with the Federal Reserve Notes authorized by the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, and attempts to alter the circulating quantity of United States Notes ended.

End of the United States Note

Soon after private ownership of gold was banned in 1933 (a ban that would be lifted in 1974), all of the remaining types of circulating currency, National Bank Notes, silver certificates, Federal Reserve Notes, and United States Notes, were redeemable by individuals only for silver. Eventually, even silver redemption stopped in June 1968, during a time in which all U.S. currency (both coins and paper currency) was changed to fiat currency. For the general public, there was then little to distinguish United States Notes from Federal Reserve Notes. As a result, the public circulation of United States Notes, in the form of $2 and $5 bills was discontinued in August 1966, and replaced with $5 Federal Reserve Notes and, eventually, $2 Federal Reserve Notes as well. United States Notes became rare in hand-to-hand commerce and also beginning in 1966, the Treasury converted the outstanding balance into new $100 United States Notes, the majority of which sat unissued in bank vaults. Series 1966 and Series 1966A $100 United States Notes were printed from 1966 to 1969, with distribution into public circulation officially ending January 21, 1971. [22] In September 1994, the Riegle Improvement Act released the Treasury from its long-standing obligation to keep United States Notes in circulation. Just prior to the Riegle act, the treasury considered releasing its large remaining stockpile of unissued $100 United States Notes into general circulation, but with the recently redesigned series 1996 $100 Federal Reserve Note, it was decided confusion would likely arise with the sudden appearance of two very different $100 notes in circulation. [23] The Treasury announced in 1996 that the remaining stock of $100 United States Notes had been destroyed. [24]

Comparison to Federal Reserve Notes

Both United States Notes and Federal Reserve Notes have been legal tender since the gold recall of 1933. Both have been used in circulation as money in the same way. However, the issuing authority for them came from different statutes. [22] United States Notes are, depending on their issue, redeemable directly for precious metal – as after the specie resumption of 1879 which authorized federal officials to do so if requested. The difference between a United States Note and a Federal Reserve Note is that a United States Note represented a "bill of credit"[ clarification needed ] and, since it was issued by the government itself and does not involve either lending or borrowing, was inserted by the Treasury directly into circulation free of interest. Federal Reserve Notes are not backed either by precious metals or the full faith of the United States government. The twelve Federal Reserve Banks issue them into circulation pursuant to the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. A commercial bank belonging to the Federal Reserve System can obtain Federal Reserve Notes from the Federal Reserve Bank in its district whenever it wishes. It must pay for them in full, dollar for dollar, by drawing down its account with its district Federal Reserve Bank. [22]


United States Note size change from large (gray) to small (green) with plate position letters. The slightly smaller modern Federal Reserve Note (blue) super-imposed on bottom left 1928-size note. United States Note change from large to small size with plate position.svg
United States Note size change from large (gray) to small (green) with plate position letters. The slightly smaller modern Federal Reserve Note (blue) super-imposed on bottom left 1928-size note.

Like all U.S. currency, United States Notes were produced in a large sized format until 1929, at which time the notes' sizes were reduced to the small-size format of the present day. [nb 2] Per the Treasury Department Appropriation Bill of 1929, notes issued before October 1928 were 7+716 × 3+964 inches and later issues were to be 6+516 × 2+1116 inches, which allowed the Treasury Department to produce 12 notes per 16+14 × 13+14 inch sheet of paper that previously would yield 8 notes at the old size. [26]

The original large-sized Civil War issues were dated 1862 and 1863, and issued in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $500 and $1,000. [27] The United States Notes were dramatically redesigned for the Series of 1869, the so-called Rainbow Notes. The notes were again redesigned for the Series of 1874, 1875 and 1878. The Series of 1878 included, for the first and last time, notes of $5,000 and $10,000 denominations. The final across-the-board redesign of the large-sized notes was the Series of 1880. Individual denominations were redesigned in 1901, 1907, 1917 and 1923.

On small-sized United States Notes, the U.S. Treasury Seal and the serial numbers are printed in red (contrasting with Federal Reserve Notes, where they appear in green). By the time the treasury adopted the small-size format in 1928, the Federal Reserve System had existed for fifteen years and there had been a decline in the need for United States Notes; the notes were mainly issued in $2 and $5 denominations in the Series years of 1928, 1953, and 1963. There was a limited issue of $1 notes in the Series of 1928, most of which were released in 1948 in Puerto Rico, and an issue of $100 notes in the Series year of 1966, mainly to satisfy the legacy legal requirement of maintaining the mandated quantity in circulation after the $2 and $5 denominations had been discontinued in August 1966. The BEP also printed but did not issue $10 notes in the 1928 Series. An example was displayed at the 1933 Worlds Fair in Chicago.

Section 5119(b)(2) of Title 31, United States Code, was amended by the Riegle Community Development and Regulatory Improvement Act of 1994 (Public Law 103–325) to read as follows: "The Secretary shall not be required to reissue United States currency notes upon redemption." This does not change the legal tender status of United States Notes nor does it require a recall of those notes already in circulation. This provision means that United States Notes are to be canceled and destroyed but not reissued. This will eventually result in a decrease in the amount of these notes outstanding. [28]

Large-size United States Notes (1862–1923)

Complete type set of United States Notes (aka Legal Tender)
ValueYearFr. # [29] ImagePortrait [nb 3]
$11862–63Fr.16c US-$1-LT-1862-Fr-16c.jpg Salmon P. Chase
(Joseph P. Ourdan) [30]
$11869Fr.18 US-$1-LT-1869-Fr-18.jpg George Washington
$11878Fr.27 US-$1-LT-1878-Fr-27.jpg George Washington
$11880Fr.29 US-$1-LT-1880-Fr-29.jpg George Washington
$21862–63Fr.41 US-$2-LT-1862-Fr-41.jpg Alexander Hamilton
$21869Fr.42 US-$2-LT-1869-Fr-42.jpg Thomas Jefferson
$21875Fr.47 US-$2-LT-1875-Fr-47.jpg Thomas Jefferson
$21880Fr.52 US-$2-LT-1880-Fr-52.jpg Thomas Jefferson
$51862–63Fr.61a US-$5-LT-1862-Fr-61a.jpg Freedom
(Owen G. Hanks, eng; Thomas Crawford, art) [31]
Alexander Hamilton
$51869Fr.64 US-$5-LT-1869-Fr.64.jpg Andrew Jackson
$51875Fr.68 US-$5-LT-1875-Fr-68.jpg Andrew Jackson
$51880Fr.72 US-$5-LT-1880-Fr-72.jpg Andrew Jackson
$101862–63Fr.95b US-$10-LT-1863-Fr-95b.jpg Abraham Lincoln
(Frederick Girsch); [32]
Eagle; Art
$101869Fr.96 US-$10-LT-1869-Fr-96.jpg Daniel Webster
$101875Fr.98 US-$10-LT-1875-Fr-98.jpg Daniel Webster
$101880Fr.102 US-$10-LT-1880-Fr-102.jpg Daniel Webster
$101901Fr.114 US-$10-LT-1901-Fr.114.jpg Lewis & Clark
$101923Fr.123 US-$10-LT-1923-Fr-123.jpg Andrew Jackson
$201862–63Fr.126b US-$20-LT-1863-Fr-126b.jpg Liberty
$201869Fr.127 US-$20-LT-1869-Fr-127.jpg Alexander Hamilton
$201875Fr.128 US-$20-LT-1875-Fr-128.jpg Alexander Hamilton
$201880Fr.145 US-$20-LT-1880-Fr-145.jpg Alexander Hamilton
$501862–63Fr.148a US-$50-LT-1862-Fr-148a.jpg Alexander Hamilton
(Joseph P. Ourdan) [33]
$501869Fr.151 US-$50-LT-1869-Fr-151.jpg Henry Clay
$501874Fr.152 US-$50-LT-1874-Fr-152.jpg Benjamin Franklin
$501880Fr.164 US-$50-LT-1880-Fr.164.jpg Benjamin Franklin
$1001862–63Fr.167 US-$100-LT-1863-Fr-167.jpg Vignette spread eagle
(Joseph P. Ourdan) [34]
$1001869Fr.168 US-$100-LT-1869-Fr-168.jpg Abraham Lincoln
$1001878Fr.171 US-$100-LT-1878-Fr-171.jpg Abraham Lincoln
$1001880Fr.181 US-$100-LT-1880-Fr-181.jpg Abraham Lincoln
$5001862–63Fr.183c US-$500-LT-1863-Fr-183c.jpg Albert Gallatin
$5001869Fr.184 US-$500-LT-1869-Fr-184.jpg John Quincy Adams
(Charles Burt) [35]
$5001875Fr.185b US-$500-LT-1875-Fr-185b.jpg Joseph K. Mansfield
$5001880Fr.185l US-$500-LT-1880-Fr-185l.jpg Joseph K. Mansfield
$1,0001862–63Fr.186e US-$1000-LT-1863-Fr-186e.jpg Robert Morris
(Charles Schlecht)
$1,0001869Fr.186f DeWitt Clinton
$1,0001878Fr.187a US-$1000-LT-1878-Fr-187a.jpg DeWitt Clinton
$1,0001880Fr.187k US-$1000-LT-1880-Fr-187k.jpg DeWitt Clinton
$5,0001878Fr.188 US-$5000-LT-1878-Fr.188-PROOF.jpg James Madison
$10,0001878Fr.189 US-$10000-LT-1878-Fr.189-PROOF.jpg Andrew Jackson

Series 1928 United States Notes

United States Notes – First small-size issue, Series 1928 (Smithsonian Institution)
ImageValueDimensionsMain Color
US-$1-LT-1928-Fr.1500.jpg $1 United States Note6.140 in × 2.610 in (155.956 mm × 66.294 mm)Green; Black George Washington Stylized "One Dollar"
US-$2-LT-1928-Fr.1501.jpg $2 United States Note6.140 in × 2.610 in (155.956 mm × 66.294 mm)Green; Black Thomas Jefferson Monticello
US-$5-LT-1928-Fr.1525.jpg $5 United States Note6.140 in × 2.610 in (155.956 mm × 66.294 mm)Green; Black Abraham Lincoln Lincoln Memorial

Series 1953 United States Notes

United States Notes – Small-size issue, Series 1953
ImageValueDimensionsMain Color
Series 1953 US two-dollar bill obverse.jpg $2 United States Note6.140 in × 2.610 in (155.956 mm × 66.294 mm)Green; Black Thomas Jefferson Monticello
$5 United States Note6.140 in × 2.610 in (155.956 mm × 66.294 mm)Green; Black Abraham Lincoln Lincoln Memorial

Series 1963 United States Notes

United States Notes – Small-size issue, Series 1963
ImageValueDimensionsMain Color
$2 United States Note6.140 in × 2.610 in (155.956 mm × 66.294 mm)Green; Black Thomas Jefferson Monticello
US $5 1963 USN.jpg $5 United States Note6.140 in × 2.610 in (155.956 mm × 66.294 mm)Green; Black Abraham Lincoln Lincoln Memorial

Series 1966 United States Notes

United States Notes – Small-size issue, Series 1966
ImageValueDimensionsMain Color
US $100 United States Note 1966.jpg $100 United States Note6.140 in × 2.610 in (155.956 mm × 66.294 mm)Green; Black Benjamin Franklin Independence Hall

Public debt of the United States

As of December 2012, the U.S. Treasury calculates that $239 million in United States notes are in circulation and, in accordance with debt ceiling legislation, excludes this amount from the statutory debt limit of the United States. The $239 million excludes $25 million in United States Notes issued prior to July 1, 1929, determined pursuant to Act of June 30, 1961, 31 U.S.C. 5119, to have been destroyed or irretrievably lost. [36]

Politics and controversy

The United States Notes were introduced as fiat money rather than the precious metal medium of exchange that the United States had traditionally used. Their introduction was thus contentious.

The United States Congress had enacted the Legal Tender Acts during the U.S. Civil War when southern Democrats were absent from the Congress, and thus their Jacksonian hard money views were underrepresented. After the war, the Supreme Court ruled on the Legal Tender Cases to determine the constitutionality of the use of greenbacks. The 1870 case Hepburn v. Griswold found unconstitutional the use of greenbacks when applied to debts established prior to the First Legal Tender Act as the five Democrats on the Court, Nelson, Grier, Clifford, Field, and Chase, ruled against the Civil War legislation in a 5–3 decision. Secretary Chase had become Chief Justice of the United States and a Democrat, and spearheaded the decision invalidating his own actions during the war. However, Grier retired from the Court, and President Grant appointed two new Republicans, Strong and Bradley, who joined the three sitting Republicans, Swayne, Miller, and Davis, to reverse Hepburn, 5–4, in the 1871 cases Knox v. Lee and Parker v. Davis . In 1884, the Court, controlled 8–1 by Republicans, granted the federal government very broad power to issue Legal Tender paper through the case Juilliard v. Greenman , with only the lone remaining Democrat, Field, dissenting. [19]

The states in the far west stayed loyal to the Union, but also had hard money sympathies. During the specie suspension from 1862 to 1878, western states used the gold dollar as a unit of account whenever possible and accepted greenbacks at a discount wherever they could. [3] The preferred forms of paper money were gold certificates and National Gold Bank Notes, the latter having been created specifically to address the desire for hard money in California.

During the 1870s and 1880s, the Greenback Party existed for the primary purpose of advocating an increased circulation of United States Notes as a way of creating inflation according to the quantity theory of money. However, as the 1870s unfolded, the market price of silver decreased with respect to gold, and inflationists found a new cause in the Free Silver movement. Opposition to the resumption of specie convertibility of the Greenbacks during 1879 was accordingly muted.

See also


  1. While the three Legal Tender Acts had authorized $450,000,000 of notes, the Second Legal Tender Act, in taking the total from $150,000,000 to $300,000,000 had reserved $50,000,000 of the increase for the purpose of redeeming balances in a temporary deposit program. The Act of June 30, 1864, reiterated this limitation, and as the temporary loan program had ceased to exist, only $400,000,000 of the $450,000,000 ceiling were available.
  2. Large size notes represent the earlier types or series of U.S. banknotes. Their "average" dimension is 7.375  in × 3.125  in (187  mm × 79  mm ). Small size notes (described as such due to their size relative to the earlier large size notes) are an "average" 6.125 in × 2.625 in (156 mm × 67 mm), the size of modern U.S. currency. "Each measurement is ±0.08 in (2 mm) to account for margins and cutting". [25]
  3. Names in parentheses are either the engravers or artists responsible for the concept and/or initial design.


    1. Friedberg, Arthur L. and Ira S., 2006, Paper Money of the United States, 18th Edition, Clifton, NJ, The Coin & Currency Institute, Inc. ISBN   0-87184-518-0
    2. United States Congress. Act of July, 17 1861 Chapter V. Washington D.C.: 1861
    3. 1 2 3 4 Mitchell, Wesley Clair, "A History of the Greenbacks With Special Reference To the Economic Consequences of Their Issue 1862–65", University of Chicago, Chicago, 1903.
    4. Chittenden, L.E., Recollections of President Lincoln and His Administration, Harper & Brothers, New York, 1891.
    5. D.S. & Heidler, J.T. (2000). Heidler, Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: a political, social, and military history (p. 1168). New York, NY: W.W. Norton
    6. McPherson, J.M. (1988). Battle cry of freedom: the Civil War era (p.445). New York, NY: Oxford University Press
    7. Spaulding, E.G. (1869). History of the legal tender paper money issued during the great rebellion (p.29). Buffalo, NY: Express Printing.
    8. ch. 33, 12  Stat.   345
    9. ch. 142, 12  Stat.   532
    10. United States Congress. Resolution of January 17, 1863, No. 9. Washington D.C.: 1863
    11. ch. 73, 12  Stat.   709
    12. Backus, Charles K., "The Contraction of the Currency", The Honest Money League of the Northwest, Chicago, 1878.
    13. "How much currency is circulating in the economy, and how much of it is counterfeit? Is currency included in the money supply statistics?". Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Retrieved January 16, 2022.
    14. Carey, Henry Charles (March 1865) The Way to Outdo England Without Fighting Her
    15. 1 2 "United States Notes", John Joseph Lalor, Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States, Rand McNally & Co, Chicago, 1881.
    16. United States Congress. Act of April 12, 1866 Chapter XXXIII. Washington D.C.: 1866
    17. Studenski, Paul; Krooss, Hermand Edward (1952). Financial History of the United States, New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. ISBN   1-58798-175-0.
    18. The Greenback Question. Retrieved May 30, 2009.
    19. 1 2 Timberlake, Richard H.(1993). Monetary Policy in the United States: An Intellectual and Institutional History, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN   978-0-226-80384-5.
    20. Bowers, Q. David; David Sundman (2006). 100 GREATEST AMERICAN CURRENCY NOTES, Atlanta, Georgia: Whitman Publishing. ISBN   0-7948-2006-9.
    21. The National Balance Sheet; It Includes $71,000,000 of Debits Which Might Well Be Dropped" New York Times May 24, 1903, Sunday
    22. 1 2 3 U.S. Treasury – FAQ: Legal Tender Status
    23. Riegle Community Development and Regulatory Improvement Act of 1994, see Sec. 602(f)(4)
    24. Hessler, Gene and Chambliss, Carlson (2006). The Comprehensive Catalog of U.S. Paper Money, 7th edition, Port Clinton, Ohio: BNR Press ISBN   0-931960-66-5.
    25. Friedberg, p. 7.
    26. Treasury Department Appropriation Bill, 1929. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1928. p. 105.
    27. "Chronology of Large-Size Notes". www.uspapermoney.info. Retrieved June 6, 2009.
    28. "Historical Legislation - Riegle Improvement Act". www.bep.treas.gov. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, U.S. Department of the Treasury. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
    29. Friedberg numbering system, http://www.panix.com/~clay/currency/catalog-numbers.html
    30. Hessler, 2004, p. 24.
    31. Hessler, 2004, p. 20.
    32. Hessler, 2004, p. 22.
    33. Hessler, 2004, p. 27.
    34. Hessler, 2004, p. 28.
    35. Hessler, 2004, p. 36.
    36. "Monthly Statement of the Public Debt of the United States" (PDF). United States Treasury Department. December 31, 2012. Retrieved January 8, 2013.

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    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Federal Reserve Note</span> Current paper currency of the United States

    Federal Reserve Notes, also United States banknotes, are the currently issued banknotes of the United States dollar. The United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing produces the notes under the authority of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and issues them to the Federal Reserve Banks at the discretion of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. The Reserve Banks then circulate the notes to their member banks, at which point they become liabilities of the Reserve Banks and obligations of the United States.

    Legal tender is a form of money that courts of law are required to recognize as satisfactory payment for any monetary debt. Each jurisdiction determines what is legal tender, but essentially it is anything which when offered ("tendered") in payment of a debt extinguishes the debt. There is no obligation on the creditor to accept the tendered payment, but the act of tendering the payment in legal tender discharges the debt.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">United States ten-dollar bill</span> Current denomination of United States currency

    The United States ten-dollar bill ($10) is a denomination of U.S. currency. The obverse of the bill features the portrait of Alexander Hamilton, who served as the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. The reverse features the U.S. Treasury Building. All $10 bills issued today are Federal Reserve Notes.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">United States one-hundred-dollar bill</span> Current denomination of United States currency

    The United States one-hundred-dollar bill ($100) is a denomination of United States currency. The first United States Note with this value was issued in 1862 and the Federal Reserve Note version was launched in 1914, alongside other denominations. Statesman, inventor, diplomat, and American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin has been featured on the obverse of the bill since 1914. On the reverse of the banknote is an image of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, which has been used since 1928. The $100 bill is the largest denomination that has been printed and circulated since July 13, 1969, when the larger denominations of $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000 were retired. As of December 2018, the average life of a $100 bill in circulation is 22.9 years before it is replaced due to wear.

    Large denominations of United States currency greater than $100 were circulated by the United States Treasury until 1969. Since then, U.S. dollar banknotes have been issued in seven denominations: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Silver certificate (United States)</span> Type of United States paper currency used between 1878 and 1964

    Silver certificates are a type of representative money issued between 1878 and 1964 in the United States as part of its circulation of paper currency. They were produced in response to silver agitation by citizens who were angered by the Fourth Coinage Act, which had effectively placed the United States on a gold standard. The certificates were initially redeemable for their face value of silver dollar coins and later in raw silver bullion. Since 1968 they have been redeemable only in Federal Reserve Notes and are thus obsolete, but still valid legal tender at their face value and thus are still an accepted form of currency.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Gold certificate (United States)</span> Certificate of ownership that gold owners held instead of storing the actual gold

    Gold certificates were issued by the United States Treasury as a form of representative money from 1865 to 1933. While the United States observed a gold standard, the certificates offered a more convenient way to pay in gold than the use of coins. General public ownership of gold certificates was outlawed in 1933 and since then they have been available only to the Federal Reserve Banks, with book-entry certificates replacing the paper form.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">National Bank Note</span> Retired US currency banknotes issued by National banks chartered by the US Government

    National Bank Notes were United States currency banknotes issued by National Banks chartered by the United States Government. The notes were usually backed by United States bonds the bank deposited with the United States Treasury. In addition, banks were required to maintain a redemption fund amounting to five percent of any outstanding note balance, in gold or "lawful money." The notes were not legal tender in general, but were satisfactory for nearly all payments to and by the federal government.

    Federal Reserve Bank Notes are banknotes that are legal tender in the United States issued between 1915 and 1934, together with United States Notes, Silver Certificates, Gold Certificates, National Bank Notes and Federal Reserve Notes. They were specified in the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and had the same value as other kinds of notes of similar value. Federal Reserve Bank Notes are different from Federal Reserve Notes in that they are backed by one of the twelve Federal Reserve Banks, rather than by all collectively. Federal Reserve Bank Notes were envisioned as a replacement for National Bank Notes, but that did not prove to be the case. They were backed in a similar way to National Bank Notes, using U.S. bonds, but issued by Federal Reserve banks instead of by chartered National banks. Federal Reserve Bank Notes are no longer issued; the only U.S. banknotes still in production since 1971 are the Federal Reserve Notes.

    The history of the United States dollar began with moves by the Founding Fathers of the United States of America to establish a national currency based on the Spanish silver dollar, which had been in use in the North American colonies of the Kingdom of Great Britain for over 100 years prior to the United States Declaration of Independence. The new Congress's Coinage Act of 1792 established the United States dollar as the country's standard unit of money, creating the United States Mint tasked with producing and circulating coinage. Initially defined under a bimetallic standard in terms of a fixed quantity of silver or gold, it formally adopted the gold standard in 1900, and finally eliminated all links to gold in 1971.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Demand Note</span> Type of United States paper money

    A Demand Note is a type of United States paper money that was issued from August 1861 to April 1862 during the American Civil War in denominations of 5, 10, and 20 US$. Demand Notes were the first issue of paper money by the United States that achieved wide circulation and they are still in circulation today, though they are now extremely rare. The U.S. government placed the Demand Notes into circulation by using them to pay expenses incurred during the Civil War including the salaries of its workers and military personnel.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Compound interest treasury note</span>

    Compound interest treasury notes were emissions of the United States Treasury Department authorized in 1863 and 1864 with aspects of both paper money and debt. They were issued in denominations of $10, $20, $50, $100, $500 and $1,000. While they were legal tender at face value, they were redeemable after three years with six percent annual interest compounded semi-annually. In the absence of efficient investment banks, the hybrid nature of these instruments allowed the government to directly distribute debt by paying the notes out to creditors as legal tender, and then relying on interest-seeking parties to eventually remove them from circulation in order to redeem them with interest at maturity. Thus, in theory, the notes did not contribute to monetary inflation as did the greenbacks.

    The Legal Tender Cases were two 1871 United States Supreme Court cases that affirmed the constitutionality of paper money. The two cases were Knox v. Lee and Parker v. Davis.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Greenback (1860s money)</span> Paper currency issued by the United States during the American Civil War

    Greenbacks were emergency paper currency issued by the United States during the American Civil War that were printed in green on the back. They were in two forms: Demand Notes, issued in 1861–1862, and United States Notes, issued in 1862–1865. A form of fiat money, the notes were legal tender for most purposes and carried varying promises of eventual payment in coin, but were not backed by existing gold or silver reserves.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">United States dollar</span> Official currency of the United States

    The United States dollar is the official currency of the United States and several other countries. The Coinage Act of 1792 introduced the U.S. dollar at par with the Spanish silver dollar, divided it into 100 cents, and authorized the minting of coins denominated in dollars and cents. U.S. banknotes are issued in the form of Federal Reserve Notes, popularly called greenbacks due to their predominantly green color.

    Bills of credit are documents similar to banknotes issued by a government that represent a government's indebtedness to the holder. They are typically designed to circulate as currency or currency substitutes. Bills of credit are mentioned in Article One, Section 10, Clause One of the United States Constitution, where their issuance by state governments is prohibited.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Treasury Note (19th century)</span> Type of short term debt instrument in the United States

    A Treasury Note is a type of short term debt instrument issued by the United States prior to the creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913. Without the alternatives offered by a federal paper money or a central bank, the U.S. government relied on these instruments for funding during periods of financial stress such as the War of 1812, the Panic of 1837, and the American Civil War. While the Treasury Notes, as issued, were neither legal tender nor representative money, some issues were used as money in lieu of an official federal paper money. However the motivation behind their issuance was always funding federal expenditures rather than the provision of a circulating medium. These notes typically were hand-signed, of large denomination, of large dimension, bore interest, were payable to the order of the owner, and matured in no more than three years – though some issues lacked one or more of these properties. Often they were receivable at face value by the government in payment of taxes and for purchases of publicly owned land, and thus "might to some extent be regarded as paper money." On many issues the interest rate was chosen to make interest calculations particularly easy, paying either 1, 1+12, or 2 cents per day on a $100 note.

    Banknotes of the United States dollar are currently issued as Federal Reserve Notes (1914–).

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">United States two-dollar bill</span> Current denomination of United States currency

    The United States two-dollar bill ($2) is a current denomination of United States currency. A portrait of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States (1801–1809), is featured on the obverse of the note. The reverse features an engraving of the circa 1818 painting Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull.


    Further reading