menotomyjournal menotomyjournal menotomyjournal menotomyjournal menotomyjournal menotomyjournal

A History of American Currency

The US dollar is perhaps the most popular currency today. It is difficult to find a person who does not know what the American dollar is, what it looks like, and how much it costs relative to their country's currency. But the dollar has not always existed. And it has come a long way to becoming a global currency.

While living under English authority, early American colonists used English, Spanish, and French coins. However, the Continental Congress approved the issuance of currency to fund the Revolutionary War in 1775 when it became clear that it would not be avoided. Paul Revere created the initial plates for this "Continental Currency." It could be exchanged for Spanish Milled Dollars. The expression "not worth a Continental" originated with the depreciation of this currency.

The "Mint Act" of April 2, 1792, passed by Congress after the US Constitution was ratified, created the country's coinage system and the dollar as its primary currency unit. The United States became the first nation in the world to accept the decimal currency system thanks to this Act. The Philadelphia Mint produced the first American coins in 1793 and presented them to Martha Washington.

The Government did not issue paper money until 1861. In the interim years, however, the Government did issue "Treasury notes" intermittently during periods of financial stress, such as the War of 1812, the Mexican War of 1846, and the Panic of 1857.

The Government first printed "demand notes," often known as "greenbacks," as paper money. However, Congress stopped issuing demand notes in 1862 and started issuing United States notes, often known as legal tender notes.

Five different batches of "silver certificates," with denominations ranging from $1 to $1,000, were printed in accordance with the Congressional Acts of 1878 and 1886. Because silver coins were unpopular due to their size and weight, the Treasury traded silver certificates for silver dollars. In 1923, the final batch of silver certificates was released.

Under the National Banks Acts of 1863 and 1864, the Government once more allowed thousands of banks to issue their own notes from 1863 until 1929. These were created on paper approved by the US government, went by the name "national bank notes," and featured the same basic layout.

The Federal Reserve Act, passed by Congress in 1913, created the Federal Reserve System in this country. The Federal Reserve Banks are permitted to issue Federal Reserve Bank notes under this Act. The first Federal Reserve notes are still produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing today.

Dollar Facts

  • Twenty-five percent linen and 75 percent cotton are used to create Federal Reserve notes. Tiny, blue, and red synthetic fibers of varying lengths are equally dispersed throughout currency paper.
  • To tear a banknote, you would need to fold it 4,000 times, backward and forwards.
  • According to estimates, between 50 and 70 percent of the value of all US cash in circulation is held outside of the country.
  • The biggest denomination ever issued was the $100,000 Gold Certificate, which was introduced in 1934. It was never meant for general consumption. It was designed only for business between Federal Reserve Banks.
  • Have you heard of the term "dirty money"? Paper money is physically dirty because 94% of the notes have bacteria on them, and 7% of the notes have harmful pathogens.
  • The motto "In God We Trust" first appeared on coins during the Civil War. It has been affixed to all coins since 1955.
  • The image of the "All-Seeing Eye" was added as a reflection of divine providence, and the Latin phrase "A new order of the ages" (NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM) beneath the pyramid on the $1 bill implies the same thing.
  • A $1 bill was designed to represent the first 13 colonies and includes 13 arrows, 13 leaves, 13 stars, and 13 stripes.

This website serves as a memorial to the Massachuset, a lost people -- nearly forgotten by history. We bring you their stories to honor them. We celebrate their perseverance by sharing with you their heroic struggle for survival.

May the lessons we have learned from the story of the Massachuset echo through the ages.