They are some of the most familiar faces in your life. You see them every day. When you go to lunch, fill up your tank or go and catch a movie, they’re right there. Yet many of us don’t know who they really are or what it is exactly that they did.
What am I talking about? The thing most worth talking about, of course. Money. Or, more specifically, the presidents who appear on our money. If you want to know a little bit more about just who’s in your wallet, read on.
George Washington, The $1 Bill
Okay, so most of us know about General Washington, famous for establishing the United States as an independent republic, by leading the Continental Army to victory over the British. He was the first president of the United States to take office after the ratification of the constitution which still informs our laws today.
However, did you also know that, despite being land rich (he owned his own farm) Washington was often cash poor, and needed to borrow cash to make it to his first inauguration? He sat two terms in office and was offered a third, but turned it down, a decision which pre-empted the 22nd amendment (which states no one can serve more than two terms) by the best part of 200 hundred years.
Thomas Jefferson, The $2 Bill
Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States is best know for being one of the leading draughtsmen of the Declaration of Independence. A world leader in the field of human rights during his lifetime, Jefferson was an all rounder and could, apparently, dance, play violin, tie an artery, try a cause and calculate an eclipse.
There is a urban myth that coming into office in a year ending in 0, such as 1840, for instance, dooms a president as, coincidentally, many of the presidents elected in ‘0 years’ have died in office, including Lincoln, FDR and Kennedy. Jefferson was the first president elected in a ‘0 year’ and is an exception to the rule.
Abraham Lincoln, The $5 Bill
Honest Abe, as he’s affectionately known, was the first president to wear a beard whilst in office and, setting a more widely followed, if not more morbid precedent, was also the first to be assassinated.
Lincoln, who came from a humble back ground, is remembered best for defeating the south during the US civil war, an achievement which served as a spring board for the Emancipation Declaration, which freed confederate slaves. Unfortunately, it would remain the biggest leap made in civil rights for quite some time following Abe’s untimely death.
Alexander Hamilton, The $10 Bill
Alexander who? Hamilton, is possibly the least famous of the founding fathers. However, he features on the lowest domination, and therefore most commonly used bill of any non-president. A big fan of strong, federal government, Hamilton was no fan of Jefferson.
Still, that’s nothing compared to how he got on with Jefferson’s right hand man, Aaron Burr, who, as the climax of a political feud, dealt Hamilton a mortal wound in a duel with pistols. Sarah Palin take note.
Andrew Jackson, The $20 Bill
Duels are obviously a popular theme amongst this crowd and, as a result of a pistol duel, Andrew Jackson makes the exclusive list of US presidents that have killed a man. To be fair he was also a war hero, and was elected on the strength of being good in do or die situations.
Jackson, understandably, had a reputation as being a bit rough. John Qunicy Adams, the President Jackson ran out of office, described him as “a barbarian […] barley capable of writing his own name.” Ouch.
U.S Grant, The $50 Bill
There is a lot to admire about U.S Grant. For one thing, the U stands for Ulysses, which is, in of it self, brilliant. It gets better though. He was baptized as Hiram Ulysses Grant, but, when he arrived at the West Point military training academy, found he’d been registered as Ulysses Simpson, and decided to stick with the new arrangement…Way to roll with the punches!
One of Lincoln’s choice military leaders during the Civil War, Grant’s initials served him well when his hard-line, relentless tactics earned him the nick name, Unconditional Surrender Grant.
Benjamin Franklin, The $100
The big one, the nice crisp hundred, is reserved for none other than Benjamin Franklin, one of the most famous ever Americans not to be President. Franklin amongst other things, signed the declaration of independence, served as a post officer, founded America’s first fire insurance firm and invented his own design of spectacles. Oh, there was also that thing with the kite, and the lightening and what not.
Amongst Franklin’s numerous gifts to the world are a number of famous homilies and expressions including; “early to bed, early to rise”, “a penny saved is a penny earned” and perhaps most pertinently “only two things in life are certain; death and taxes.” A quote you might dwell on when pondering how many ‘Franklins’ you hand over to the IRS every year.
Guest Post Joe Thorpe advises on financial issues on his site Borrowers Recommend to help people make the very best decisions when choosing personal finance products.
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