History of the 2 Dollar Bill

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Currency’s history, for some, is profoundly tantalizing stuff, for most others, probably, not so much. There are a few notes of US currency, though, that have continuously seemed to have giving rise to a sort of underground interest among folks, most notorious among them being the US Two-Dollar Bill.

Lots of people seem to share an affection and general fondness toward this US currency note and, quite remarkably, perhaps even more people than that actually do not even know that they exist! Indeed, there are many websites devoted to the 2 dollar bill, and even this new site (link: twodollarbill.net) for effectively and efficiently tracking them all over the Usa. But how many are truly familiarized with the actual history of the US two-dollar bill? Let’s take a glimpse then, shall we?

The two-dollar bill was first printed in 1862, and originally featured a profile portrait of Alexander Hamilton on the front. In 1869 however, the former US Secretary of the Treasury was replaced by his political arch-nemesis of sorts, 3rd American President, Thomas Jefferson.

This was, however, far from the last changes this currency would receive, and that’s not just in regards to the portrait on the front. In fact, this is likely the most altered bill throughout the history of US currency. Throughout its over 150 year lifespan, this bill has carried quite a few different “note” references, including; United States Note, Treasury Note, Silver Certificate, and Federal Reserve Bank Note.

For a short time, civil-war General Winfield Scott Hancock took the obverse face of the note. At some point, another former US Treasury Secretary’s Portraiture embellished the bill, William Windom, taking the place of Hancock in 1891. Debatably, one of the most intriguing times for this bill was in 1896, when it was reissued again as the Educational Series, exhibiting symbolic depictions of the evolution, through science, of steam and electricity to the realms of manufacturing, and commerce.

The inverse held portraiture of both Robert Fulton, who brought us the steam engine, and Samuel Morse, for his significant additions in the field of electricity. From that point on, the bill’s imaging was altered another three times, and the bill was even terminated in August of 1966, before being renewed for a number of additional printings, all with assorted modifications being made. That’s definitely a vibrant and sorted history by any benchmark!

The next modification after the Educational Series of 1896, was in 1891, when President George Washington was featured. This was succeeded by yet another change in 1918, returning Thomas Jefferson to the obverse of the note, with a WWI battleship on the inverse side. Then, in 1929, the bill was re-sized to its present measurements and the image on the backside was replaced to Thomas Jefferson’s well-known home, Monticello. This version endured for several decades until, in 1966, the two-dollar bill met its unfortunate ruination when it was formally scrubed.

This bill is hard to kill it seems, as in 1976, it was brought back for the Bicentennial, featuring a version of John Turnbull’s “The Signing of the Declaration of Independence” on the reverse side. There were two more series after that, with one in 1995, and the current series, which was most recently printed in 2003. The two-dollar bill, despite its tenacious history, is a low demand bill, as is printed less often, and in lower quantities than other bills. The two-dollar bill makes up only about 1 % of all paper bills being made by the US Treasury, which may just add to its mystique. There are some great photos of the various two-dollar bills posted on the Wikipedia site, for visual reference, if needed.

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