Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

United States Notes

United States Notes (characterized by a red seal and serial number) were the first national currency, authorized by the Legal Tender Act of 1862 and began circulating during the Civil War. The Treasury Department issued these notes directly into circulation, and they are obligations of the United States Government. The issuance of United States Notes is subject to limitations established by Congress. It established a statutory limitation of $300 million on the amount of United States Notes authorized to be outstanding and in circulation. While this was a significant figure in Civil War days, it is now a very small fraction of the total currency in circulation in the United States.

Both United States Notes and Federal Reserve notes are parts of the national currency of the United States and both are legal tender. They circulate as money in the same way. However, the issuing authority for them comes from different statutes. United States Notes were redeemable in gold until 1933, when the United States abandoned the gold standard. Since then, both currencies have served essentially the same purpose, and have had the same value. Because United States Notes serve no function that is not already adequately served by Federal Reserve Notes, their issuance was discontinued, and none have been placed in to circulation since January 21, 1971.

The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 authorized the production and circulation of Federal Reserve notes. Although the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) prints these notes, they move into circulation through the Federal Reserve System. They are obligations of both the Federal Reserve System and the United States Government. On Federal Reserve notes, the seals and serial numbers appear in green.


The following is a list of the portraits on all denominations of US notes (past as well as present):

Denomination U.S. Paper Currency Features
$1.00 George Washington (1st U.S. President) on front. Great Seal of the United States on back.
$2.00 Thomas Jefferson (3rd U.S. President) on front. Declaration of Independence on back.
$5.00 Abraham Lincoln (16th U.S. President) on front. Lincoln Memorial on back.
$10.00 Alexander Hamilton (1st U.S. Treasury Secretary) on front. U.S. Treasury Building on back.
$20.00 Andrew Jackson (7th U.S. President) on front. White House on back.
$50.00 Ulysses S. Grant (18th U.S. President) on front. U.S. Capitol on back.
$100.00 Benjamin Franklin on front. Independence Hall on back.
* $500.00 William McKinley (25th U.S. President) on front. $500 on back. Has not been printed since 1946.
* $1000.00 Grover Cleveland (22nd & 24th U.S. President) on front. "One Thousand Dollars" on back. Has not been printed since 1969.
* $5000.00 James Madison (4th U.S. President) on front. $5000 on back. Has not been printed since 1946.
* $10,000.00 Salmon P. Chase (25th U.S. Treasury Secretary) on front. $10,000 on back. Has not been printed since 1946.
* $100,000.00 Woodrow Wilson (28th U.S. President) on front. The largest note ever printed by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Printed from December 18, 1934 through January 9, 1935. Used for transactions between Federal Reserve Banks. Not circulated among the general public.

* No longer printed and being withdrawn from circulation.

See also: Federal Reserve notes, United States Dollar

Source: US Treasury Dept.