What President Is On 10-Dollar Bill? If you’ve ever taken a close look at a 10-dollar bill, you may have noticed the face of one of America’s iconic presidents – Alexander Hamilton. But was Hamilton actually a president? If not, why is he featured on the 10-dollar bill?

This article will provide a detailed background on the history behind the portraits on US paper currency.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, is featured on the 10-dollar bill. Although he was never president, his position and policies had an enormous impact on the early US financial system and economy.

Brief History of US Paper Currency Portraits

Early paper currency portraits

The first president to appear on US paper currency was Abraham Lincoln in 1914 when his portrait was added to the $5 Federal Reserve Note. Before that, many paper currency designs featured allegorical figures like Lady Liberty or depictions of Native Americans.

Putting historical figures on paper money was still a novelty at the time.

Changes over time

Over the next few decades, portraits were added to more denominations like the $10 bill featuring Alexander Hamilton in 1928. But things changed in 1929 when the Treasury Department decided paper money should depict only past presidents, replacing figures like Pocahontas.

Since then, the portraits on bills have remained fairly consistent, with only minor design tweaks over time.

There have been a few changes though. For example, in 1946 the portraits were made larger and moved off-center, leaving more open space. Color was eventually added, with green used on the backs starting in 1929.

Recent redesigns

In 2020, imagery honoring women’s suffrage and civil rights was added to the $10 and $5 bills. This brought more diversity and modern symbolism to paper currency while keeping the traditional presidential portraits.

Going forward, further redesigns will likely focus on honoring additional notable historical figures who reflect America’s rich and complex history.

But even with minor changes over time, the tradition of honoring past presidents lives on. George Washington continues to grace the front of the $1 bill over 200 years after the first Federal paper money was issued.

And it seems the iconic portraits of figures like Abraham Lincoln and Alexander Hamilton will remain on America’s paper currency for generations to come. Their places in history and prominence on the most widely circulated bills cement their legacies as founding fathers of the nation.

Alexander Hamilton’s Role as Treasury Secretary

Creating a national bank

As the first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton played a pivotal role in establishing the First Bank of the United States in 1791. This was America’s first-ever national bank, designed to handle the financial needs of the new federal government.

Hamilton believed a national bank was necessary to stabilize the nation’s economy and manage its debts (a view that put Hamilton at odds with Thomas Jefferson). The bank acted as a depository for government funds and processed tax payments, loaned money to the federal government, regulated state banks, and provided a standard form of currency.

Managing early US debt

Along with creating the national bank, Hamilton was instrumental in managing America’s substantial war debts in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War. At the time, the United States had a staggering $79 million in state and federal debt – an astronomical sum for the young nation.

As Treasury Secretary, Hamilton instituted a financial plan that refinanced state debts at below-market rates, which restored investor confidence. Through controversial taxes on imported goods, Hamilton was able to not only service federal and state debts, but restore the nation’s creditworthiness.

His deft management brought stability which proved crucial for the young nation.

Establishing the dollar

A centerpiece of Hamilton’s vision was establishing the dollar as the national currency. To create a standard monetary system, Hamilton passed the Coinage Act in 1792, which mandated coins, usually silver or gold, be imprinted with symbols of liberty and denominations in dollars.

This resulted in the first official United States dollars being produced in 1794 at the Philadelphia Mint. Hamilton chose the dollar as it was an adaptable unit already widely used in the colonies. His Currency Act of 1793 officially demonetized foreign coins as legal tender, to solidify the dollar’s status.

Thanks in large part to Hamilton’s measures, the dollar was on its way to becoming America’s – and eventually the world’s – dominant currency.

Why Hamilton Ended Up on the 10-Dollar Bill

His policies laid the foundation of the US economy

As the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton instituted several monumental policies that established America’s economy and financial system as we know it today. He was the mastermind behind proposals that led to the creation of the First Bank of the United States, the tax on whiskey, and the establishment of the U.S. Mint and the dollar as currency.

Hamilton understood early on that for the young nation to thrive economically, it needed financial stability and creditworthiness. His clever plans and bold reforms were pivotal in centralizing finances, managing debt from the Revolutionary War, and gaining credibility with foreign nations.

Without Hamilton’s vision, the U.S. economy may have struggled in those formative years.

In today’s complex world of global banking and digital transactions, it’s easy to take the basics for granted. But we owe the origins of our financial bedrock largely to Hamilton’s forward-thinking blueprint when he served under President Washington over 200 years ago.

No wonder his portrait wound up on one of our most ubiquitous banknotes.

He was killed in an infamous duel in 1804

In addition to his monumental impact on American economics, Alexander Hamilton met his tragic end in one of history’s most legendary duels. In 1804, long-standing personal and political tensions between Hamilton and Aaron Burr came to a head when Burr challenged Hamilton to the infamous gun duel and fatally shot him at the site in Weehawken, New Jersey.

The nation was shocked that a Founding Father met his end in such dramatic fashion. The fact that dueling was illegal at the time made Hamilton’s death even more scandalous. The violent nature of Hamilton’s death, combined with his huge contributions to early America, etched his name in infamy and history.

His duel with Burr remains among the most renowned in world history, securing Hamilton’s legacy for generations to come.

10 dollar bill redesigned to feature Hamilton in 1929

Hamilton’s portrait has graced the front of the $10 bill since 1929 when the note was redesigned to feature a portrait of Hamilton instead of that of Andrew Jackson. This move symbolically promoted Hamilton as one of the most important Founding Fathers and acknowledged his vital role in founding America’s financial system.

For nearly a century since this redesign, Hamilton’s stoic gaze has stared back at us from 10-dollar bills as a daily reminder of his vision and contributions. Numerous redesigns of the $10 note have retained Hamilton’s prominent position into the 21st century.

He also appeared in several other denominations over the years.

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, around $1.7 billion of $10 notes featuring Hamilton’s portrait now circulate around the world. That incredible volume cements Hamilton’s place in history and pop culture perhaps like no other honor can.

Any pocket, purse, or cash register inevitably contains a little piece of Alexander Hamilton that persists over 200 years since his death.

Other Denominations and Who is Featured On Them

$1 – George Washington

The very first US president, George Washington, is featured on the front of the $1 bill. This founding father led the nation through the Revolutionary War and served as president from 1789-1797. Images of George Washington have graced the $1 bill since 1869, with only minor design changes over the years.

The back of the $1 bill displays the Great Seal of the United States.

$5 – Abraham Lincoln

Honest Abe Lincoln, the 16th president, is the face of the modern $5 bill. Lincoln was president during the American Civil War and is remembered for leading the North to victory and pushing through legislation to abolish slavery. He first appeared on the $5 bill in 1914.

The back of today’s $5 shows the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

$20 – Andrew Jackson

The nation’s 7th president Andrew Jackson is featured on the commonly used $20 bill. Jackson was president from 1829-1837 and was seen as a champion of the common man. He first graced the $20 in 1928, with only minor design updates since then. The White House is displayed on the back of the $20 bill.

$50 – Ulysses S. Grant

Civil War general and 18th president Ulysses S. Grant is on the seldom-seen $50 bill. Grant led the Union army to victory over the Confederate forces before being elected president in 1868. He served two terms, from 1869-1877. Grant first appeared on the $50 in 1913.

The US Capitol building is depicted on the back.

$100 – Benjamin Franklin

Founding father, inventor, and diplomat Benjamin Franklin is the distinguished face on the $100 bill. Although never president, Franklin was instrumental in gaining American independence from Britain. He became the figurehead of the $100 bill in 1914.

A quill pen and inkwell are drawn on the back of the $100, representing Franklin’s influential writing including Poor Richard’s Almanack.

Denomination President Featured Building on Back
$1 George Washington Great Seal of the US
$5 Abraham Lincoln Lincoln Memorial
$20 Andrew Jackson White House
$50 Ulysses S. Grant US Capitol
$100 Benjamin Franklin Quill Pen & Inkwell

It’s fascinating to consider how long these historic figures have been featured on our paper currency – George Washington dates back to the 1860s! Who knows if we’ll see a change in the familiar faces someday?

One thing’s for sure, as long as cash is around, we’ll continue seeing influential leaders from America’s story each time we open our wallets.

Future Changes Coming to US Currency

Harriet Tubman to be featured on $20 bill

In 2016, the U.S. Treasury announced plans to replace the portrait of President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with an image of abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Tubman was born into slavery but escaped in 1849, later becoming a leader in the abolitionist movement by helping hundreds of enslaved people find freedom via the Underground Railroad network.

Putting Tubman on the $20 bill would make her the first African American and the first woman to appear on U.S. paper currency in over 100 years.

The redesign was originally scheduled to be completed in time for the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote in 2020. However, in 2019 the Treasury Secretary announced that the new $20 bill would be delayed until 2028, citing counterfeiting issues and the need for advanced security features.

The decision was met with criticism from advocates calling for more gender and racial diversity reflected on the nation’s paper bills.

Plans to redesign $10 & $50 bills

In addition to the new $20 bill, the Treasury has also announced plans to redesign the $10 bill featuring Alexander Hamilton and the $50 bill featuring Ulysses S. Grant. Updated security features would be incorporated into these new designs to help curb counterfeiting threats.

However, no imagery changes or timeline details have been confirmed for either redesigned note at this stage.

Some advocates have called for replacing Grant on the $50 with an image of women’s suffrage pioneers such as Susan B. Anthony or Sojourner Truth. Others argue Grant deserves to stay for his important role as Union general securing the North’s victory in the Civil War and helping rebuild the nation during Reconstruction afterward as 18th president.

It remains to be seen whether the imagery or individuals depicted will change when the $10 and $50 bills get their security upgrades in the years ahead.

What President Is On 10-Dollar Bill – Conclusion

Alexander Hamilton never served as president, but as the first Secretary of the Treasury, he put policies in place that set up the foundations of America’s financial system. Given this enormous influence, Hamilton continues to be featured on the 10-dollar bill today.

However, we may see more changes to US currency in the coming years as historic female and civil rights leaders get added to higher denomination bills.

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