Why Do We Put Pictures of Dead People On Our Money?

 

money

Once we hit QE XXVIII or Bitcoin takes off this may be moot, but I think we can do better with our currency. Why do we act like U.S. Grant and Ben Franklin are some sort of leader-gods out of ancient times?  Frankly, I think most of the folks pictured on our coins and bills would be offended by the idea, (save FDR, who would probably argue he should be on a $500 bill).

How about we trade in our Hamiltons, Jacksons, and Franklins for money that pictures our ideals? I’m in no way suggesting that I want to replace dead Americans with made-up architectural renderings on monopoly money like they did with the Euro, but I’d ask that we go back to an earlier age where stylized versions of lady liberty graced the dollar. Wouldn’t this be a better message for our children? In a healthy republic leaders are not meant to be a modern aristocracy; they are supposed to be citizens who take a few years out of their business to work in government and then return home.

Changing symbolic pictures will obviously not eliminate the Weatherization Czar or cut off NPR’s funding, but I’m tired of accepting the other side’s premise on every issue. Instead of playing the “you have JFK on a coin so we want a Reagan toll way” game, we should deny the premise of the cult of personality. We are a republic of citizens governed by laws that are written by people, not a monarchy of subjects ruled by kings supposedly ordained by God. Why don’t we act like it?

(In no way is this an indictment of our properly named and economically priced three-tiered Ricochet membership system. Coolidge memberships start at about what an oil change at Jiffy Lube would run you. Wait until six thousand miles and pick up a Coolidge!)

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  1. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Putting past Presidents on money is pretty much a twentieth century thing.  Before that you had Indian-head pennies and nickels, Lady Liberty on dollar (and multi-dollar coins, and things like Mercury (a symbol of commerce) on dimes.

    Even bills had stuff other than Presidents (or other Founding Fathers). A $10 bill back in the 1890s had a buffalo where the portrait goes.

    The trend started with Lincoln on the penny, for the 50th anniversary of his death (or his election as President).  I think Washington came next.  Franklin Roosevelt’s death opened the floodgates with Roosevelt replacing Mercury, Kennedy on the half-dollar and Eisenhower on the dollar coin.

    I think the tradition of Presidents on currency started with the Federal Reserve Banks in 1912, but I am not sure.

    In the 18th and 19th century the idea of putting actual people on money (as opposed to symbolic Lady Liberties) was viewed as artifacts of monarchy – too European for Republican America.

    Seawriter

    • #1
  2. 10 cents Member
    10 cents
    @

    Pleated,

    I want to take this thread seriously. I would like to explain in detail why this is the case. In order to do this would you please send me the various denominations and I will study them. Proper research is important. Due to weight restrictions, I think just the paper money is best. Postage can be expensive.

    • #2
  3. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    Years ago I wrote a bit on Facebook about who was on each of the bills, and who should be on each of the bills.  It was a fun exercise.  I have no problem with dead presidents being on the paper money, I think it honors them.  It also gives us an opportunity, on a daily basis, the think about them, and talk about them.  The only thing I think they should do is eliminate Jackson, and put Reagan on the 20.

    • #3
  4. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    Seawriter – thanks for all the historical details. Maybe not in terms of the lack of indoor plumbing, but in some other ways I miss the 19th century

    • #4
  5. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    10 cents – I’ll trade you some dollars for yen but at the rate the yen is depreciating you better overnight it to me

    • #5
  6. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    Spin – what about living presidents on money? We already name ships after them :) I think we need to draw the line at no images of actual people on the currency

    • #6
  7. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Wait-What-Is that Homer Simpson?-Is he dead? When did that happen?

    • #7
  8. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    MarciN – good point. I was debating between that picture or one from the Simpsons where Truman makes a trillion dollar bill. I thought this on was more amusing and went for the cheap laugh

    • #8
  9. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Pleated Pants Forever:MarciN – good point.I was debating between that picture or one from the Simpsons where Truman makes a trillion dollar bill.I thought this on was more amusing and went for the cheap laugh

    Great with my morning coffee. Thank you.  :)

    So, great Ricochet: Is it better to live out life as a cartoon character and never die or to never have lived at all?

    • #9
  10. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Pleated Pants Forever:Spin – what about living presidents on money?We already name ships after them :)I think we need to draw the line at no images of actual people on the currency

    We have always named United States Navy warships after living Presidents.  One of the first warships commissioned (in 1798) was the George Washington. By 1800 we had two frigates named after John Adams (Adams and John Adams). Yes, both were in commission at the same time. During the War of 1812 there were major warships named Jefferson and Madison.

    Seawriter

    • #10
  11. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    Seawriter – I should have known better than to make a ship reference with the nautical guru of Galveston in the neighborhood. I suppose I would have been in the minority regarding ship naming conventions even in 1798

    • #11
  12. george.tobin@yahoo.com Moderator
    george.tobin@yahoo.com
    @OldBathos

    Images of respected past leaders convey a sense of gravitas and the illusion that the government issuing the bill is sound and in keeping with the character and values of the fellow pictured.  It is a now-traditional rather innocuous con.

    • #12
  13. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    Old Bathos – agree that that is much of the concept. I would argue that the act of putting Washington or Franklin on a bill shows we are not keeping with their values

    • #13
  14. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Pleated Pants Forever: Why do we put Pictures of Dead People on our Money?

    1) Because putting pictures of live people would be even more unseemly. I don’t even like it when living people get roads, bridges, or buildings named after ’em.

    2) Have you seen the Euro banknotes that feature images of architectural elements that sorta kinda “resemble” real places but are in fact entirely fictional? That’s the alternative.

    • #14
  15. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    Misthiocracy – agree that the Euro images are a joke. No offense, but I’m not a big fan of that goose (or whatever it is) on the Canadian dollar either. My choice would be to go back to the days of lady liberty on the currency

    • #15
  16. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Pleated Pants Forever:Misthiocracy – agree that the Euro images are a joke.No offense, but I’m not a big fan of that goose (or whatever it is) on the Canadian dollar either.My choice would be to go back to the days of lady liberty on the currency

    You will love the loon!!!

    ;-)

    • #16
  17. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    Several years ago when the government was trying to decide what to put on the tail side of the gold-colored dollar coin I had a non-traditional idea.  Since the die has to be changed every year anyway (to show the year it was minted), why not have a different design every year?  Something that the government could make some money off of?

    The idea would be to hold an auction each year and the winner would have their logo or design on the coin for that year.  One year it might be Ford, the next year IBM, the next year Amazon.com.  To ensure variety, the rules would stipulate that if you have won the auction, you couldn’t bid again for ten years, so we wouldn’t have nothing but Apple dollars for several years straight.

    • #17
  18. carlboraca@gmail.com Inactive
    carlboraca@gmail.com
    @PleatedPantsForever

    Randy Weivoda – an interesting idea but, if there were demand for such a product, what would stop the company ftom just making silver or gold coins now? Based on previous post results it would seem that there are enough Apple nuts on Ricochet alone (lead by James Lileks) that if an Apple coin were economical, they would have already bought it

    • #18
  19. user_494971 Contributor
    user_494971
    @HankRhody

    Pleated Pants Forever:Spin – what about living presidents on money?We already name ships after them :)I think we need to draw the line at no images of actual people on the currency

    There’s actually a very prosaic reason to have faces on the dollar. It helps prevent counterfeiting. Faces are difficult to draw and easy to recognize; if someone hands you a single with small variations on Washington’s wrinkles, you’re much more likely to recognize that than mistakes on a loon. Not to be racist, but all those birds look the same to me.

    • #19
  20. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    Pleated Pants Forever:Randy Weivoda – an interesting idea but, if there were demand for such a product, what would stop the company ftom just making silver or gold coins now?Based on previous post results it would seem that there are enough Apple nuts on Ricochet alone (lead by James Lileks) that if an Apple coin were economical, they would have already boughtit

    True, a company could make “coins” that had no value as currency and give them away as promotional items or sell them as knick-knacks.  But if an ad was on actual official coin that you can use to buy things, it would certainly be distributed more broadly.  Of course, this would depend on the dollar coin actually being used commonly and that hasn’t happened.  I expected that by now most vending machines would accept dollar coins but they just aren’t catching on, at least in the U.S..  I’m under the impression that in Canada the dollar coin is more widely used.

    • #20
  21. JimGoneWild Coolidge
    JimGoneWild
    @JimGoneWild

    I like the idea of having a Buffalo on a bill. Do American Antelope (unique to the world), Turkey, Cougar and other uniquely or iconic American species.

    • #21
  22. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    JimGoneWild: Buffalo on a bill

    I see what you did there!

    • #22
  23. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Offered without comment.

    Keep Cool

    • #23
  24. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    EJHill:Offered without comment.

    Keep Cool

    So, where are the Reagan and Thatcher versions?

    Seawriter

    • #24
  25. EstoniaKat Inactive
    EstoniaKat
    @ScottAbel

    What if we put science on money instead? USD_CMYK

    http://www.wired.com/2014/11/money-designed-celebrate-science-instead-presidents/

    Estonia, before it adopted the Euro, had bills with the discover of the human ova, a grandmaster chess champion, a poet, a journalist and novelist, and the national bird.
    I liked them a lot more than American money.

    • #25
  26. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    Scott Abel:What if we put science on money instead? USD_CMYK

    http://www.wired.com/2014/11/money-designed-celebrate-science-instead-presidents/

    Estonia, before it adopted the Euro, had bills with the discover of the human ova, a grandmaster chess champion, a poet, a journalist and novelist, and the national bird. I liked them a lot more than American money.

    My first thought when I read the original post is that we ought to have the Saturn V rocket on the $100 bill.

    • #26
  27. Metalheaddoc Member
    Metalheaddoc
    @Metalheaddoc

    Thought exercise: Imagine if the Social Justice Warriors took over the Mint. What would the money look like?

    • #27
  28. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    You’re just saying this now because you know that our First Black President will be on our money one day, and you can’t stomach the thought.  Obviously, you’re a racist…

    • #28
  29. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Metalheaddoc:Thought exercise: Imagine if the Social Justice Warriors took over the Mint. What would the money look like?

    Series I Savings Bonds?

    Seawriter

    • #29
  30. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Joseph Stanko: You’re just saying this now because you know that our First Black President will be on our money one day

    Yep. On the $18 Trillion note.

    • #30

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