The United States one dollar bill ($1) is a denomination of U.S. currency. The first president, George Washington, painted by Gilbert Stuart, is currently featured on the obverse, while the Great Seal of the United States is featured on the reverse.
The one dollar bill has the oldest design of all U.S. currency currently being produced. The obverse debuted in 1963 when the $1 bill first became a Federal Reserve Note and the reverse debuted in 1935.
An individual dollar bill is also less formally known as a one, a buck, a single, a smackeroo, a clam, a simoleon, a bone, a greenback, a bill, a dead president, a paper, or a dollar.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing says the "average life" of a $1 bill in circulation is 21 months before it is replaced due to wear. Approximately 45% of all U.S. currency produced today are one dollar bills.
All $1 bills produced today are Federal Reserve Notes. One dollar bills are delivered by Federal Reserve Banks in blue straps.
Large size notes history
First $1 bill issued in 1862 as a Legal Tender Note (approximately 7.4218 ◊ 3.125 inch / 189 ◊ 79 mm)
- 1862: The first $1 bill was issued as a Legal Tender Note (United States Note) with a portrait of Salmon P. Chase, the Treasury Secretary under President Abraham Lincoln.
- 1869: The $1 United States Note was redesigned with a portrait of George Washington in the center and a vignette of Christopher Columbus sighting land to the left. The obverse of the note also featured green and blue tinting. Although this note is technically a United States Note, TREASURY NOTE appeared on it instead of UNITED STATES NOTE.
- 1874: The Series of 1869 United States Note was revised. Changes on the obverse included removing the green and blue tinting, adding a red floral design around the word WASHINGTON D.C., and changing the term TREASURY NOTE to UNITED STATES NOTE. The reverse was completely redesigned. This note was also issued as Series of 1875 and 1878
- 1880: The red floral design around the words ONE DOLLAR and WASHINGTON D.C. on the United States Note was removed.
- 1886: The first woman to appear on U.S. currency, Martha Washington, was featured on the $1 Silver Certificate. The reverse of the note featured an ornate design which occupied the entire note, excluding the borders.
- 1890: One dollar Treasury or "Coin Notes" were issued for government purchases of silver bullion from the silver mining industry. The reverse featured the large word ONE in the center surrounded by an ornate design which occupied almost the entire note.
- 1891: The reverse of the Series of 1890 Treasury Note was redesigned because the treasury felt that it was too "busy" which would make it too easy to counterfeit. More open space was incorporated into the new design.
- 1891: The reverse of the $1 Silver Certificate was redesigned. More open space was incorporated into the new design.
- 1896: The famous "Educational Series" Silver Certificate was issued. The entire obverse was covered with artwork of allegorical figures representing "history instructing youth" in front of Washington D.C. The reverse featured portraits of George and Martha Washington surrounded by an ornate design which occupied almost the entire note.
- 1899: The $1 Silver Certificate was again redesigned. The obverse featured a vignette of the U.S. Capitol building behind a Bald Eagle perched on an American Flag. Below that were small portraits of Abraham Lincoln to the left and Ulysses S. Grant to the right.
- 1917: The obverse of the $1 United States Note was changed slightly with the removal of ornamental frames which surrounded the serial numbers.
- 1918: The only large-sized, Federal Reserve Note-like $1 bill was issued as a Federal Reserve Bank Note(not to be confused with Federal Reserve Notes). Each note was an obligation of the issuing Federal Reserve Bank and could only be redeemed at that corresponding bank. The obverse of the note featured a borderless portrait of George Washington to left and wording in the entire center. The reverse featured a Bald Eagle in flight clutching an American Flag.
- 1923: Both the one dollar United States Note and Silver Certificate were redesigned. Both notes featured the same reverse and an almost identical obverse with the same border design and portrait of George Washington. The only difference between the two notes was the color of ink used for the numeral 1 crossed by the word DOLLAR, treasury seal, and serial numbers along with the wording of the obligations. These dollar bills were the first and only large size notes with a standardized design for different types of notes of the same denomination; this same concept would later be used on small size notes.
Small size notes history
(6.14 ◊ 2.61 inch / 156 ◊ 66 mm)
In 1929, all currency was changed to its current size. Initially, the one dollar bill was issued as Silver Certificate only under Series of 1928. The treasury seal and serial numbers on it were dark blue. The obverse was nearly identical to the Series of 1923 $1 Silver Certificate, but the treasury seal featured spikes around it and a large gray ONE to the left replaced the blue "1 DOLLAR". The reverse, too, had the same border design as the Series of 1923 $1 bill, but the center featured a large ornate ONE superimposed by ONE DOLLAR. These $1 Silver Certificates were issued until 1934.
In 1933, $1 United States Notes were issued to supplement the supply of $1 Silver Certificates. Its treasury seal and serial numbers were red. However, a month after their production, it was realized that there would be no real need for these notes and production was stopped. A small number of these $1 bills entered circulation and the rest were kept in treasury vaults until 1949 when they were issued in Puerto Rico.
In 1934, the design of the $1 Silver Certificate was changed to reflect the Silver Purchase Act of 1934. Under Washington's portrait, ONE SILVER DOLLAR was changed to ONE DOLLAR due to the fact that Silver Certificates could be redeemed for silver bullion. The treasury seal was moved to the right and superimposed over ONE, and a blue numeral 1 was added to the left. The reverse remained the same.
A year later, in 1935, the design of the one dollar bill was changed again. On the obverse, the blue numeral 1 was changed to gray and made smaller, the gray ONE to the left was removed, the treasury seal was made smaller and superimposed by WASHINGTON D.C., and a stylized ONE DOLLAR was added over the treasury seal. The reverse was also changed to its current design, except for the absence of IN GOD WE TRUST.
World War II brought about special issues of one dollar bills in 1942. Special $1 Silver Certificates were issued for Hawaii in case of a Japanese invasion. HAWAII was printed vertically on the left and right side of the obverse and also horizontally across the reverse. The seal and serial numbers were changed to brown. Special Silver Certificates were also issued as payment for Allied troops in North Africa about to begin their assault into Europe. The only difference on these one dollar bills was a yellow instead of blue seal. Both of these types of notes could be declared worthless if they fell into enemy hands.
The next change came in 1957 when the $1 bill became the first piece of U.S. currency to bear the motto IN GOD WE TRUST; it was added over the word ONE on the reverse. Initially the BEP began printing the motto on notes which were printed with the new 32 note press, but soon Series of 1935G bills printed on a 16 note press featured the motto.
The final production of $1 Silver Certificates occurred in late 1963. In 1964 the redemption of Silver Certificates for silver coin ended and in 1968 the redemption of Silver Certificates for silver bullion ended.
Production of one dollar Federal Reserve Notes was undertaken in late 1963 to replace the soon-to-be obsolete $1 Silver Certificate. The design on the reverse remained the same, but the border design on the obverse was completely redesigned and the serial numbers and treasury seal were printed in green ink. This was the first time the one dollar bill was printed as a Federal Reserve Note.
In 1969 the $1 bill began using the new treasury seal with wording in English instead of Latin. Excluding the signatures and series date, the design of the one dollar bill has remained the same ever since then.
Though bill denominations of $5 and higher have been redesigned twice since 1995 as part of ongoing anti-counterfeiting efforts, there are currently no plans to redesign the $1 bill.
Reverse of current $1 bill
The reverse of the one dollar bill has an ornate design which incorporates the Great Seal of the United States, and it is of noted interest to historians and numerologists for the symbols contained therein.
To the left is the reverse of the seal which portrays an unfinished pyramid. The separated cap of the pyramid, portraying the all-seeing eye, symbolizes that the United States is still far from finished. The shadow cast by the pyramid from the rising sun represents the undiscovered lands to the west. The sun, which is rising, represents that a new nation has begun.
The Latin phrase Annuit Cúptis is located above the pyramid. Taken from the Latin words annuo (to nod, approve) and cúpio (to begin, undertake), it literally means "he/it favors the things having been begun". However, the official translation given by the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Mint, and the U.S. Treasury is "He (God) has favored our undertakings". NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM is shown on a ribbon below the pyramid, and is a phrase taken from the fourth Eclogue of Virgil.
In English, the Latin seclorum does not mean "secular", as one might assume, but is the genitive (possessive) plural form of the word saeculum, meaning (in this context) generation, century, or age. Thus the motto can be translated as "A new order of the ages". Written at the base of the pyramid in Roman Numerals is MDCCLXXVI or 1776, the year the United States Declaration of Independence was signed.
The eye above the pyramid is popular among conspiracy theorists, and alleged to have connections with the Illuminati secret society. The history of the dollar bill was featured on The History Channel's "Decoding The Past" program.
In Rich Hall's books of sniglets, the pyramid is known as a "pyramonster" and described as "that thing with one big eye on the back of a dollar bill."
To the right is the obverse of the Great Seal portraying a heraldic Bald Eagle. In front of the eagle is an unsupported shield which symbolizes the fledgling country's ability to stand on its own, unified by congress; this is symbolized by the blue bar on top of the shield. Above the eagle's head is a glory with 13 stars. Clutched in the eagle's beak is a ribbon which reads "E PLURIBUS UNUM" ("From many, one"). It also holds an olive branch (which the head always points towards) and arrows in its claws, symbolizing the desire of peace, but the readiness to fight.
President Franklin Roosevelt's conditional approval of the 1935 one dollar bill's reverse design, switching the positions of the seal's sidesThe number thirteen, symbolizing the 13 original colonies, shows up numerous times:
- 13 stars above the eagle
- 13 steps on the Pyramid
- 13 letters in ANNUIT COEPTIS
- 13 letters in E PLURIBUS UNUM
- 13 vertical bars on the shield
- 13 horizontal stripes at the top of the shield
- 13 leaves on the olive branch
- 13 fruits
- 13 arrows