Today I’m going to unravel some of the dollar bill’s biggest mysteries for you. Okay … They’re not really mysteries — 98% of this stuff is all over the Internet — but they’re fun facts nevertheless.
Did you know the first United States one-dollar bill was issued in 1862? The currency was emblazoned with a portrait of Salmon P. Chase, the Treasury Secretary under Abraham Lincoln.
The current one-dollar bill design technically dates back to 1963, but many of the design elements that we associate with the bill were established in 1929.
Obviously, the most recognizable element of the modern one dollar bill is the portrait of George Washington, painted by Gilbert Stuart — but the truly interesting stuff is on the reverse.
In case you don’t have a dollar bill handy, here are a few pictures of the reverse side of the one-dollar bill, and exploded-views of the great seal on the left- and right-hand sides:
That goofy pyramid in the circle on the left side of the bill is perhaps the buck’s most intriguing symbol.
The pyramid itself represents permanence and strength. Astute observers will see that it’s constructed with 13 layers of stone; they represent the 13 original states and their individual rights. But wait — there’s more: The separate stones within each layer represent local self-government, and the pyramid’s unfinished condition represents the promise of continued national growth.
At the top of the pyramid, inside the capstone, there is that strange “all-seeing eye,” which is an ancient symbol for divinity.
As for the letters at the bottom of the pyramid, well … they are the Roman numerals for 1776 which, of course, represent the year that the United States was founded.
In honor of the original colonies there is a 13-letter Latin phrase above the pyramid: Annuit Coeptis. It means “God has favored our undertakings.”
A second Latin phrase sits at the bottom of the pyramid, Novus Ordo Seclorum, which means “New order of the ages.”
A very subtle bit of symbolism exists in how the pyramid is lit; notice that its face is lighted and the western side is dark. Some people interpret that to mean that when the United States was founded it had not begun to explore the West.
On the right side of the bill is another circle featuring an eagle. It clasps both olive branches and arrows in its talons to represent the country’s desire for peace and its ability to protect itself. The 13 colonies are represented in numerous ways here: there are 13 arrows, 13 olive leaves, 13 olives, 13 stripes on the shield, and 13 stars above the eagle’s head. In the eagle’s beak is a banner with the Latin phrase, E pluribus unum, meaning “of many, one.” This phrase represents how the United States, while consisting of many states and people, is unified as a single nation.
Finally, did you know there is a spider hiding on the side of the dollar bill with George Washington’s portrait on it? Or is it an owl? Take a look at the exploded-view on the left (it’s hiding inside the blue circle).
Frankly, it looks more like an owl than a spider to me. What do you think?
Photo Credit: richlepozicky.com