Harriet Tubman, Andrew Jackson and The Twenty

So recently it was announced that Harriet Tubman, known mostly for her work in the underground railroad during the civil war, will be replacing Andrew Jackson during the upcoming redesign of the currency of the US.  In fact, all the bills are getting face lifts, although not all are changing the person we see on their fronts.  However, the 20, which has long been Jackson, will be changing to Tubman.

I’m glad to hear this.  For many reasons actually.

  1. Our currency has long been devoid of representation of the wide amount of people this country has and should take pride in.  Till this recent design, its all been white men for the most part.  While looking at Wikipedia’s gathering of people on US banknotes (not just cash) you go quite far down the list to find someone who is not white.  In fact on that particular list I only found two, and they held their spots only for short terms.  Running Antelope (a Sioux Chief) in 1899 and Martha Washington in 1886 and 1896. Neither was used as legal tender (the everyday cash we use) but instead for silver certificates that were basically for transactions between banks and the Federal Reserve/Treasury.  Coins are a different situation, as they have been redesigned in recent years and have a variety of people.  It includes 1 Polynesian, 2 African american, 3 women, and 2 people of Native American descent.  Still, the overwhelming majority are primarily white people.

    On an interesting note, until the 1930s, we also issued, 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 bills.  Currently the currency only releases 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. Also its illegal to put the image of a living person on currency in the US.

  2. Our history didn’t end in 1900.  Honestly, almost all the people I could find on banknotes lived in the 1800s.  Woodrow Wilson showed up, but he died in 1924.  I can’t imagine that there aren’t people worth being on some form of banknote from the next hundred years.   I suppose the only excuse is that there is a limited amount of bills to design.  Given that Washington will never leave the $1 (Congress passed a law that the Treasurer can’t redesign the $1.), nor Lincoln his place on the five, that only leaves 4.  And I doubt anyone is going to consider redesigning the $2 Thomas Jefferson bill.  Mostly because its barely in circulation.  So that leaves only the $10 (Alexander Hamilton and the founder of the US Treasury department) and the $20 (which is already being changed to have Harriet Tubman).
  3.  I have always found it ironic that the man who once tried to close the central Bank down (and technically succeeded) is on legal tender.  Andrew Jackson was a big opposer to the idea of a central bank, particularly one that was privately run.  Part of it was personal, as he had lost a lot of money on land speculation, and blamed the use of paper bank notes as part of the problem.  He vetoed the rechartering of the National bank, and it ran out of its original charter in 1836, which was one of the reasons for the economic panic of 1937.

    To put it another way, Jackson’s obsession with the bank has its own wiki page. He also got censured by Congress, the first president to have that done to.

    Although, to be fair, Martin Van Buren was obsessed with banks too apparently.

More to read:

Federal Reserve Note (Wikipedia)

US Note (Wikipedia)

People on US Coins (Wikipedia)

Andrew Jackson and the Bank War (Study guide with informative links – Gilderlehrman.org)

History of the Federal Reserve (federalreserveeducation.org)

Harriet Tubman Will Be Face of the $20  (CNN Money)

Girl Who Wanted Women Put on Money Gets Birthday Wish (CBS)

 

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