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An uncut sheet of $1 bills An uncut sheet of $1 bills (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

The Dollar Bill’s Birthday

The U.S. $1 bill turns 150

November 3, 2008

Do you know whose face was on the first U.S. one-dollar bill? (Hint: It wasn’t George Washington’s.)

Salmon P. Chase appeared on the first dollar bills, which were printed 150 years ago, in 1862. At the time, he was the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury—the department that handles the government’s money.

Before 1862, gold and silver coins were the main national currency. That changed during the Civil War (1861-1865), when thousands of soldiers were fighting for the Union. President Abraham Lincoln needed a lot of money to pay the troops, but there was a shortage of coins.

A man named Spencer Clark came to the rescue. He built a machine that could cut bills from huge sheets of paper.

On August 29, 1862, Clark and five workers started cranking out bills in Washington, D.C. Today, the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing is entrusted with that job. Each year, it prints billions of bills, ranging from $1 to $100.

This article will appear in the October 1, 2012 issue of Scholastic News Edition 5/6. For more from Scholastic News, click here.

 

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