A friend and I were discussing American currency this evening, and the unusualness of our currency as compared to other countries. Notably, in England for example, they have famous people who aren’t political, such as Darwin and Elizabeth Fry, and this is true of many countries.
The conversation had originated with a query as to why Teddy Roosevelt is the only one of the four on Mount Rushmore who isn’t on a coin or bill, and never has been (the others being, as a reminder, Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln all of whom are on two: Lincoln – 1¢, $5; Jefferson – 5¢, $2; Washington – 25¢, $1).
Some Presidents have been on American currency, but are no longer (the Eisenhower dollar, for example, is long since discontinued being minted). However, after the successful State and National Park quarters program, they are now running all of the Presidents on dollar coins, so that's going to change, I suppose.
As we all know, not only Presidents are on our money. Alexander Hamilton ($10) and Benjamin Franklin ($100) both show that’s not a requisite. But why not spread the love to others? Susan B. Anthony or Sacagawea are the only women we've included, an iterestingly, they are also the only two ever on our currency who didn't served the federal government in an official capacity.
So here’s who I’d put on our currency, if we had a clean slate and said “Thank you Founders, but you’ve had a run that’s long enough.” To be totally fair, if they’d ever been on coins or bills they are disqualified from my new list.
Finally, there is a law that living persons may not be depicted on American currency. This is true even for the Presidential coin series (so it will be a while until we get an Obama dollar, since they have to have been dead two years before a coin in that series will be issued). Also, to keep it fair, I’m keeping the currency denominations the same as what is currently printed and lawful tender no – $15, or 20¢ in my series. Like the British system, it’d rotate every 15 years or so, so I’ve gone ahead and provided two different sets that could be mixed and matched into one superior printing.
1¢ Ida B. Wells, front; eagle, back. (I think it would be nice to keep one eagle, commemoratively.)
5¢ Margaret Sanger, front; Statue of Liberty, back.
10¢ Juliette Gordon Low, front; Girl Scouts symbol, back.
25¢ Cesar Chavez, front; American farmland, back.
50¢ Chief Justice Earl Warren, front; US Supreme Court, back.
$1 – coin Nikolai Tesla, front; Menlo Park, back.
$1Theodore Roosevelt, front; Mesa Verde National Park, back.
$2 Rachel Carson, front; Papahanamoukoukea, back.
$5 Frank Lloyd Wright, front; Fallingwater, back.
$10 Martin Luther King Jr, front; March on Washington, back.
$20 Martha Graham, front; Appalachian Spring scene, back.
$50 Jane Addams, front; Hull House, back.
$100 Mark Twain, front; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by E.W. Kemble, back.
1¢ Horace Mann, front; eagle, back.
5¢ Philo Farnsworth, front; CBS News studio with Cronkite, back.
10¢ Billie Holiday, front; Strange Fruit sheet music, back.
25¢ Jeanette Rankin, front; Columbia, back.
50¢ Maria Sanford, front; schoolroom pledge of allegiance, back.
$1 – coin Ralph Waldo Emerson, front; Walden, back.
$1 Edwin Hubble, front; Mount Wilson Observatory, back.
$2 Shirley Jackson, front; Jennings Hall, back.
$5 Wright Brothers, front; Kittyhawk flight, back.
$10 August Saint-Gaudens, front; Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, back.
$20 Sequoyah, front; Cherokee syllabary, back.
$50 Ralph Bunche, front; United Nations Headquarters, back.
$100 Alice Paul, front; “Silent Sentinels” , back.