What Did Money Look Like in the 1800s: Currency Pictures

What Did Money Look Like in the 1800s

Prior to the discovery of gold and silver in the West within the mid-1800s, the United States lacked an adequate supply of precious metals for coinage.

As a result, a 1793 statute allowed Spanish dollars as well as other foreign currencies to be included in the United States monetary system.

The U.S. issued a wide range of paper currency in the 1880s. (Make sure you check out what money looked like in the 1700s).

Only two types of national banknotes, two types of silver certificates, one type of legal tender, and one gold certificate being printed. This same money was later redesigned in 1882.

We can study on how American history has influenced the idea we develop, problem, the design, printing, and use of current U.S. banknotes by going back to the country’s colonial past. The centuries that followed were vital to the development of the country’s currency.

What Money Looked Like In the 19th Century

The $5,000 Dollar Bill

The picture of James Madison appears on various Treasury $5,000 bearer bills. At one time, gold could be exchanged for these extremely valuable notes. The picture of George Washington quitting from his committee is on the backside of the note.

$10 Demand Notes in 1861

$10 Demand Notes in 1861

Demand Notes, $10 bills issued by the federal government for the first time, feature President Abraham Lincoln’s portrayal, fine-line inscription, as well as intricate spatial lathe trends. Each Demand Note was instantly redeemable in silver or gold “upon demand” at seven distinct banks across the country. In 1861 as well as in 1862, the Treasury approved Demand Notes.



In July 1861, Congress approved the issuance of $50,000,000 in Demand Notes as the first step in funding the war effort. No interest was paid on them, but they could be exchanged for cash “on demand.”

Prior to March 1862, they were not legal money, although they may be used to pay customs taxes, just as Treasury Notes. Demand Notes were printed on both sides, unlike state and some private banknotes.

Demand Notes were nicknamed “greenbacks” due to the green ink used on the reverse side. Their initial value was lower than gold’s since they could be redeemed in gold, but that quickly changed. Demand Notes plummeted in December 1861 when the government had to stop redeeming them.

Demand Notes’ value was preserved because Chase approved the payment of interest on such notes.

Aside from gold and Demand Notes, US Dollar Notes issued later in time were not able to have been used to pay customs duties or interest on the nation’s debt. Since gold was no longer an option, importers continued to utilize Demand Notes as a substitute.

Demand Notes became lawful tender in March 1862. Demand Notes were withdrawn from circulation because they were being used to pay duties. 95 percent of the population had died off by mid-1863.

United States Notes in 1862

United States us dollar Notes in 1862

From 1862 through 1971, the United States produced Legal Tender Notes, often known as United States Notes. 109 years of continuous issuance makes them the longest-running kind of US paper money.

The term “greenbacks” was derived from the prior greenbacks, the Demand Notes, that they replaced in 1862. They were widely referred to as such. The First Legal Tender Act, which legalized them as a form of fiat currency, referred to them as United States Notes. When notes were issued in the 1860s, a “second obligation” was indicated on their reverses.

Secretary Salmon P. Chase in 1862


During the American Civil War, the Treasury seal appeared on coinage for the first time. The US government issues the first $1 Legal Tender notes in history.

The Treasury Secretary, Salmon P. Chase, is shown on the reverse of these banknotes:

Secretary Salmon P. Chase in 1862

The Basis of Contemporary Design

In order to combat counterfeiting, fine-line engraving appears on the Demand Notes. Complicated geometric lathe working time, by 1862, a United States Department of the Treasury seal, and engraved signatures.

To this day, the United States money continues to be enhanced with features that resist counterfeiting- with counterfeit money detection machines and counterfeit money pens helping authorities and business owners spot fake bills like these $20s.

Treasury Seal 1862

Treasury Seal 1862

During the American Civil War, the Treasury seal appeared on coinage for the first time. Although the color and shape of the seal have altered over time, the interior seal has remained consistent, which consists of a key, scales, and stars has remained substantially the same until the present day.

Paper money, known as a United States Note, or Legal Tender Note, was printed in the United States between 1862 and 1971. They were the longest-running kind of U.S. paper money, having been in circulation for 109 years.

Because they replaced the Demand Notes in 1862, they became known as “greenbacks” in popular parlance. United States Notes were originally known as Legal Tender Notes until the First Legal Tender Act legalized the use of fiat currency in the U.S. In the 1860s, the notes’ reverses featured a statement known as the “second responsibility.”

In Summary

The 1800s was a time of great change in the United States. The country was expanding, and with that expansion came new opportunities for wealth.

In the 1800s, there were three main types of money: coins, paper money, and gold. Coins were made from precious metals like silver and gold.

Paper money was printed by the government to represent a certain amount of coins or gold. Gold was considered to be the most valuable type of money because it could be used to buy anything in the world.

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