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Obverse of the Series 2004 $20 bill
Reverse of the Series 2004 $20 bill


The United States twenty-dollar bill ($20) is a denomination of United States currency. U.S. President Andrew Jackson is currently featured on the front side of the bill, which is why the twenty-dollar bill is often called a "Jackson," while the White Housemarker is featured on the reverse side.

The twenty-dollar bill in the past was referred to as a "double-sawbuck" because it is twice the value of a ten-dollar bill, which was nicknamed a "sawbuck" due to the resemblance the Roman numeral for ten (X) bears to the legs of a sawbuck, although this usage had largely fallen out of favour by the 1980s. The twenty dollar gold coin was known as a "double eagle". Rather than a nickname, this nomenclature was specified by an act of Congress.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing says the "average circulation life" of a $20 bill is 25 months (2 years) before it is replaced due to wear. Approximately 22% of all notes printed today are $20 bills. Twenty-dollar bills are delivered by Federal Reserve Banks in violet straps.

Pre-Federal Reserve history

Series 1905 $20 bill




  • 1861: A demand note with Lady Liberty holding a sword and shield on the front, and an abstract design on the back. The back is printed in green.
  • 1862: A note that is very similar, the first $20 United States note. The back is different, with several small variations extant.
  • 1863: A gold certificate $20 note with an Eagle vignette on the face. The reverse has a $20 gold coin and various abstract elements. The back is orange.
  • 1865: A national bank note with "The Battle of Lexington" and "Columbia Leading a Procession" on either side of the face and obligation text conspicuously in the middle. The reverse features "The Baptism of Pocahontas" in black, and a green border.
  • 1869: A new United States note design with Alexander Hamilton on the left side of the front and Victory holding a shield and sword. The back design is green.
  • 1875: As above, except with a different reverse.
  • 1878: A silver certificate $20 note with a portrait of Stephen Decatur on the right side of the face. The back design is black.
  • 1882: A new gold certificate with a portrait of James Garfield on the right of the face. The back is orange and features an eagle.
  • 1882: A new national bank note. The front is similar, but the back is different and printed in brown.
  • 1886: A new silver certificate $20 note with Daniel Manning on the center of the face.
  • 1890: A treasury (coin) note with John Marshall on the left of the face. Two different backs exist: both with abstract designs.
  • 1902: A new national bank note. The front design features Hugh McCulloch, and the back has a vignette of an allegorical America.
  • 1905: A new gold certificate $20 note with George Washington on the center of the face. The back design is orange.
  • 1918: A federal reserve bank note with Grover Cleveland on the front, and a back design similar to the 1914 Federal Reserve Note.


Federal Reserve history

Series 1914 $20 bill
Series 1929 $20 bill
Series 1985 $20 Note
Series 1995 $20 bill
The security strip in a twenty-dollar bill glows green under a blacklight.
Jackson first appeared on the twenty dollar bill in 1928. It is not clear the reason the bill was switched from Grover Cleveland to Andrew Jackson. According to the U.S. Treasury, "Treasury Department records do not reveal the reason that portraits of these particular statesmen were chosen in preference to those of other persons of equal importance and prominence." The placement of Jackson on the $20 bill may be a historical irony; as president, he vehemently opposed both the National Bankmarker and paper money and made the goal of his administration the destruction of the National Bank. In his farewell address to the nation, he cautioned the public about paper money.
  • 1914: Began as a large-sized note with a portrait of Grover Cleveland on the face, and, on the back, a steam locomotive approaching from the left, and a steamship approaching from the right
  • 1928: Switched to a small-sized note with a portrait of Andrew Jackson on the face and the south view of the White Housemarker on the reverse. The banknote is redeemable in gold or silver (at the bearer's discretion) at any Federal Reserve Bank.
  • 1934: The obligation is changed. The bill is no longer redeemable in gold, but rather in "lawful currency". This is due to the U.S. being taken off of the gold standard. "Lawful currency" in this case means silver.
  • 1942: A special emergency series, with brown serial numbers and "HAWAII" overprinted on both the front and the back, is issued. These notes are designed to circulate on the islands, and be deemed invalid in the event of a Japanese invasion.
  • 1948: The White Housemarker picture was updated to reflect renovations to the building itself as well as the passage of time. Most notably, the trees are larger.
  • 1950: Design elements like the serial numbers are reduced in size and moved around subtly, presumably for aesthetic reasons.
  • 1963: "Redeemable in Lawful Money" is replaced by "In God We Trust". The two acts (one taking U.S. currency off silver backing, and the other authorizing the national motto) are coincidental, even if their combined result is implemented in one redesign. Also, several design elements are rearranged, less perceptibly than the change in 1950, mostly to make room for the slightly rearranged obligations.
  • 1969: The new treasury seal appears on all denominations, including the $20.
  • 1977: A new type of serial-number press results in a slightly different font. The old presses are gradually retired, and old-style serial numbers appear as late as 1981 for this denomination.
  • 1990: Anti-counterfeiting features are added: microprinting around the portrait, and a plastic strip embedded in the paper.
  • September 24, 1998: Received a completely new appearance to further deter counterfeiting; the picture of the White House was changed to the north side view. A larger, off-center portrait of Jackson was used on front, and several anti-counterfeiting features were added, including colour-shifting ink, microprinting, and a watermark. The plastic strip now reads "USA 20" and glows green under a black light.
  • October 9, 2003: The current series of 20 dollar bills is released with light background shading in green and yellow, and no oval around Andrew Jackson's portrait (background images of eagles, etc. were also added to the front); the back is the same view of the White Housemarker, but without the oval around it. Ninety, faint "20"s are scattered on the back in yellow as a "EURion constellation" to prevent photocopying. The first issue's series date is 2004 with Marin-Snow signatures.


Unmade bills

Several unmade twenty-dollar bills are known. Most are similar in design to the ones described above, with the only difference being certain obligations. For example, a silver-certificate variety of the 1928 style Federal Reserve Note is known in the proof stage, with blue serial numbers. More interesting examples include a 1923 Federal Reserve Note, with Grover Cleveland as on the Series of 1914, but different border elements, an 1873 National Bank note whose design is unknown, and also an 1896 Silver Certificate.

Design controversy

Andrew Jackson's actions toward the Native American as a general, as well as during his Presidency, have led some historians to question the suitability of Jackson's depiction on the twenty-dollar bill. Howard Zinn, for instance, identifies Jackson as a leading "exterminator of Indians," and notes how the public commemoration of Jackson obscures this part of American history.

Those opposed to Central Banking point out the irony of Andrew Jackson on a Federal Reserve Note. Jackson spent much of his Presidency fighting against the Bank of the United States, which was at that time the government sanctioned Federal Bank.

An email hoax emerged after the events of 9/11 that alleged a conspiracy because folding the twenty-dollar bill a certain way produced images that appeared to be 9/11 related (specifically the World Trade Centermarker and the Pentagonmarker burning). These claims have been demonstrated to be either coincidental or contrived.

See also

  • Twenty Bucks, a 1993 movie that follows the travels of a $20 bill


References

External links




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