The Retrospective Analysis of Lincoln Five Dollar Bills

The History of Five Dollar Bill

Indian Chief “Onepapa” on the Five Note


For over a Century Abraham Lincoln was the sole face printed on the five dollar bill. Lincoln was first portrayed on the five dollar currency in 1913 [1] during the time of World War I. The introduction of Lincoln on the bill can be paralleled with his image being used to recruit African Americans into the U.S. army [2]. Perhaps the government wanted a president that appealed to the African American population at that time. This is similar to the five dollar bill which was in circulation before the 1900s which featured an Indian “chief Onepapa” which appealed to the Native American population [3].

Ben Harrison on the Five Note


While no one contested Lincoln being on the five dollar bill, it is not until 1928 that Lincoln completely replaced the face of Ben Harrison on all of the five dollar bills [1]. Abraham Lincoln’s face has dominated the five dollar U.S. currency to this day.

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Five Dollar Front

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Five Dollar Back


Today all U.S currency are made from 75% cotton and 25% linen. To prevent counterfeiting the five dollar bills and all bills above five dollar in value receive “security thread, micro printing, and color shifting ink” [4]. The newest the five dollar bill contains the portrait of Lincoln on the front and the Lincoln Memorial on the back.

The Forgetful and Commemorative Nature of Five Dollar Bill

Green Stamp Five Dollar Bill

Red Stamp Five Dollar Bill

Brown Stamp Five Dollar Bill

Blue Stamp Five Dollar Bill

Yellow Stamp Five Dollar Bill


By putting Abraham Lincoln on the face of the five dollar bills, Americans attempt to commemorate his legacy. Unfortunately, this form of “commemoration” helps us both remember and forget. By putting Lincoln’s face on the bill we see and are reminded of Lincoln though the image every-time we use a five dollar bill. Ironically Americans must use the five dollar bill as currency, so eventually Americans would have to let “Lincoln” go. Furthermore, commercialization of five dollar bills causes people to overlook the value of Lincoln’s memory on a five dollar bill and instead focus on the monetary value of the five dollar bill.




While commercialization and collection of the five dollar bill [5] does increase the face value of the bill, it causes the collectors to devalue Lincoln’s legacy on the bill. Collectors mindlessly collect for the rarity of the bill not for the memory of Lincoln on the bill. So through the selling and buying of five dollar bills people fail to realize the true reasons for having bill in the first place. Not only is commercialization detrimental to American’s recollection of Lincoln, but also the five dollar bill loses its function as currency. Thus having Abraham Lincoln on the five dollar bill detach Americans from Lincoln rather than bring Americans closer to him.


Lincoln’s Vague Reputation 

Unlike many other president’s reputations (Jefferson’s Sally Hemings [6] and Jackson’s Indian removal act [7]), Lincoln’s reputation does not appear very controversial based on the current general public’s retrospective analysis. There does not seem to be a movement to replace Lincoln on the five dollar bill. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the penny. In fact, there has not only been movement to “replace” Lincoln on the penny. In fact there has been some movement to not to “replace” Lincoln on the penny,but to remove the penny from circulation all together. The key thing to note is the removal of the penny is mainly caused by penny lack of utility a currency  (the government’s so called “true cost” of preserving part of Lincoln, which is more than its face value of 1 cent).

Sojourner Truth One of the Women that Could be on the New Twenty


But don’t worry, Lincoln’s face on the five dollar bill is safe. Recently on April 13, 2015 BBC posted the article “Which country has the least sexist banknotes?” [8] In the article Susan Ades Stone, executive director of the campaign group Women on 20’s, declared that “The United States needs to show the world that we, too, recognize and value the contributions of women.” This indicates that Andrew Jackson may be replaced in the future. The article makes no mention of replacing nor terminating Lincoln five dollar bills, further indicating that Lincoln is on the five dollar bill unopposed. However, if you are an Andrew fan, the next time you look at a twenty you may discover the Old Hickory to be missing.

Lincoln’s Resting Place

While Lincoln rests at Springfield, some parts of him also rests in American’s pockets as currency. In contrast, other parts of him are still very much “alive” living and circulating. Just as the real Lincoln circulating on his Funeral Train in the past, the Lincoln five dollar bill circulates across America today. Contrasting to the Train ride where Lincoln was parted and departed from Americans, the journey of a five dollar bill is one where Lincoln is welcomed and greeted by Americans.

 In a way it is fitting how Abraham Lincoln is on the five dollar bill currently. Not only does amount of five dollars reflects the pocket change of the average self-made blue collar man, but did you know? On the day of his death at  Ford’s Theatre he was carrying a “Confederate five dollar bill along with several newspaper clippings” [9]. Some may say he was destined to be on the five dollar bill.


Things Lincoln had in His Pocket, On Left Confederate Five Dollar Bill




1. The Paper Money Experts. “Who Is On Old Five Dollar Bills?” (Retrieved April 15, 2015)

2. John Hubbell. “Abraham Lincoln and the Recruitment of Black Soldiers” (Retrieved April 15, 2015)

3. The Paper Money Experts. “Value of $5 National Currency Note”  (Retrieved April 15, 2015)

4. U.S. Department of the Treasury. “How Money Is Made Today” (Retrieved April 15, 2015)

5. Old Currency Buyer. “Small Size Five Dollar Bills (1928 – present) – Values and Pricing ” (Retrieved April 15, 2015)

6. Midori Takag. “Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy” (Retrieved April 15, 2015)

7. Alfred A. Cave. “ABUSE OF POWER: ANDREW JACKSON AND THE INDIAN REMOVAL ACT OF 1830” Dec 5 2003. (Retrieved April 15, 2015)

8.  Elle Metz. “Which country has the least sexist banknotes?” (Retrieved April 15, 2015)

9. Elizabeth Flock. “What They Found In Lincoln’s Pockets the Night He Was Shot” (Retrieved April 15, 2015)

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2 thoughts on “The Retrospective Analysis of Lincoln Five Dollar Bills

  1. Brady Strine

    I thought you made some very interesting points, but you might want to read over this again, as you have one or two minor grammatical errors in most of the paragraphs. I really enjoyed the paragraph about the forgetful nature of the five dollar bill. I never considered that one might devalue Lincoln’s memory as a result of the limited monetary value associated with the five dollar bill. I also never knew about the history of other faces on the five dollar bill and how it has been used as a tool to appeal to various races in America.

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