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Buildings On United States Money Bills

Pull out a fifty dollar bill and flip over to the back of the bill, do you recognize what building that is? Now, if you ask anyone except this year’s Miss North South Carolina (my apologies!), you probably could get it on your first couple guesses (it’s an identifiable building but it’s not something that everyone could pull off the top of their heads) and it would probably take a few more guesses to get what exactly happens in that building. If you were to do the same with the twenty, I bet a few more people would be able to guess what that is. Move up to the hundred and you’d probably get fewer people able to guess the building and what happens there… so I figured I’d give a recap.

$1 Bill

The dollar bill doesn’t have a building on the back of the bill and one of the only two bills not to have a building on the back of it. The back of it features the two “sides” of the Great Seal of the United States: the coat of arms (the obverse) and the pyramid (the reverse). The obverse of the seal, the coat of arms, is used to authenticate documents issued by the US government and is stored in the Exhibit Hall of the US Department of State.

$2 Bill

The two dollar bill is the other bill without a building on the back, it’s actually a picture of the drafting committee presenting a draft of the Declaration of Independence to Congress.

$5 Bill

Ahh, now we’re talking buildings. The back of the five spot is none other than the memorial to the face on the front, the Lincoln Memorial. The memorial itself doesn’t conduct any official business, since it’s a memorial, but that doesn’t mean a lot of important events haven’t happened there. Arguably the most significant event that has happened there was when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, 100 years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Incidentally, the Lincoln Memorial also appears on the penny as well.

$10 Bill

The back of the ten dollar bill is the Treasury Building, fitting since the front has the first United States Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. The Treasury Building is the home of the US Department of the Treasury, one of the Cabinet departments and is responsible for managing government revenue. Through the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the United States Mint, the Treasury prints and mints all the currency used in the US; and through the Internal Revenue Service, it collects all federal taxes. There are plenty of other responsibilities but I think you get the idea.

$20 Bill

The back of the twenty dollar bill is none other than the 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW – The White House. I think that’s all that needs to be said about that building. 🙂

$50 Bill

The US Capitol building graces the back of the fifty dollar bill and it is the location of the legislative branch of the United States, the Congress. It contains two wings, one for the House of Representatives (south of the rotunda) and one for the Senate (north of the rotunda), in which all of the legislative business is handled and has done so since 1800’s. In fact, even the Supreme Court met in the Capitol until a building was constructed for the Judicial branch in 1935.

$100 Bill

Last but not least, Independence Hall is the building on the back of the hundred dollar bill and it’s another landmark building and the only one that isn’t in Washington D.C. Independence Hall is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is where the Declaration of Independence was debated and signed back in the late 18th century. In fact, in addition to the Declaration, the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution were all signed in Independence Hall. And as another piece of trivia, the Liberty Bell (the one with the crack) was the bell used in the hall’s bell tower (until the crack).

Larger Bills

None of the larger bills, all of which are no longer in circulation, have pictures of buildings on the backs and in fact none of them have anything other than the denomination repeated in larger numbers. Only the $5,000 bill and the $10000 bill has an image on the back. The $5,000 features George Washington resigning his commission to Congress [3] and is taken from a painting by John Trumbull. The $10,000 has a picture of the Embarkation of the Pilgrims [4]. 🙂

There you have it, a quick recap of all the buildings gracing the backs of our nation’s currency. I hope you picked up as much fun trivia as I did in writing this and have a great Labor Day!

Images of the $1 – $10 are courtesy of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing [5], the rest are courtesy of Wikipedia.