Most of us will be familiar with the design of a dollar bill. In fact, some of us will likely have one or more sitting in their wallets or pockets right now. Take a closer look at that buck, though, and you’ll discover a series of messages and symbols. Some of these are easy to overlook, but many of them have surprising hidden meanings.
When these were added to the dollar bill, they were no doubt of great significance to our predecessors. However, over the years they’ve gradually lost their meaning to the masses, so many of us will be unaware of their implications. As a result, it seems that the collection of symbols and words have become open to interpretation.
And it’s thanks to these interpretations that some people have concluded that a number of the items contained on the dollar bill allude to larger forces at play. There’s been talk that some of the symbols are a nod to the secretive Freemason organization, for example. In addition, others believe that our bucks allude to the Illuminati, another clandestine group that’s the subject of multiple conspiracy theories.
However, before we explore what some of the hidden symbols and messages on the dollar bill really stand for, let’s first take a closer look at the notes and what they mean to America. It’s fair to say that the U.S. dollar is as much a symbol of the country as anything else. Depending on your point of view, it’s either the root of all evil or a real-life representation of the American dream.
The dollar bill didn’t always take the iconic form it comes in today, however. And its evolution is very much tied into American history, starting with the advent of paper money. It took a long time for people to accept the concept, in fact, and for many years it was rejected in favor of the more tangible currency of coins.
Nevertheless, the use of paper money in America predates the Revolution and the establishment of independence in the U.S. The first examples of this kind of currency had actually been introduced to the colonies in 1690. For it was then that Massachusetts adopted what were known as “bills of credit” as an official form of currency.
However, it wasn’t until the onset of the Civil War in 1861 that paper money became more commonplace. This occurred in a bid to help both sides – the Union and the Confederate States – pay for the conflict. With that in mind, so-called “greybacks” were launched by the latter in 1861.
In response, the Union started issuing its own form of paper money, which wasn’t entirely different from the bills that are presently in use. Known as “greenbacks,” the notes were the same iconic color as modern-day money. And they continued to circulate in the years after the conflict ended.
At first, greenbacks were for $20, $10 or $5. New forms of paper money were subsequently issued by Congress in the decades that followed the Civil War. This included the one-dollar bill, which was first made available in 1862. Back then, though, it bore the image of Salmon P. Chase, who was President Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of the treasury.
Chase’s moment of glory on the one-dollar bill didn’t last for long, however. Indeed, in 1869 his image was replaced by that of George Washington. Moreover, the first President of the United States was joined on the note by Christopher Columbus. A small image on the left of the bill depicted the explorer seeing dry land, which seemingly symbolized his explorations of the Americas.
Interestingly, Martha Washington – to this day the sole woman ever to grace the front of an American bill – appeared on dollar notes from the mid-1890s. The original first lady had in fact previously been depicted on another bill. However, on that occasion, she was placed on the reverse of the note alongside her husband, George.
In those days, U.S. banknotes were known as silver certificates. That’s because the government had real silver to back up their values. The currency as we know it today was created in 1913. It was then that the Federal Reserve Act provided the government with permission to produce Federal Reserve Notes, which are usually referred to as U.S. dollars.
Moreover, by the time the Federal Reserve Act was passed, our dollars looked largely the same as they do today. They had similar proportions, for instance, shared the same borders, color and typeface. In addition, some of the now recognizable wording on the bills had already been established.
Even a century ago, it was already the tradition for dollar bills to depict presidents on the front and images of famous events or figures from U.S. history on the reverse. Back in 1914, for instance, Abraham Lincoln graced one side of the $5 bill, while the other side contained a depiction of the Pilgrims. And the notes’ designs have tended to change little over the decades, although there have been a few exceptions.
Some alterations to U.S. currency include the eradication of certain values of notes. Moreover, the line “In God We Trust” began appearing on legal tender during the 1950s, although the phrase had earlier featured on coins at the time of the Civil War. It was later added to paper currency in order to reflect the strong religious sentiments among the American people at the time.
However, there had earlier been questions about whether it was appropriate to have “In God We Trust” emblazoned across U.S. currency. It seems that President Theodore Roosevelt didn’t think so. And so he had the line taken off U.S. coins in 1907, although protests led to this move later being repealed. And from the mid-1950s the motto began to appear across paper banknotes as well.
Security has also played a role in the evolution of America’s banknotes. Even in the Civil War era forgeries had been a concern, and by the late-20th century technology had of course moved on. So in the mid-1990s the federal government rejigged most of the notes still in circulation. Then, from 2003 additional hues started to appear in the designs alongside other anti-forgery measures.
Today, U.S. banknotes come in seven denominations, the smallest of which is of course the humble one-dollar bill. American money has developed greatly over the years, often in tandem with historical developments in the country. Nonetheless, it remains the planet’s strongest currency. And much of that strength is based on the global clout that the U.S. possesses.
Despite the power that the American dollar commands, though, it’s not entirely clear how the currency might look in the future. There has been some push for dollar bills to feature a more heterogonous mix of people, for example. Furthermore, given its religious connotations, there’s again been some debate about the use of the phrase “In God We Trust” on the currency.
Clearly, then, no matter how mundane it may seem, the design of our dollar bills is something that can still ignite a conversation. The points of controversy we’ve covered so far relate to major components of the notes’ overall look. However, if you take a closer look at your money, you may notice a series of symbols and messages, most of which have hidden meanings of their own.
The note that seems to be talked about the most in terms of these hidden meanings is the humble dollar bill. That’s probably because it sports a whole host of Latin phrases, images and symbols, all of which bear some significance. And the meaning of many of these features seems to have been reinterpreted over the years.
Because of these reinterpretations, it’s been easy for the true meanings hidden within the dollar bill to have become lost. As a result, it would probably be fair to say that many of us couldn’t explain all the symbols displayed on the single. It’s little surprise, then, that some have been the cause of confusion, although that can hopefully be cleared up by digging a little deeper into their various origins.
Take, for example, one of the most evocative symbols displayed on the one-dollar bill: an eye that’s contained within a triangle. This motif has been the subject of much speculation over the years. And some people believe that the image represents the “All-Seeing Eye,” which is apparently an important logo for the Freemasons.
While the secretive nature of Freemasons has given rise to a number of conspiracy theories over the years, the meaning of the All-Seeing Eye is seemingly quite transparent. The eye within the pyramid is said to represent the Great Architect of the Universe’s universal presence. In other words, it’s a reminder that God is looking over us.
The eye’s links to the Freemasons are seemingly bolstered by the fact that the men who were responsible for placing it on the dollar bill belonged to the secret society themselves. They were secretary of agriculture Henry Wallace and President Franklin Roosevelt. However, some argue that the person who designed the symbol wasn’t a Freemason.
Moreover, the Freemasons isn’t the only secret society that the eye symbol has been linked to. Some people believe it’s a reference to the Illuminati, for example, which uses a similar sign as its motif. However, the official explanation for the emblem used on the dollar bill is actually what’s known as The Eye of Providence, which symbolizes God’s all-seeing eye.
Of course, the Eye of Providence isn’t the only component of the one-dollar bill that’s been the subject of speculation. Directly below that symbol sits an incomplete pyramid, which is also reminiscent of the Illuminati symbol. As such, some have interpreted it to mean that powerful forces have infiltrated the U.S. authorities.
In reality, though, there’s no firm evidence that the pyramid is a nod to any kind of secret society. Like the Eye of Providence, the shape forms part of the Great Seal of the United States – the official emblem of America. It was designed by Charles Thompson in 1782, and he had a clear explanation for what the shape represents.
According to Thompson, the unfinished pyramid represents “strength and duration.” Furthermore, Pennsylvania State University professor of American Studies, Bill Ellis, has explained that the pyramids are symbolic of human structures that have stood the test of time.
Not only does the unfinished pyramid on the one-dollar bill hold its own significance, but the shape itself also contains a number of hidden messages. For instance, at the very bottom of the shape is a series of letters that read “MDCCLXXVI.” And while this could easily be mistaken for some kind of serial number, these are in fact Roman numerals that represent the figure 1776, which of course is when America first declared its independence.
You may also have noticed that the pyramid on the one-dollar bill is divided into 13 steps. And a closer look at the note will reveal that this apparently unlucky number is a recurring theme of the design. For instance, there are 13 olives on a branch, 13 stars, and 13 arrows below the eagle. They all represent the number of colonies that first became the U.S.
Speaking of the eagle, the bird of prey on the dollar bill has its own significance. The animal is a symbol of the U.S., and on the currency it’s situated behind a shield. This represents the self-reliance of the American people. The shield itself displays 13 horizontal stripes and the same number of vertical stripes, again in reference to those original colonies.
Meanwhile, in the area surrounding the eagle on the one-dollar bill, there are a number of other significant symbols. For instance, above the bird are 13 stars that are shown, according to the official description, “breaking through a cloud.” This is said to represent the glory of the U.S.
Elsewhere, below the eagle are the aforementioned olive branch and arrows, which the animal holds in its talons. The items signify peace and war, respectively. Previously, the weapons were situated in the bird’s dominant right claw, which was perceived by some as a sign of aggression. As a result, they were subsequently switched to the other side.
Another prominent feature of the one-dollar bill is the image of George Washington. Look to the left of the former president’s face and you’ll find a letter from A-L. Each of these denotes the bank that produced the note. For example, “B” symbolizes New York, while “F” means Atlanta.
While Washington’s face takes center place on the one-dollar bill, the outer edges of the note are also crammed with hidden meaning. For instance, in the upper left, there are contours that resemble a Maltese cross. It’s been speculated that this is a symbol of the Knights of Malta, an organization founded in medieval times. Many of the group’s members are said to have moved to the U.S. in the years around 1800.
Meanwhile, in the top right of the one-dollar bill, above the “1” there appears to be a tiny creature peering out from behind the shield. Some believe it’s an owl, while others suspect it’s a spider – due to the webbed pattern behind the numeral. Whatever it is, it probably acts as some kind of security measure to protect against forgeries.
Elsewhere, in the bottom left corner of the one-dollar bill, there’s an extremely vague outline of a figure hidden within the webbed pattern of the note. Though you would need a magnifying glass to see it, conspiracy theorists believed that this represents Shiva, the Hindu god who’s nicknamed “the Destroyer.” It’s not clear why such a symbol would be placed on U.S. currency, however.
Finally, in one of the most out-there interpretations of the one-dollar bill, it’s been claimed that there’s a concealed alien face among the many signs. The features of the extraterrestrial can apparently be made out when darkening certain shapes on the single. And this alleged discovery has sent conspiracy theorists into overdrive.
However, when it comes to the design of the iconic one-dollar bill, it would appear that little is quite as it seems. With that in mind, many of the symbols contained within the currency will likely be the source of many discussions for years to come – at least for as long as paper money remains commonplace.