The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 19, Number 16, April 17, 2016, Article 23


The Wall Street Journal is among the latest media outlets to write about the battle over placing a woman's portrait on U.S. paper money. Here's an excerpt from their April 14, 2016 article. -Editor

Put ER on the $20 It began with the best of intentions: Put a woman on the front of America’s paper currency. It has since turned into something of a nightmare for Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.

Women’s groups are voicing alarm that Hamilton-mania will succeed in pushing a woman off the front of the $10 bill to the back. Other signs hint at a far broader redesign in the works that would not only keep Alexander Hamilton on the front of the $10 note but that could also see Mr. Lew announce a woman on the front of the $20 note.

Mr. Lew announced last June a campaign to solicit public input on which woman to put on the front of the $10 bill. Currency officials had already planned a redesign that would issue the note with updated security features in 2020, coinciding with the anniversary of women’s suffrage.

Almost immediately, devotees of Hamilton—whose ranks have swelled after last summer’s Broadway debut of the blockbuster rap musical about the nation’s founding Treasury secretary—cast Mr. Lew as the second coming of Aaron Burr.

“I must admit I was appalled,” wrote former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who echoed others’ calls to dislodge Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill. Mr. Jackson, the nation’s seventh president, led a successful campaign to kill off the nation’s central bank and stridently argued against the dangers of a paper currency.

Meantime, other groups that had petitioned the White House to put a woman on the $20 bill expressed disappointment that a woman would instead go on the $10 note, which is far less widely circulated.

“We told them this was not going to be popular. There were so many levels on which it didn’t make sense,” said Susan Ades Stone, executive director of the Women on 20s campaign, which began petitioning the White House last year. It conducted an online poll that said Harriet Tubman should go on the $20 note.

The criticisms caught Mr. Lew off guard. The Treasury Department explained that the government’s currency-security apparatus had already embarked on the redesign of several bills to include tactile features for the blind and visually impaired. For security reasons, officials concluded in 2013 that the $10 bill should go first, making it the best vehicle to ensure a woman would arrive on the currency in the near future.

Signs of Mr. Lew’s backtracking emerged following a series of public forums to solicit feedback last year. In December, the Treasury Department announced the decision would be delayed until 2016.

In recent interviews, Mr. Lew has said new plans extend beyond the $10 bill. He has said Hamilton—who was killed in a duel with Burr—will remain on the currency, and he has stopped saying a woman would go on the front of the $10 note.

“We’re not talking just about one bill. We’re talking about the $5, the $10 and the $20,” Mr. Lew said in an interview on CNBC on Thursday. “We’re not just talking about one picture on one bill.”

To read the complete article, see:
Musical Chairs for Currency: Broadway’s ‘Hamilton’ Scrambles Plan for Woman on $10 (

Here's another piece from TIME magazine. -Editor

When Professor Cheryl Greenberg sat down with leaders from the Treasury Department last August to talk about the future of the $10 bill, she and nearly a dozen historians from across the country wondered why the Treasury Department was not starting with another note.

“We came in saying, ‘Can we start with the 20?'” Greenberg, a History professor at Trinity College, recalled in a recent conversation with TIME.

The answer, quite frankly, is security. Though the Treasury Secretary ultimately signs off on the currency design, the Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence Steering Committee, or ACD, comprised of leaders from Treasury, the Secret Service and the Federal Reserve recommends notes for redesign. That decision is made with thwarting counterfeiting as the primary goal.

When the ACD recommended a change to the $10 bill, it was the denomination in which the rate per million— the number of counterfeit notes in circulation as reported by the Secret Service—was getting to a level that called for new technology. And because the $10 bill came first, the Treasury Department also saw the bill as its first opportunity to get a woman featured on U.S. currency, something Secretary Jack Lew has said is long overdue. Over the summer, the Secretary asked for public input on the selection process.

What TIME’s reporting and a slew of statements by the Treasury Secretary call into question, though, is whether or not the woman featured on the $10 bill will appear as the portrait. Treasury Department officials told TIME that the Secretary’s thinking has changed since the announcement in 2015, but did not specifically say how.

To read the complete article, see:
Why They Can’t Just Put A Woman on the $20 (


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Wayne Homren, Editor

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