The Buck Stops Started Here

Salmon P. Chase (1808–1873), a Cincinnati lawyer who became Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury, in 1864 invented the nation’s modern currency, including coins with the words "In God We Trust" and green paper money.

The motto was placed on United States coins as a reaction to increased religious sentiment during the Civil War. At the time, Chase was Secretary of the United States Treasury.  He frequently received requests from devout U.S. citizens encouraging that God be recognized on currency. Treasury Department records show that the first such letter arrived November 13, 1861 penned by a Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, PA.  Click here to read the resulting correspondence.

Did You Know?

  • The United States Government began printing money in 1862, when "greenback" currency was issued to finance the Civil War.
  • In 1964, when silver coins became too expensive to make, Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus designed the nickel-copper "sandwich" metal now used for coins.
  • The United States Mint is responsible for producing coins and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) produces currency notes.
  • The BEP produces approximately 37 million currency notes each day with a face value of about $696 million -- 45% of these notes are the $1 denomination.
  • About 95 percent of the currency notes printed each year are used to replace notes that are already in circulation.

Salmon P. Chase, Treasury Secretary, scribes "In God is our Trust," scratches out "is our" and overwrites "We" to arrive at "In God We Trust" in a 1863-12-09 letter to James Pollock, Director of the Philadelphia Mint. Image source: Chase to Pollock 1863-12-09 motto only.png (original derived from National Archives and Records Administration) by Salmon P. Chase is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

Portrait of Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase. Portrait dated between 1860 and 1865. Image source:  Mathew Brady, Portrait of Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, officer of the United States government (1860–1865, full version).jpg (original derived from Library of Congress) by photographer Mathew Brady is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0