April 13: Jefferson and the $2 Bill

When 2-dollar-billthe United States began producing bank notes in 1862, the two dollar bill was one of the first bills produced. The little loved currency continued to be produced until 1966 when the U. S. transitioned its paper money from U. S. Notes to Federal Reserve Notes. The Treasury explained that as the bill wasn’t particularly popular, they saw no reason to reassign it as a Federal Reserve Note. However, on April 11, 1976 (what would have been President Thomas Jefferson’s 233rd birthday) the $2-bill made a triumphant return when the Federal Reserve began producing the bill again.

Why was the $2-bill brought back? While some have cited the patriotic fervor of the Bicentennial year as the reason for the bill’s return, the actual answer is tied into U. S. financial concerns. In 1976, the $2-bill replaced nearly half of the $1-bills in circulation. By doing this, the government was able to save $26 million in 1976 dollars over a six year period from 1976 to 1981 because of reduced production, shipping and storage costs. After all, it takes just as much effort/room to produce, ship and store a $2-bill as it does for a $1-bill, but a $2-bill is worth 100% more money.

$2-bills are still produced to this day, albeit not as frequently as other bills. A new series of $2-bills was produced in November of 2013, prior to that the last printing of $2-bills was in 2006. The current $2-bill depicts Thomas Jefferson on the obverse in a design that has not changed since 1929, while the reverse is a rendition of John Trumbull’s 1817 painting Declaration of Independence which happens to prominently feature Jefferson. Now, although the Lincoln Memorial is depicted on the backside of the $5-bill, the face of the statue of Abraham Lincoln’s isn’t exactly clear, so one could make the case that the Jefferson is the only president depicted on both sides of a piece of American money.

Nowadays, two dollars isn’t much, but once upon a time it was a good amount of money. It was in those days that the Two-Dollar Cocktail was created. This recipe for the Two-Dollar Cocktail was published in a 1992 issue of the late lamented Gourmet Magazine, and is essentially a Sidecar that has no lemon juice.

Two-Dollar Cocktail

  • 1 1/2 ounces Brandy
  • 1 1/2 ounces Curacao

Shake with ice and strain into a highball glass with ice, garnish with a lemon twist.

Tomorrow: The Sound of Young America

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