Lincoln appears on FRBNs
By Jeff Starck
1918 $5 Federal Reserve Bank notes, featuring a
portrait of President Lincoln, could be the
perfect wedding accompaniment.
Images courtesy of www.HeritageCurrency.com. A
portrait of President Abraham Lincoln was
borrowed from a past federal paper money issue
for the Series
1918 $5 Federal Reserve Bank notes.
The notes live up to the wedding adage of
providing something old with something new, and
something borrowed with something blue.
The qualifiers are the historic vignette of
President Lincoln gracing the face of a $5
denomination in a new type of federal paper
money. The notes depict a back design borrowed
from another paper money issue. The serial
numbers and Treasury seal, in blue ink, complete
the wedding requirements.
Creating a system, its paper money
The notes were authorized under the Federal
Reserve Acts of Dec. 23, 1913, which also
authorized the Federal Reserve System and
Federal Reserve notes, another type of note.
Twelve cities were selected to host Federal
Reserve Banks: in order, numerically by
district, New York, Boston, Philadelphia,
Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St.
Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas and San
Federal Reserve Bank notes should not be
confused with Federal Reserve notes, though both
were authorized by the same act. It is easy to
understand how they could be confused, given the
similarity in name and with both types using the
same back designs.
However, the responsibility for the obligation
for payment differs between the two types of
notes. The obligation on Federal Reserve notes
is borne by the U.S. government, not the
individual banks. The obligation on Federal
Reserve Bank notes was borne by the individual
bank rather than the federal government.
Appearances can be confusing
Because Federal Reserve Bank notes carry the
inscription national currency across the top,
they are also often confused with national bank
notes (which also carry a national currency
inscription), although the two are different
types of paper currency, and nationals predate
Federal Reserve Bank notes by half a century.
Large-size Federal Reserve Bank notes were
released in two series (the second issue of
Federal Reserve Bank notes was authorized by the
Act of April 23, 1918), in denominations of $1
The face of each of the large-size Federal
Reserve Bank notes features a small presidential
portrait centered to the left of the note.
Charles Burt's engraving of Abraham Lincoln on
the $5 is based on a photograph by Anthony
Berger, a partner of Matthew Brady.
The portrait was originally used on the Series
1869 $100 Treasury note, often called the
The overall face design of the $5 Federal
Reserve Bank notes is credited to a host of
Bureau of Engraving and Printing engravers, who
worked on plates for various districts,
according to paper money expert Fred Reed.
"Evidently it was a big job creating the plates
because of the multiplicity of Federal Reserve
Banks," Reed said.
Designs for the backs of the $5 through $50
notes are shared with Federal Reserve notes of
Both vignettes on the back of the $5 Federal
Reserve Bank note were engraved by Joseph I.
The one on the left is titled Columbus'
Discovery of Land and the one on the right is
Landing of the Pilgrims.
Five districts (Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas
City and San Francisco) issued $5 notes of the
first issue, Series 1915.
For the second issue of Federal Reserve Bank
note, 11 banks issued the $5 notes (St. Louis
issued only $50 notes).
On the second issue, the language of the
obligation to pay the bearer differs completely
from the obligation on the first issue.