Many of the securities purchased for Lincoln in 1864 were produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and some even bore Lincoln’s portrait. Certain denominations of the Loan of 1863 and the Five-Twenty bonds had on them an image of Lincoln engraved by Henry Gugler, one of the BEP’s first engravers. Thus, Lincoln owned securities bearing his own picture. The image of Abraham Lincoln appearing on this security was derived from a photograph taken by local photographer C.S. German in Springfield, Illinois, on January 13, 1861.
Early in 1861, shortly after Lincoln’s inauguration, the two large bank note companies had engravings made of the new President’s portrait, using German’s photograph. One of these was done by engraver Frederick Girsch for the American Bank Note Company and appears on the $10 greenback of the time.
The engraving of Lincoln most often seen on Treasury securities during the Civil War was the work of Henry Gugler. He made an engraving for the National Bank Note Company that first appeared on bonds in late 1861. Gugler joined the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in early 1863, and his engraving was used extensively on government bonds during the war.
The portraits of living government officials are not seen today on US currency and securities. However, before 1866, it was common for Treasury securities to bear the picture of the current President or another government official. This practice expanded during the Lincoln administration with President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase frequently appearing on government money and bonds. Other Civil War personalities such as General William Sherman and General Ulysses Grant also showed up, including Spencer Clark who was in charge of the organization that would grow into the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
When Clark’s portrait appeared on a five cent fractional currency note in December 1864, Congress decided the practice of putting government officials on United States currency and securities had gone far enough. On April 7, 1866, Congress made it illegal for any living person to appear on government money or bonds of any kind. The law stands to this day, preventing the image of current and recent Presidents from appearing on the nation’s currency and coins.
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Memo from President Abraham Lincoln to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase listing assets Lincoln wanted converted into bonds.
Bond issued to Abraham Lincoln featuring his portrait, 1864. Courtesy of the Bureau of the Public Debt.