Why Is Benjamin Franklin's Head on the Hundred Dollar Bill?

American money, much like other world currencies, commemorates some of the country's most influential people. In this way, Benjamin Franklin's head is featured on the hundred dollar bill, celebrating some of his most important contributions to American history. As of 1969, the $100 bill with Benjamin Franklin is the largest denomination banknote issued in the United States.

Benjamin Franklin on $100 bill Benjamin Franklin on $100 bill
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Choosing Who Appears on Money

According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, their "records do not suggest why certain Presidents and statesmen were chosen for specific dominations." In this way, there does not appear to be a specific set of criteria for deciding who appears on coins and banknotes in the United States.

The basic designs of the front and bank of all paper currency in modern circulation were chosen in 1928; Benjamin Franklin appeared on the $100 bill for the first time in 1914. Previous versions, including Interest Bearing Notes, featured:

  • George Washington
  • A bald eagle
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Thomas Hart Benton
  • James Monroe
  • David G. Farragut

Today, the only specific legal restriction is that no "Government Securities," including paper money like the $100 bill, can feature the portrait of a living person.

Benjamin Franklin on the $100 Bill

Benjamin Franklin's image appears on the largest value bill in circulation in the US today: the $100 bill. Some of the reasons why he is commemorated on the bill include the following.

A Founding Father

Franklin was one of the – if not the – most important founding father in our nation. His work in forging the Declaration of Independence is considered pivotal in the forming of the nation, so it is well-fitting that his likeness be on this important bill.

Negotiated French Support

Franklin effectively negotiated the French’s support of the colonists’ efforts toward independence, and that support amount to tens of thousands of francs spent on behalf of the future United States.

What’s more, the French committed troops and education to the colonial effort, and Franklin’s role in securing French monies made the forging of the United States, and its currency, a reality.

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American Values

Franklin contributed much to what is deemed most “American” about the United States. He was tirelessly innovative, brave and capable, diplomatic and wise. All of these values are honored by Americans and honored in the likeness of the unforgettable Franklin on the $100 bill.

Some Franklin Money Trivia

Did you know that:

  • The first $100 bill featuring Benjamin Franklin entered circulation in 1914, a place the founding father has retained ever since.
  • The $100 bill is not the only currency Benjamin Franklin has appeared on. He appeared on the half dollar between 1948 and 1963. He was also featured on a Civil War token with the famous phrase associated with him, "a penny saved is a penny earned," on the reverse.
  • Benjamin Franklin is one of two non-presidents to appear on the front of American bills. The other is Alexander Hamilton, who appears on the $10 bill.

A Man to Admire

Franklin was one of the leading thinkers, scientists, and statesmen of his time. For more of his wisdom, check out Benjamin Franklin quotes here. And the next time you are spending your big bills, stop and take a minute to remember the contributions of the man whose face appears on the $100 bill.