The back of note #259/453127, the GREEN back, bears three vignettes, chosen from the engraver’s catalog of images. The illustration to the far left pays tribute to the virtues of Pennsylvania – virtue, liberty and independence – depicted as a black horse, a gray horse and a Bald Eagle holding a shield illustrated with a ship approaching land.
The vignette to the right displays the United States national symbol, the Bald Eagle, nobly poised in front of a bars and stars shield. The eagle grasps a clutch of arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other.
The middle vignette is framed by the business of legal tender, with the inscription, “This note is receivable at par in all parts of the United States in payment of all teaxes and excises and all other dues to the United States, except duties on imports, and also for all salaries and other debts and demands owing at the United States to individuals, corporations and associations with the the United States, except interest on public debt.” to the left and the inscription, “Counterfeiting or altering this note, or passing any counterfeit or alteration of it, or having in possession any false or counterfeit plate or impression of it, or any paper made in imitation of the paper on which it is printed, is felony, and is punishable by one thousand dollars fine or fifteen years imprisonment at hard labor or both.” on the right.
The vignette itself is a version of the Landing of the Pilgrims, an image that held special power in the American imagination, for it was the Puritans who first articulated the belief in America’s manifest destiny. Herman Melville said it clearest in his 1850 book, “White-Jacket”: We Americans are the peculiar, chosen people – the Israel of our time. . . . God has predestinated, mankind expects, great things from our race.
The greenback then served as both legal tender and patriotic propaganda. Unify the country’s economy, unify the county’s destiny, unify – and heal.