5 Things You Didn't Know About Salmon Chase

Archive Pics/Alamy Stock Photo
Archive Pics/Alamy Stock Photo

Salmon P. Chase may not be history's most familiar name, but the former Senator who also served as Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court made quite a mark on American politics. Here are five things you may not know about Chase:

1. He's Probably In Your Wallet

If you're lucky enough to have a $10,000 bill tucked away in your hip pocket, you've seen Chase's face. His portrait appears on the obverse of the giant bill. When the Treasury started issuing the bills in 1928, it chose to honor Chase for his crucial role in helping to popularize modern banknotes.

Of course, Chase's role in the introduction of these banknotes wasn't entirely altruistic. As Secretary of the Treasury, Chase was in charge of introducing and popularizing the first issue of greenback bank notes in 1861. Chase was politically ambitious, so he chose to festoon the $1 bill with an image of a great American hero—Salmon P. Chase. Whatever his motivations, though, Chase did manage to get Americans to make the switch to paper money.

Chase's name might appear in another place in your wallet. Although he didn't found the institution himself, Chase National Bank was named in his honor. Over the years the bank has morphed into JPMorganChase, so Chase's name might be printed on one of your credit cards.

2. He Had an Ear for Slogans

Ever wonder how "In God We Trust" ended up on our currency? Give Chase the credit. People naturally became a bit more conscious of religion during the Civil War, and by the end of 1861 they were inundating Secretary of the Treasury Chase to put some sort of acknowledgment of God on American currency.

Chase apparently felt adding a religious note to our cash was a good call, so he instructed the director of the Philadelphia Mint to come up with "a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition." The Mint's staff suggested "Our Country, Our God" or "God, Our Trust."

Chase liked these ideas, but he changed one of them to "In God We Trust." Congress approved the change in 1864, and "In God We Trust" has appeared intermittently on coins ever since.

3. He Had a Tragic Personal Life

A contemporary biographer of Chase described him as "habitually grave and reserved in demeanor; he did not often laugh, and had but a small appreciation of humor." Chase had a good excuse for not being a barrel of laughs, though; his personal life was marked by one flurry of tragedies after another.

Chase's first wife died just two years into their marriage, and the couple's daughter died before she turned five. Chase remarried in 1839, but with similarly grim results. His wife and two of his three daughters soon died. He took a third bride in 1846, but she died just six years later, as did one of their two daughters.

4. He Really, Really Wanted to Be President

Chase was never nominated to a presidential ticket, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Chase angled for a nomination for every election between 1856 and 1872, and he wasn't afraid to jump from party to party in his efforts to nab the top spot on a ticket.

In fact, Chase made a career of jumping from party to party. He was elected to Cincinnati's city council as a Whig in 1840, but he soon jumped ship for the Liberty Party. The Liberty Party eventually morphed into the Free Soil Party; the slogan-minded Chase actually coined the rallying cry, "Free Soil, Free Labor, and Free Men."

While serving in the Senate from 1849 to 1855, Chase identified as a Democrat, but his anti-slavery stance led him to become one of the first Republicans. As a last-ditch effort to get a presidential nomination, Chase even helped form the Liberal Republican Party to oppose the reelection of Ulysses S. Grant in 1872, but the party nominated Horace Greeley instead.

5. He Didn't Love Being on the Supreme Court

Most politicians would jump at the chance to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Not Chase, though. Although the aspiring presidential candidate had served under Lincoln as Secretary of the Treasury, he still lusted after a spot in the White House for himself.

Thanks to his presidential ambitions, Chase would often threaten to resign from the Treasury post in order to make a run for the office. Lincoln declined to accept three of Chase's resignations, but the fourth try was the charm for Chase in 1864. Shortly after Chase's resignation, though, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney died. Lincoln nominated Chase for the opening, and on December 6, 1864, Chase became the sixth Chief Justice of the United States.

Chase wasn't a natural fit for the position, as evidenced by his aforementioned continued political campaigning. Although he made some progressive moves from the bench—he appointed John Rock as the first African-American to argue a case before the court—he didn't love the work. Chase held the position until his death in 1873, but he summed up his time on the bench thusly: "Working from morning till midnight and no result, except that John Smith owned this parcel or land or other property instead of Jacob Robinson; I caring nothing and nobody caring much more, about the matter."

A New Ruth Bader Ginsburg Bobblehead Is Available for Pre-Order

The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum
The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum

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The late Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a devout champion for feminism and civil rights, and her influence stretched from the halls of the Supreme Court to the forefront of popular culture, where she affectionately became known as the Notorious RBG. Though there are plenty of public tributes planned for Ginsburg in the wake of her passing, the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum has a new RBG bobblehead ($25) available for pre-order so you can honor her in your own home.

There are two versions of the bobblehead available, one of Ginsburg smiling and another with a more serious expression. Not only do the bobbleheads feature her in her Supreme Court black robe, but eagle-eyed fans will see she is wearing one for her iconic coded collars and her classic earrings.

RBG is far from the only American icon bobblehead that the Hall of Fame store has produced in such minute detail. They also have bobbleheads of Abraham Lincoln ($30), Theodore Roosevelt ($30), Alexander Hamilton ($30), and dozens of others.

For more information on the RBG bobblehead, head here. Shipments will hopefully be sent out by December 2020 while supplies last.

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100 Years Later, the Story of Florida’s Ocoee Massacre—an Election Day Attack on Black Citizens—Is Finally Being Told

Courtesy of Orange County Regional History Center
Courtesy of Orange County Regional History Center

The bloodiest Election Day in the history of the United States is a story many Americans have never heard. On November 2, 1920, the day of the U.S. presidential election, a white mob attacked a Black neighborhood in the city of Ocoee, Florida. Now, the story of the Ocoee Massacre is being told in a new museum exhibition for its 100-year anniversary, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

The exhibit, titled "Yesterday, This Was Home: The Ocoee Massacre of 1920,” is now on display at the Orange County Regional History Center in Downtown Orlando. It examines what the museum calls "the largest incident of voting-day violence in United States history."

On November 2, 1920, a black labor broker named Moses Norman attempted to vote in what is now Ocoee, only to be turned away when he didn't pay the $1 poll tax. He returned later that day to attempt to vote again, and this time his persistence caught the attention of local Ku Klux Klan members.

Knowing his actions had provoked anger, Norman fled town. A mob of armed white men went to the home of his friend July Perry that night while searching for him. Perry, a fellow labor broker, was 50 years old and had been involved in civic activities like registering more Black citizens to vote. Sha’Ron Cooley McWhite, Perry's great niece, told the Orlando Sentinel that his bravery and activism likely made him a target for white supremacists.

July PerryCourtesy of Orange County Regional History Center

The confrontation at Perry's home led to a shootout and ended with the mob capturing Perry and lynching him. The violence raged in the Black neighborhood throughout the night. By morning, the mob of 250 had burned down 22 homes and two churches and murdered dozens of Black residents.

Like many tragedies suffered by Black communities in U.S. history, the story of the Ocoee Massacre is not widely known. Poor record-keeping and intentional suppression of the news has left historians with an incomplete picture of exactly what happened that night. The Orange County Regional History Center had to collect land records, written reports, and oral histories to recount the event in depth.

"Yesterday, This Was Home: The Ocoee Massacre of 1920” is on display at the Orange County Regional History Center now through February 14, 2021.

[h/t Orlando Sentinel]