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"In God We Trust" Day

On April 22, 1864, Congress passed an act allowing for "In God We Trust" to begin appearing on U.S. coins. That same year it appeared on the newly minted two-cent piece and was soon used on other coins. On March 3, 1865, an act instructed the U.S. Mint to put it on all gold and silver coins. The Coinage Act of 1873 said it could be emblazoned on other coins as well. From 1864 until 1938 it appeared on various coins for different periods of time. Since 1938 it has appeared on all coins. It has been on the penny since 1909, the dime since 1916, and on all gold coins, silver dollars, half dollars, and quarter dollar coins since 1908. It is also the official motto of the United States.

E pluribus unum, a Latin phrase meaning "out of many, one," was the original unofficial motto of the United States. First appearing on the Great Seal of the United States, which was adopted in 1782, it referenced the recent coming together of the 13 colonies. It also began appearing on U.S. coins in 1795. At the time of the Civil War, when the country was tearing apart, the meaning of the phrase seemed unfitting. Many were also taking solace in religion at the time, as a balm from the bloodshed surrounding them.

The increased turn to faith influenced the government's decision to use the phrase "In God We Trust" on coins. Secretary of Treasury Salmon P. Chase received letters from religious folks throughout the country asking for words such as "the Almighty God" to be used on coins. In November 1861, Chase instructed the Director of the Philadelphia Mint, James Pollock, to prepare a motto for coins. In December 1863, designs were given to Chase for approval. While looking at them he suggested the phrase "GOD, OUR TRUST" should be changed to "IN GOD WE TRUST." The reference to "trust" was influenced in part by a phrase in the final stanza of Francis Scott Key's "The Star-Spangled Banner," which reads, "And this be our motto—'In God is our trust!'" There needed to be Congressional legislation in order for the motto to appear on coins, leading to the passing of the April 22 legislation.

On July 30, 1956, "In God We Trust" became the official national motto, after President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Congressional legislation to make it so. The law also said that the motto must now appear on all currency, which led to it first being printed on paper money the following year. There have been court challenges to the motto and its use on money, but the courts have upheld its use as Constitutional.

How to Observe "In God We Trust" Day

This would be a fitting day to start coin collecting. The ultimate coin to find on the day would be an 1864 two-cent piece, which was the first coin made by the U.S. Mint with "In God We Trust" on it. Some states offer an "In God We Trust" licence plate which you could purchase. You could also share the story of the day and its significance with others. Maybe you could even get a discussion going among friends as to if the phrase should be used on coins or not.

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