On This Day: ‘In God We Trust’

The "In God We Trust" motto on a United States silver dollar. (Photo courtesy Getty Images.)

January 1, 1866: United States silver and gold coins begin bearing the motto, “In God We Trust.” The one exception: the dime, due to its small size.

As is often the case in times of turmoil, the nation turned to religion in the face of uncertainty, and its leaders felt the proclivity should be reflected on its coinage.

“The motto … was placed on United States coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War,” according to the U.S. Treasury. After receiving numerous appeals, Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase instructed Mint Director James Pollock to prepare a motto stating the country’s faith in God “in the fewest and tersest words possible.”

A March 3, 1837, Act of Congress made it so. The motto was to be placed on all gold and silver coins.

The motto has come and gone on some U.S. coins – the nickel, double eagle, and eagle among them. However, it has continuously appeared on the cent since 1909 and the dime since 1916.

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