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There's More to Our Money Than Meets the Eye


There has been a flurry of Internet traffic flying back and forth about a bit of symbolism on the U.S. dollar bill, of all things.

More than most other nations' colorful currencies, which feature predictable national heroes and indigenous palm trees and elephants and the like, U.S. paper money is loaded with metaphorical symbols. The one-dollar bill, for instance, does honor the requisite legend — George Washington, our first president. But it also contains such images as scales that represent a balanced budget, and a drawing of a key — as in the key to the national treasury. Most likely because there were thirteen original colonies, there are exactly thirteen arrows in an eagle's left talons, thirteen leaves in the olive branch in its right talons, thirteen steps on a mysterious pyramid, and so forth.

But the buzz on the Internet concerns an oft-repeated story that stars — thirteen of them, of course — above the eagle's head in the Great Seal of the nation on the back of the dollar bill are arranged in what looks like the six-pointed Jewish Star of David. The story goes that this was a gesture of gratitude by George Washington to Hyam Solomon, the wealthy Philadelphia Jew who contributed a veritable fortune to help finance the American Revolution.

Those who doubt this tale have noted that Washington was off fighting the War when the Great Seal was created. He wasn't on the design committee.

Nonetheless, say others, a man who was held in such high regard that many wanted him to be a king and not a president would certainly have been consulted.

Nobody can say for sure why those thirteen stars have the look of a Star of David. And don't get us started about that unfinished pyramid and the glowing eye that hovers above it.

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