I was just testing myself this morning, realizing how poor my powers of observation were regarding whose portrait was on which dollar denomination.
I knew Washington was on the one dollar bill, Lincoln on the five, and Jackson on the twenty. But I actually drew a blank on Hamilton being on the ten. I guessed (correctly) that Grant was on the fifty and knew that Franklin was on the hundred.
But I had entirely forgotten that there was such a thing as a two dollar bill (Jefferson), and I couldn't name the face on any denominations beyond one hundred.
Here they are, in order:
$500: William McKinley
$1000: Grover Cleveland
$5000: James Madison
$10,000: Salmon P. Chase
$100,000: Woodrow Wilson
Salmon P. Chase, who lived form 1808 to 1873, served as Senator from Ohio, the 23rd Governor of Ohio, Treasury Secretary under Lincoln, and the Sixth Chief Justice of the United States. That's a pretty illustrious career.
Even more embarrassing than that I hadn't been able to name all the people was that I hadn't even known how distinguished Chase was. (I had just assumed he was a Treasury Secretary.)
You have to wonder how many $100,000 bills are in circulation, and what they're used for. It would seem awfully risky to have that much money wrapped up in one little piece of flammable paper. (What if it just happened to fall out of your pocket?) One would think that any transactions involving that kind of money would be done through checks, or electronic transfers.
I can't imagine walking into the local grocery store and saying, "I'll take a gallon of milk, four sticks of butter, and one of those packages of gum over there. Oh, by the way, you got change for a hundred thou?"
The only people I can see really finding a use for the $100,000 bill -- or even its poor cousin, the $10,000 bill -- are big time drug dealers.
This is what $200 million in smaller denominations looks like (picture courtesy of a busted Mexican drug kingpin):
Obviously, it's a bit much to lug around. Imagine how much more convenient it would be to get paid for your thousand kilos of uncut heroin with cash that would fit inside a briefcase. The only problem would be getting your money back into circulation. It might arouse suspicion.
Still, it's sort of cool to know such bills exist. I'm sure I'll never see one in my lifetime, and just as well. The only circumstances in which I would see one -- other than in, say, a museum -- would probably be scary ones.