“In God We Trust” Made Official U.S. Motto 

U.S. #1035 was issued as part of the Liberty Series.

Although it had appeared on American coins for 92 years, “In God We Trust” didn’t become America’s official motto until July 30, 1956.

It’s roots in American tradition date back to the War of 1812, when Francis Scott Key included the phrase “And this be our motto: In God is our Trust” in his poem that became the national anthem, “Star-Spangled Banner.” Fifty years later, as America was embroiled in Civil War, Reverend M.R. Watkinson requested that our coins include a statement recognizing God to “relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism.” He, and many others, wished to show that God sided with Union.

U.S. #1075 was issued in small quantities for collectors at the Fifth International Philatelic Exhibition (FIPEX).

After special legislation was passed in April 1864, “In God We Trust” was minted on one- and two-cent coins. It appeared on various coins over the years, but not all of them. Following public outcry over its omission from a $20 coin in 1908, it was ordered that the phrase appear on all coins it had previously been minted on. It’s been on every US coin produced since 1938.

U.S. #1044A was issued to meet a new international surface mail rate in 1961.

The phrase became a national matter in 1956 as America was involved in yet another conflict, the Cold War. American leaders wanted to distance us from the Soviet Union, which supported state atheism. When Florida representative Charles Edward Bennett proposed the legislation to the House, he stated that, “In these days when imperialistic and materialistic communism seeks to attack and destroy freedom, we should continually look for ways to strengthen the foundations of our freedom.”

U.S. #2593 was issued in Rome, NY, home of Francis Bellamy, a few miles from Mystic’s home in Camden.

So Congress passed a resolution declaring “In God We Trust” as the national motto. President Eisenhower signed it into law on July 30, 1956. The law also required the phrase to appear on all US paper currency. “In God We Trust” now served as an alternative or replacement for America’s unofficial motto, E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one), which had been adopted as part of the Great Seal of the United States in 1782.

Interestingly, two years earlier, President Eisenhower had pushed for the inclusion of “under God” in the pledge of allegiance. At his 1954 Flag Day speech, Eisenhower stated that, “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”

U.S. #1383 was issued at Eisenhower’s boyhood home in Abilene, Kansas.

The phrase’s use and adoption hasn’t been without controversy. President Theodore Roosevelt objected to its use on coins as he considered it sacrilege. Many others believe it symbolizes government support of religion, though several court cases have ruled against that suggestion.

Our nation’s motto first appears on postage

A little over two years before this, America issued the first definitive stamp bearing this motto in April 1954. The stamp, pictured below, was the first definitive with religious significance. The stamp was issued at the request of thousands of Americans calling for such a stamp with religious ties.

U.S. #1041 – the first bi-colored definitive with a denomination under $1.

According to Arthur E. Summerfield, postmaster general at the time, “The inscription “In God We Trust” sums up the religious faith that has always been and is today the bulwark of this Nation – and its greatest source of strength. This stamp rededicates our faith in the spiritual foundations upon which our government and our nation rests and without which no government or nation could endure. Since this new stamp will be used primarily for the first ounce of regular international mail, it is ‘a postal ambassador’ which will be abroad at the rate of about 200 million or more stamps a year.”

The stamp was unveiled in a nationwide television event attended by President Eisenhower, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and leaders of religious groups.

Click here to read last year’s discussion about This Day in History.

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  1. Great story, but it depresses me because I know that now within the United States there is probably a very large faction that wants to get rid of the very phrase that our nation was founded upon; “In God We Trust”. I would say within 20 years, after the Supreme Court is “adjusted” that phrase will be ordered removed from our coins and public buildings.

  2. The concept of God varies in different religions. Majority of humans around globe believe in presence of a universal power, named God, Generator, Operator and Destroyer. In God we trust doesn’t denote a particular religion. It should be honored in US for ever.

    1. And remain in our minds and in our hearts, especially when we have to send one of our children abroad to defend our values. Amen.

  3. Thank Heaven! God has largely been erased from this country and we are reaping what we’ve sown. It is largely due to the present administration and will continue if H. C. is elected. I pray it won’t happen,

  4. This is a good one. explained succinctly, and with some of the simplest, most beautiful stamps. Now we just have to learn to trust our fellow Americans like we exhort them to trust in a god.

  5. Thanks for another great Day in History story.
    ”In God We Trust” first appeared on the Two Cent Coin 1864.
    It was not added to the One Cent Coin until 1909 when we went
    from the Indian Head Cent to the Lincoln Head Cent that, by the
    way is still being used today 107 years later!

  6. It’s interesting that I am the first comment on this great issue. Many will disagree but this country was founded and established on Godly principles thus the motto is very appropriate. You do not have to believe in God to live in this country but it is the principle that allows you that privilege. Removing this cornerstone will commence the beginning of a relaxation of the freedoms that we enjoy. I love these stamps and I love our liberty.

    1. It does not seem to me to be, nor perhaps ever to have been, the cornerstone of our freedoms. There is a basic moral and altruistic sense in us mortals that exists quite independent of a belief in a supernatural, overseeing force. (And, you might wish to re-examine what you mean by “relaxation of the freedoms”; it doesn’t seem to fit in.)

      1. I think that the person means the relaxation of the Freedom of Religion (whether it be to believe in a God; or not) would be one of the “freedoms” which could very well lead to the relaxation of our other “freedoms”. Perhaps it is you that needs to re-examine your freedoms and how the relaxation of one freedom could lead to the relaxation of many “freedoms”. It could happen. God Bless America.

      2. Also, study what the Founding Fathers had to say about “God” and/or “Religion”. “In God We Trust” could not be further from the truth.

      3. To: Robert Labelle
        “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever”- Thomas Jefferson. I know it’s hard to fathom for some people, but these are the facts. It was indeed founded as a nation under God, and this quote comes from someone everyone claims was anti religious.

    2. Is the 3c Liberty #573 the most abundant US stamp ever circulated? Or perhaps the 3c Jefferson Regular {Presidential) issue #528?

      FYI “it’s” is the contraction for “it is.” You meant “its,” the possessive of “it.” But I love your daily stories anyway.

  7. *** BREAKING NEWS ***
    Stamp collecting is a fun and relaxing ” HOBBY ”
    Can’t we leave politics out of our day for ten
    minutes and just enjoy these great stories from

  8. The Supreme Court has ruled against School Prayer. I believe this falls in the same category and I would not be opposed to it’s removal. This country”s motto is and should be, “E pluribus Unam” (From Many One) That means everyone, not just those who believe in God.

  9. I wonder why the statue of Liberty was chosen as the backdrop for the stamp; and whether different icons of the US nation were also considered (Stars and Stripes, Grand Canyon, White House), or even others (Old Faithful, Geronimo, Aurora Borealis). In this day and age I can think of dozens of objects synonymous with America that could make it onto a re-incarnation of the stamp (Hubble Telescope, Harley-Davidson, Transistor, Juke Box, Mobile Phone, Electric Guitar, Integrated Microchip, ATM, Phonograph, Drive-in Theatre, GPS, Laser, LED), down to the most tongue and cheek I can think of right now (Traffic Cone, Zipper, Bubble Gum, Traffic Lights, Tupperware, Frisbee), and not to leave out Jelly Beans! GdR.

  10. I wish that the powers-to-be pays attention to what might happen if the motto vanishes maybe another series of Crusades; and this time they will be over stepping their power of office.

  11. E Pluribus Unum should be our national motto as our founding fathers intended! Our nation’s population is becoming more diversified representing all religions, no religion, political views among various ethnic groups. I share President Theodore Roosevelt’s view that we need to keep religion out of the national discourse because faith is a private and personal matter.

  12. Thank you Mystic for this informative article, and the history of our stamps and coinage.Complainers today, could do well to look at that history, and to: “In God We Trust”.

  13. Interesting article and comments. As I young tyke, l had a school administrator who had an issue with the then recent “under God” in the Pledge. I always wondered about the inconsistency a la:
    “Roosevelt objected to its use on coins as he considered it sacrilege. Many others believe it symbolizes government support of religion, though several court cases have ruled against that suggestion.” Thanks for clearing it up. Not surprising it was an artifact of the Cold War.
    However, I still agree with Roosevelt that God and currency are incompatible and stick with the motto- In God we trust, all others pay cash.

  14. We have discussed politics and religion together and have survived to debate and discuss many more topics hopefully for many more days. Thank God. P.S. We’re still talking about stamps, right? Welcome back GdR.

  15. I used to think E.Pluribus Unum was some big fat banker from Wall Street, complete with a tall silk hat, white tie and tails, and a shiny cummerbund around his big pot belly. Kind of sounds like one, don’t you think? He had to be some kind of big shot to have his name on all the coins.

    I also used to think Flotsam and Jetsam were the Katzenjammer Kids, Inner Sanctum was a hot drink you took at bedtime, and John Barleycorn was a dirt farmer from Iowa.

    Strange how kids associate names, not with what they are, but what they sound like. I suppose some adults do that too.

  16. I wonder how many of you have fought for this country so that you con complain or put your thoughts down on paper. Thank a Veteran for this privilege. Let quit trying to change things that has been around for years and not hurting anyone If you can’t believe in this country all you have to do is find another as good,

  17. Unreal that a stamp forum turns into a political debate. We have enough of that now, Stick to stamps and leave your political opinions at home and when voting.
    Mystic is fantastic.

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