And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"
~~The Star-Spangled Banner
Many people do not know that Francis Scott Key's emotional fourth verse of the Star-Spangled Banner is the historic origin of the United States official motto. What you also might not know is that putting the nation's motto on our currency has been, at times, highly controversial.
Incorporating God into American coinage was first proposed by Reverend M. R. Watkinson in 1861 with the intended purpose to "relieve us of the ignominy of heathenism." It was not until 1864 that the phrase "In God We Trust" was first added to U.S. coinage. It was added, at least in part, to promote the idea that defending the Union in the Civil War was a holy obligation.
Support for the phrase being included began to erode during the age of the robber barons. By the early 1900s, many influential people including President Theodore Roosevelt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, were dead set against invoking the name of God on currency. Detractors felt that it was a form of blasphemy to put the Lord's name on an instrument that could be used for immoral purposes. It is for this reason that the phrase "In God We Trust" was conspicuously absent from the 1907 $10 Indian Head gold coin.
However, when the coin was released, the American public was incensed by the lack of invocation on it and legislators in congress demanded it be included on all future minting of the coin. In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower approved a law that made the phrase "In God We Trust" the official United States motto. The nation's motto has appeared on paper currency since 1957.