In J.B. Handlesman’s cartoon, a bartender is addressing Ulysses S. Grant, whose face appears on a huge $50 bill.
Ron Chernow, who wrote the Alexander Hamilton biography that Lin-Manuel Miranda turned into a smash Broadway musical, recently wrote a biography of Ulysses Grant, so I initially imagined the bartender speculating about Grant’s chances of becoming the subject of the next big Broadway hit.
- “Now that Chernow’s written your biography, will Lin-Manuel Miranda adapt it for the stage?”
- “Chernow wrote your biography, so the Broadway musical can’t be far behind.”
I next imagined the bartender expressing his preference for Grant over Hamilton, while addressing their relative values as currency: “Sure, everyone loves Hamilton now, but you’re worth five Hamiltons.”
There’s a slang term for almost every form of U.S. Currency. A $1 bill is a buck or a single, a $5 is a fin or a five-spot or a fiver, a $10 bill is a sawbuck, a $20 bill is a double sawbuck, and a $100 bill is a C-note. But the $50 bill is the exception to this rule, and I imagined the bartender asking him about this: “Why are you the only denomination that doesn’t have a cool nickname?”
Because a lot of establishments won’t accept anything larger than a $20 bill, and because this bill is large in every sense, I thought of this caption: “We don’t take large bills.”
Back in 2010, Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) introduced legislation to take Grant off the $50 bill and replace him with Ronald Reagan. That piece of history, which is probably too obscure to work in the context of this contest, inspired this caption: “They wanted to replace you with Reagan?”
Now let’s see how you did.
One of the many challenges in this unusually difficult contest is determining who’s talking. The bartender’s mouth is open, which indicates that he’s delivering the line that will serve as the caption. Many of you assumed otherwise, and I understand how one could argue that the bartender’s mouth is open not because he’s talking but because he’s surprised, and that we can’t see Grant’s open mouth because of his beard. Nevertheless, I think the bartender’s speaking. Believe me, I wish it were otherwise, as this cartoon’s easier to caption if Grant’s talking.
There were a lot of entries about refusing anything larger than a $20 bill, and these were the best:
- “Change is difficult.”
- “Sorry, I can’t take something that large.”
- “You got anything smaller?”
- “We don’t accept large bills.”
Here’s an entry that’s similar to but much better than my “replaced with Reagan” caption: “Trump just announced he’s replacing you with Robert E. Lee.” This caption is superior to mine not only because it cleverly references Trump’s support of confederate monuments, but because it can be appreciated by everyone and not just those who possess a knowledge of political trivia from almost a decade ago.
Here’s another timely reference to the divisions Trump has caused: “Drink up, Ulysses. You’re right on time for another civil war.”
As I did, some of you had the bartender comparing Grant favorably to other presidents who appear on U.S. currency, and this was the best of those entries: “You’re ten times the man Lincoln is.”
I like this caption because it explains why Grant is pointing his left thumb at himself: “I’m still going to need to see ID.”
I’ll end with two captions that do a nice job of addressing the setting and the denomination of the currency:
- “I don’t care if you won the civil war. You’re not having another.”
- “We don’t often attract the fifty-and-over crowd.”
This was not an easy contest. I struggled with it, and it appears that most of the entrants did, too.
My vote for the best caption of the week does a beautiful job of addressing the setting, the denomination of the currency, and the size of the actual $50 bill. And it’s funny: “We don’t accept large bills.”