The U.S. Government began printing paper money in 1862, when demand notes and legal tender �greenback� currency were issued to finance the Civil War. On August 29, 1862, one male and four female clerks and the chief of the bureau began work in the attic of the Treasury Building to affix the Treasury seal and cut apart sheets of notes by machinery.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) has no organic act, but the law of July 11, 1862 allowing some of the authorized notes to be engraved and printed at the Treasury is the start of the Bureau. The first legislative recognition of BEP was in the appropriations act of June 20, 1874. The Act of March 3, 1877 made the Bureau the exclusive printer of U.S. currency and securities and in 1894 BEP became the exclusive printer of postage stamps. BEP ceased printing postage stamps in June 2005.
Printing U.S. bonds in the hydraulic pressroom of the Bureau of Engraving
and Printing in the Treasury Building. Paper money was first issued by the
Federal Government in 1861, and first printed by the Bureau in 1862.
(Library of Congress)
BEP designs, engraves, and prints all U.S. paper currency. In 1996, the Bureau began the production of new designs for our money, the most comprehensive overhaul of the basic currency design since the 1860s and the introduction of the now current small-sized bills in 1929. Early on, the Bureau did other government work. By late 1864, it printed forms for Treasury, engraved passport plates for the State Department, and numbered money orders for the Post Office Department. Some of the other products produced currently by the Bureau include: Presidential appointment certificates, military identification cards, naturalization documents, Small Business Administration financial documents, Coast Guard water use licenses, Presidential portraits, and vignettes of various Washington, D.C. historical buildings.