Posts Tagged ‘lincoln’

The History of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Monday, March 9th, 2009

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The Bureau of Engraving and Printing can be traced back to August 29, 1862. It was a single room in the basement of the Treasury Building. Here, two men and four women separated and sealed $1 and $2 US notes which had been printed by private bank note companies. Now, there are about 2,500 employees working out of two buildings in Washington D.C. and a new building in Fort Worth, Texas. On April 26, 1991, the Western Currency Facility in Fort Worth had its grand opening.

Emma S. Brown was the youngest employee every hired by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. She started working in 1865 when she was almost 11 years old. She had a physically –handicapped mother and an older brother who was the main bread winner for the family. He was a soldier with the 188th Pennsylvania Volunteers and was killed in action during the siege of Petersburg in July, 1864. Emma Brown’s Congressman gave her a political appointment to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in the examination division. Ms. Brown was forewoman of the trimming section for 59 years before retiring on April 24, 1924.

1877 brought the need for a Plate Printer force which included a large number of experienced firemen who were formed into a Fire Brigade for the protection of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing property. Electric lighting was introduced to the Bureau in 1888; six years before a majority of the Bureau positions were placed under Civil Service. By 1908, all of the positions were under Civil Service. The printing of revenue stamps was taken over by the Bureau in 1876 and in 1894 they began printing postage stamps. During World War II, the Bureau overprinted stocks of regular currency notes that had certain distinguishing, identifying features which were shipped over for use in the Hawaiian Islands.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has printed currency for the governments of the Republic of Cuba, Siam, Korea and the Philippines. The Bureau was reimbursed by each government for all the work that was done. Denominations ranging from 1/5 cent Wine Stamp all the way to the $100,000,000 International Monetary Fund Special Notes were produced by the Bureau. There were many discrepancies in the stamps and currency. This opened an investigation and a tremendous amount of time into the research. Samples include:

• A man who insisted the portrait of Lincoln on the $5 bill must have been printed in reverse because Lincoln parted his hair on the left side, not the right. After much correspondence, several trips to museums and the Smithsonian Institute including a study of the Lincoln death mask all revealed that Lincoln’s mole and part were indeed on the same side of his face, on the right.

• On the Pony Express Stamp of 1941, many have insisted that the wrong saddle was on the pony.

• Some have said that on the Gold Star Mother Stamp of 1948 showed a Russian star.

• The Little America Stamp of 1933 had the continents on it that some would argue were misplaced.

• One man insisted that the word “Anniversary” on the 1952 Gutenberg Bible Stamp was misspelled.

In each of these occurrences and many more, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing proved conclusively that the designs depicted were correct.

The History of the Paper Dollar

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

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The Massachusetts Bay Colony was the first of the thirteen colonies to issue permanently circulating banknotes in 1690. The reason behind this was because the paper could be more readily printed and circulated than gold coin. Many of these early bills were marked “Tis Death to Counterfeit.” In the early 1700s, each of the thirteen colonies had issued their own banknotes called “colonial script.” 1789 brought about the First Band of the United States which issued fixed denominations and printed banknotes until 1811 when it closed. From 1816 to 1841, the (you guessed it) Second Bank of the United States took on the responsibilities of printing banknotes.


The civil war, in 1861, needed to be funded with money that there just wasn’t enough of. In 1862, under Abraham Lincoln, the demand notes were issued, taking the place of interest bearing currency. Some necessities were added and changed in the next few years in order to stop counterfeiters. The new “Greenbacks” had an engraved Treasury seal and red and blue fibers in the paper which made them (at the time) very difficult to counterfeit which would cost the banks more money. Gold certificates were also issued against gold coin and bullion and were still in circulation until 1933 as well as silver certificates being issued for silver dollars until 1957. 1865 brought on the need for a Secret Service to police and control counterfeiters. How much was that really needed and how much of the US’s money was counterfeit? Oh only about one-third!


The one dollar United States Note was redesigned with a portrait of George Washington in the center and a vignette of Christopher Columbus. The back of the note also featured green and blue tinting. In 1880 the red floral design was added around the words “One Dollar” and “Washington D.C.” From 1890 to 1899 the gold and silver certificates were redesigned repeatedly in order to continue to make them harder and harder to be counterfeited. In 1910 the Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing took on all currency production functions including engraving, printing and processing. The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 created the Federal Reserve System. This means that the Federal Reserve became the central bank, regulating the flow of money. The Federal Reserve also became, to this day, the only authorized entity to issue Federal Reserve Notes (also known as, The Dollar(s)) which are the only U.S. currency produced and 99% of all currency in circulation!


“In God We Trust” No matter your religion, you know this phrase. This phrase was required by Congress in 1955 to be on every piece of currency and to this day, it still is. The last major change that was made was the microprinted security thread which was first introduced in 1990. It started with the $100 bills and the $50 bills, then eventually was introduced into the $20s, $10s, $5s, and $1s. Take a look at the money in your wallet. Now you know part of the long road traveled it took to get there.