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.