Graphic of the BEP Seal

Bureau of Engraving and Printing
U.S. Department of the Treasury

Pictured below: Currency exhibit display panels at Western Currency Facility in Fort Worth, TX.
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History Timeline 

Take a look at a chronological listing of events in BEP History from the authorization of Demand Notes in 1861 to the installation of Large Examining Printing Equipment (LEPE) in 2010.


July 17, 1861: Congress authorizes the Treasury Secretary to issue paper currency due to insufficient coinage to pay war costs.  Called "Demand Notes" because they are payable upon demand in coin, the notes are essentially Government IOUs.

 

August 23, 1861: Four-subject sheets of Demand Notes, printed by a private firm, are delivered to the Treasury Department where they are individually signed by clerks, and trimmed and separated with scissors by women.

 

August 26, 1861: Demand Notes, the first general issue of United States paper currency, are released to the public. They become known as "greenbacks" because green ink is used on the backs, while black ink is used on the faces.

 

February 25, 1862: Congress authorizes the engraving of signatures and the use of seals on notes as well as a new class of currency known as "United States Notes."  These new notes, also called "Legal Tender Notes," will be issued in April.

 

March 1862: Spencer M. Clark, Chief Clerk in the Treasury Department's Bureau of Construction, obtains presses for the Treasury's Loan Branch for overprinting seals on notes.  About the same time, Clark experiments with two hand-crank machines for trimming and separating.

 

July 11, 1862: The Treasury Secretary is authorized to engrave and print notes at the Treasury Department.  This legislation is viewed as the enabling act for work performed by what later becomes the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

 

July 17, 1862: Postage and other stamps are authorized for payment of debts to the U.S. Government.  Although not intended to circulate as currency, the stamps form the basis for fractional currency notes issued later.

 

August 22, 1862: Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase directs Clark to proceed with trials using steam-powered machines to trim, separate, and seal $1 and $2 United States Notes.  Within the week, Clark begins with five assistants.

 

January 1863: Secretary Chase instructs Clark to start trimming, separating, and sealing all denominations of notes.

 

February 25, 1863: The National Currency Bureau and the position of Comptroller of the Currency are created. The new bureau is responsible for the regulation of national banks and the issue of National Bank Notes and, nominally, includes the printing and engraving operations thus far handled by Clark.

 

March 3, 1863: The Treasury Secretary is authorized to engrave and print Fractional Currency (in denominations less than one dollar) at the Treasury Department.

 

June 1863: Clark's operation begins work on the production of coupon bonds, popularly known as "five-twenties" (bonds that mature in 20 years, but could be called in by the Government for redemption in 5).  Using plates engraved by private firms, the bonds are the first securities printed by the Government.  Production of the bonds actually predates the production of currency at the Treasury.

 

October 10, 1863: Fractional Currency notes, in denominations of 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents, are issued.  This is the first currency produced entirely at the Treasury Department.

 

December 21, 1863: The first National Bank Notes are issued to the public.  These notes are printed by private companies and finished by the BEP until 1875, when the BEP starts printing the faces.

 

May 1864: Watchmen, distinct from those who guard the Treasury Building, are assigned for the first time to patrol the rooms in the Treasury where currency and other Government securities are processed.

 

December 5, 1864: The 5-cent note of the second issue of Fractional Currency features the portrait of Spencer Clark, causing a public uproar.  It is unclear how Clark's portrait ended up on the note.

 

November 13, 1865: Gold Certificates, backed by gold held by the Treasury, are first issued.  Along with Fractional Currency, Gold Certificates are one of the first currency issues produced entirely by the BEP.

 

March 1866: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins producing revenue stamps to be placed on boxes of imported cigars.

 

April 7, 1866: As a result of the uproar caused by Spencer Clark's image on Fractional Currency notes, Congress prohibits the portrait or likeness of any living person on currency notes, bonds, or securities.

 

July 1869: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins engraving and printing the faces and seals of United States Notes, Series 1869. Prior to this time, United States Notes were produced by private bank note companies and then sent to the BEP for sealing, trimming, and cutting.

 

May 1873: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing participates for the first time in an international exposition in Vienna, Austria, exhibiting a framed display of engravings that earns the BEP its first of many subsequent awards for its workmanship.

 

June 20, 1874: For the first time, Congress allocates money specifically to a "Bureau of Engraving and Printing" for fiscal year 1875.

 

August 15, 1876: Congress passes an appropriation bill that directs the Internal Revenue Service to procure stamps engraved and printed at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, provided costs do not exceed that of private firms.  As a result, the BEP begins producing almost all revenue stamps in fiscal year 1878.

 

March 3, 1877: Congress mandates that the engraving and printing of notes, bonds, and other U.S. securities be performed at the Treasury Department provided the work can be done as cheaply, safely, and perfectly as by private firms.  This legislation effectively establishes the Bureau of Engraving and Printing as the exclusive printer of Government currency and other security items.

 

October 1, 1877: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing takes over the entire production of United States Notes and National Bank Notes.

 

January 30, 1878: The Milligan steam-powered press is brought into the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for trials and eventual production.  The procurement of additional automated presses and their expanded use leads to opposition by organized labor.

 

June 1878: Silver Certificates are first issued.  Backed by silver held by the Treasury, the certificates are authorized by legislation directing an increase in the purchase and coinage of silver.

 

January 1880: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing enters into a contract for five additional Milligan presses. These automated flatbed presses, put into production later in November, are initially used to print the backs of United States Notes, backs of National Bank Notes, and revenue stamps for beer, cigars, and tobacco.

 

July 1, 1880: The first building constructed specifically for BEP operations is completed at the corner of 14th Street and B Street (Independence Avenue).

 

January 1888: Electric lighting is installed in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing building, although gas illumination remains in operation until 1900.

 

March 2, 1889: Legislation mandates that all notes and other securities containing portraits include the name of the individual below the portrait.

 

September 1890: Treasury Notes also known as "Treasury Coin Notes" are first issued as part of legislation requiring the Treasury Secretary to increase Government purchases of silver bullion.

 

August 1891: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins producing some revenue stamps on automated surface printing presses to increase production speed.  Relief printing of revenue stamps will last until 1899, when legislation restricts the use of automated presses.

 

February 21, 1894: The Post Office Department formally awards the contract for postage stamp production to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Private printers are to begin turning over all postage stamp dies, rolls, and plates to the BEP.

 

June 11, 1894: The printing of postage stamps by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins.

 

July 1, 1894: The agreement between the Postmaster General and the Treasury Secretary for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to produce all postage stamps officially goes into effect.  The first BEP-printed stamp to be issued is the 6-cent President Garfield.  The bulk of postage stamp production is accomplished on automated flatbed printing presses.

 

June 4, 1897: In an appropriations bill, Congress officially establishes the relationship between the Bureau of Engraving and Printing Director and Treasury Secretary.  It is the first time any formal organizational link is delineated.  Around this time, BEP head Claude Johnson starts to use the title of Director instead of Chief.

 

July 1899: To meet the demand for war-related securities, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing operates three shifts through the summer months.  A major reason for the increased hours is the congressional requirement for most securities to be printed on hand presses.

 

April 1900: The first issue of postage stamps in small booklets is produced.

 

March 2, 1903: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins production of currency notes for the Philippines, a U.S. possession at the time.  It is the first time the BEP produces currency other than U.S. paper money.

 

August 22, 1903: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing ships the first order of Philippine currency.  To avoid confusion with U.S. notes, the Philippine notes are smaller in size.  The more cost-effective dimensions will be adopted in 1928 for all U.S. paper money.

 

February 1908: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins manufacturing postage stamps in coil form.  The first coils are made by pasting sheets together by hand prior to perforating and coiling.

 

July 1, 1910: Now authorized to carry arms and wear uniforms, BEP guards accompany daily deliveries of money and other securities to the Treasury Department.

 

June 1, 1911: Bureau of Engraving and Printing personnel design and construct a paper-wetting machine that uniformly dampens paper prior to printing.  The new machine is an improvement over doing the work by hand.

 

June 30, 1912: A machine for laundering currency notes is designed and constructed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and put into operation at various Treasury facilities.  Money washing will be discontinued in 1918 due to problems with paper content and feel.

 

September 1912: Offset printing is first used in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for the production of checks, certificates, and other miscellaneous items.

 

March 19, 1914: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing moves into a new, larger facility, later known as the "main" building.

 

June 30, 1914: Created by Bureau of Engraving and Printing mechanical designer Benjamin Stickney, the world's first rotary web-fed intaglio press, the "Stickney press," begins printing, gumming, and perforating postage stamps in one continuous operation using rolls of paper.

 

October 28, 1914: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins printing Federal Reserve Notes for delivery to the new Federal Reserve Banks.

 

November 1914: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produces revenue stamps using offset presses.  The change from intaglio is made to fulfill short-notice, increased stamp orders.

 

April 1917: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is closed to visitors for the duration of World War I.

 

March 1918: The 3-cent George Washington is the first postage stamp produced by offset printing.

 

May 1918: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing prints the first air mail postage stamp, the 24-cent Curtiss Jenny.

 

July 26, 1918: Currency is produced on automated presses and the number of subjects per plate is increased from 4 to 8.  These changes are made to meet expanded production requirements related to World War I.   

 

November 7, 1918: The number of Bureau of Engraving and Printing employees peaks at 8,432.

 

April 1, 1920: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins making intaglio plates using the electrodeposition method devised by Engraving Division Superintendent George U. Rose, Jr.  The process is faster and cheaper than the traditional transfer method.

 

July 1, 1920: Prince, the last horse in the BEP's stables, is sold at auction for $75.  Completely mechanized, the Stable Division becomes the Garage Division.

 

January 3, 1923: Removing previous restrictions on automated flatbed presses, Congress authorizes their use for currency and other securities.  The Bureau of Engraving and Printing will purchase 58 additional presses for printing currency.

 

January 1925: The "High-etch" method for making offset plates is developed by Bureau of Engraving and Printing personnel.  An important contribution to the graphic arts industry, this photo-mechanical process etches the background of a design rather than the design itself and increases the life of the plate.

 

January 1927: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing purchases two armored trucks for transporting currency and other securities.


July 10, 1929: Small-sized currency notes with standardized designs are issued.  The reduced size of the note, adopted in part to cut paper costs, enables the Bureau to convert from 8 to 12 notes per sheet.

 

August 7, 1929: The production of large-sized notes ends.  The hand press section is closed and the presses will be dismantled and sold.


February 5, 1935: The first stamps perforated by means of an electric-eye perforator are delivered to the Post Office Department.  The automatic adjustments to registration made by the electric eye reduces spoilage caused by inaccurate perforation.

 

November 25, 1935: The first notes printed with both sides of the Great Seal of the United States, $1 Silver Certificates, are delivered to the Treasury.  Previously, only the obverse of the seal had appeared on notes.

 

May 17, 1938: Bureau of Engraving and Printing operations begin in the Annex Building.  The facility will be officially dedicated in November.

 

April 20, 1939: The plate printing division begins printing Food Order and Surplus Food Order stamps. The Cotton Order and Surplus Cotton Order stamps will follow in 1940.  The stamps encourage consumption of surplus farm commodities while providing assistance to low-income consumers.

 

December 8, 1941: The day after Pearl Harbor is attacked; the Bureau of Engraving and Printing closes its doors to the general public for the duration of World War II.

 

December 15, 1941: In accordance with national defense requirements, an emergency organization is formed in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to protect the buildings against air raids. 

 

June 8, 1942: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing receives an order for special $1, $5, $10, and $20 notes overprinted with the word "Hawaii."  The overprinted notes will replace regular currency in Hawaii.  In the event of enemy occupation of the islands, the overprinted currency can be declared worthless.

 

November 1942: Silver Certificates containing a yellow seal, instead of the usual blue seal, are produced for the invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch).  Like the overprinted "Hawaii" notes, the modified Silver Certificates can be declared worthless, if necessary.

 

June 1943: The War Department places an order for Allied military currency (AMC) with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.  The first AMCs will be used by Allied forces in Italy.  Production will begin on Allied military postage stamps in July.

 

December 1943: World War II production requirements push employment levels to 8,398.

 

July 1946: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins work on Military Payment Certificates for use overseas by U.S. troops.

 

October 20, 1950: A faster-drying green ink developed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is first used to print currency backs.  Although paper still must be dampened prior to printing, this non-offset ink eliminates the need to dry, examine, and rewet the sheets between face and back printings.

 

July 1, 1951: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins operating on a reimbursable basis in accordance with a legislative mandate to convert to business-type accounting methods.  As a result, annual Congressional appropriations cease.

 

July 1952: Encouraged by the success of the non-offsetting green ink, a black ink with similar characteristics is formulated for the printing of currency faces.  By November 1952, use of the fast-drying ink will be standard procedure and, by eliminating tissuing, will allow the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to automate the removal and stacking of currency sheets from presses.

 

August 1952: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins conversion from 12- to 18-subject sheets in currency production.  The use of larger sheets is made possible by the new non-offsetting ink.  By reducing wetting and drying operations, distortion of the paper is decreased.  By September 1953, all currency will be produced from 18-subject plates.

 

June 1954: The 8-cent Liberty is the first dry-intaglio postage stamp and the first to be printed on pre-gummed paper.

 

July 1957: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins producing currency on high-speed rotary presses that print notes via the dry intaglio process.  Paper distortion caused by wetting is now completely eliminated and sheet sizes increase from 18 to 32 subjects.  The first notes printed by this process are Silver Certificates, Series 1957.  Issued in October, these notes will also be the first to bear the wording "In God We Trust."

 

October 1957: The 3-cent Whooping Crane is printed on the 3-color "Giori" press.  It is the first multicolor stamp printed in a single run on a press.

 

June 4, 1963: Silver Certificates are no longer authorized for issue.  Consequently, new $1 and $2 denominations of Federal Reserve Notes will replace the certificates.

 

August 1963: Phosphorescent compounds are first added to postage stamps to speed the sorting and cancellation process.  When exposed to ultraviolet light, the phosphor provides a signal to automated mail-handling equipment.  The first such issue is the 8-cent Jet Airliner over Capitol airmail stamp.

 

January 1966: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing opens renovated tour facilities throughout the main production area consisting of inter-connected, glass-enclosed galleries.  The new tour set-up permits an increase in the number of visitors.

 

April 17, 1968: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing completes the conversion from wet-intaglio to dry-intaglio printing for currency.

 

July 14, 1969: The Treasury Secretary announces that currency in denominations larger than $100 will no longer be issued.  Last printed in 1945, the high-denomination notes had been used mainly by banking institutions, but advances in bank transfer technologies preclude their further use.

 

May 8, 1971: The first stamp produced on the Andreotti gravure press, the 8-cent Missouri Statehood stamp, is issued.

 

June 15, 1971: Prototype currency overprinting and processing equipment (COPE) is installed.  Based on a Bureau of Engraving and Printing concept and built to BEP specifications, the equipment will be fully operational in June 1972.

 

October 1, 1974: Effective in fiscal year 1975, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins to include a surcharge on the cost of its products as a means of funding new equipment purchases.  Initiated in response to a directive from the House Subcommittee on Appropriations, the pricing method will be formalized in 1977 congressional legislation.

 

November 15, 1974: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produces the first pressure-sensitive adhesive postage stamp.  Issued as an experiment, the 10-cent Dove Weather Vane Christmas stamp is deemed a failure by the Postal Service because of high production costs and the inabilty to prevent consumer re-use of the stamp.

 

April 13, 1976: The $2 Federal Reserve Note is re-introduced on the 233rd anniversary of Thomas Jefferson's birth.  Issuance of the $2 United States Note had been halted in 1966 due to low public demand.  It is hoped that increased circulation of the $2 notes will reduce printing and handling costs associated with $1 notes.

 

January 1977: Water-wipable inks are formulated for web- and sheet-fed intaglio presses.  The new inks, first used for postage stamp production, eliminate the need for environmentally hazardous solvents and reduce the quantity of wiping paper used to remove excess ink from printing plates.

 

June 1980: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing opens a new visitor center in the former lobby of the main building, where visitors can view exhibits and purchase souvenirs at the conclusion of their tour.

 

September 1981: After years of research and development by Bureau of Engraving and Printing employees, mechanical currency examination machines become operational.  The machines divide 32-subject sheets in half and convey the 16-subject sheets past examiners who check for errors in the faces and backs.

 

December 25, 1981: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins "year end shutdown" (YES) whereby the entire BEP closes from Christmas through New Year's Day, a period when employees traditionally take time off.  YES reduces costs associated with inefficient production and saves energy.

 

May 1985: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing initiates a site feasibility study for the construction of a western production facility.  The facility is intended to better serve the currency needs of the western half of the nation and to act as a contingency currency operation in case of emergencies at the Washington facility.


December 1985: Eleven cities are selected for further consideration as sites for the BEP's western facility after a preliminary evaluation of 83 cities.  The selected cities are Dallas, Houston, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Seattle, and Fort Worth.

 

November 24, 1986: Fort Worth, Texas, is selected as the location for the new Western Currency Facility.

 

December 1990: The Western Currency Facility begins printing currency.  The first shipment will be delivered to the Federal Reserve in April 1991.  In its first year, the new facility will produce about 10 percent of the BEP's total currency order.

 

March 1991: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins producing new $100 Federal Reserve Notes, the first notes to contain an embedded security thread and microprinting, features aimed principally at advanced color copiers.

 

April 26, 1991: The Western Currency Facility is officially dedicated.

 

September 1991: A web press is delivered to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to increase currency production.  The new press prints currency from a roll of paper, versus individual sheets, and prints both sides of the notes in a single pass.  The first notes produced on this press will be issued in July 1992.

 

December 1995: Printing of currency on the web-fed press is halted.  Although the press produced over 300 million notes since its inception in 1992, it is unable to sustain long production runs.

 

March 25, 1996: Redesigned $100 Federal Reserve Notes are issued with a larger portrait and new advanced counterfeit deterrence features.  Lower denomination notes with these features will be released over the next 4 years.

 

June 1996: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins producing coils and booklets of pressure sensitive adhesive postage stamps.

 

January 1997: An electronic inspection system is implemented to detect printing defects during currency and postage stamp production.

 

June 14, 2000: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is presented with the official ISO 9001 Registration plaque by the Underwriters Laboratories for the BEP's currency manufacturing quality management system after gaining certification from the International Organization for Standardization.

 

May 13, 2003: The design for a new $20 note is unveiled in a ceremony at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.  It is the first Federal Reserve Note to include subtle background colors.

 

April 26, 2004: The Western Currency Facility opens a visitor center and public tour of the currency manufacturing operations.

 

June 10, 2005: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produces its final run of postage stamps, printing the 37-cent Flag on the Andreotti gravure press.

 

December 3, 2005: "Super Orloff" presses, capable of producing up to 50-subject currency sheets, are installed.

 

August 2006: The first robotic "palletizer" is installed to load cash-packs on to pallets for shipping.

 

November 20, 2006: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing receives ISO 14001 certification of its Environmental Management System.

 

July 2008: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing installs its first laser pantograph machine for the production of intaglio plates.

 

April 21, 2010: The design of the new $100 Federal Reserve Note is unveiled.  It is the first note to feature a 3-D security ribbon.

 

September 7, 2010: The first Large Examining Printing Equipment (LEPE) line is installed to process 50-subject sheets of currency.