Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Bureau of Engraving and Printing
US-BureauOfEngravingAndPrinting-Seal.svg
Seal of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Flag of the United States Department of the Treasury.png
Agency overview
FormedAugust 29, 1862; 156 years ago (1862-08-29)[1]
Headquarters300 14th St SW
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Employees2,169 (2006)
Agency executive
Parent agencymoneyfactory.gov

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) is a government agency within the United States Department of the Treasury that designs and produces a variety of security products for the United States government, most notable of which is Federal Reserve Notes (paper money) for the Federal Reserve, the nation's central bank. In addition to paper currency, the BEP produces Treasury securities; military commissions and award certificates; invitations and admission cards; and many different types of identification cards, forms, and other special security documents for a variety of government agencies. The BEP does not produce coins; all coinage is produced by the United States Mint. With production facilities in Washington, DC, and Fort Worth, Texas, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is the largest producer of government security documents in the United States.

History

Aerial view of the BEP in Washington, D.C. circa 1918
United States Souvenir Card issued by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, for the HAPEX APS 70 exhibition and 84th Annual Convention of the American Philatelic Society in 1970

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has its origins in legislation enacted to help fund the Civil War. In July 1861, Congress authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to issue paper currency in lieu of coins due to the lack of funds needed to support the conflict. The paper notes were essentially government IOUs and were called Demand Notes because they were payable "on demand" in coin at certain Treasury facilities. At this time the government had no facility for the production of paper money so a private firm produced the Demand Notes in sheets of four. These sheets were then sent to the Treasury Department where dozens of clerks signed the notes and scores of workers cut the sheets and trimmed the notes by hand. The Second Legal Tender Act (July 11, 1862; 12 532) authorized the Treasury Secretary to engrave and print notes at the Treasury Department; the design of which incorporates fine-line engraving, intricate geometric lathe work patterns, a Treasury seal, and engraved signatures to aid in counterfeit deterrence.[2]

Initially, the currency processing operations in the Treasury were not formally organized. When Congress created the Office of Comptroller of the Currency and National Currency Bureau in 1863, currency-processing operations were nominally subordinated to that agency and designated the "First Division, National Currency Bureau." For years, however, the currency operations were known by various semi-official labels, such as the "Printing Bureau," "Small Note Bureau," "Currency Department," and "Small Note Room." It was not until 1874 that the "Bureau of Engraving and Printing" was officially recognized in congressional legislation with a specific allocation of operating funds for fiscal year 1875.

From almost the very beginning of its operations, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing designed and printed a variety of products in addition to currency. As early as 1864, the offices which would later become the BEP made passports for the State Department and money orders for the Post Office Department. Passports are now produced by the Government Publishing Office. Other early items produced by the BEP included various government debt instruments, such as interest-bearing notes, refunding certificates, compound interest Treasury notes, and bonds. The production of postage stamps began in 1894, and for almost the next century the BEP was the sole producer of postage stamps in the country.