The Bureau of Engraving and Printing, in which all national bank notes and other securities of the Government are now printed, was organized in 1862, under authority of an Act of Congress, approved July 11, 1862, entitled "An Act to authorize an additional issue of United States notes, and for other purposes."
This Act authorized the Secretary of the Treasury, if he deemed it expedient to have the United States notes engraved and printed by contract, to cause them, or any part of them, to be engraved, printed and executed in such form as he should prescribe at the Treasury Department in Washington under his direction, and to purchase and provide all the machinery and materials and to employ such persons and appoint such officers as may be necessary for that purpose.
The printing of national bank currency was commenced in 1863. The first notes were printed in that year. At that time all Government securities were printed in New York City by the Continental, American and National Bank Note Companies. The notes printed by these companies were delivered to the Treasury Department in an unfinished condition. After being entered on the books in the office of the Comptroller of the Currency they were sent to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where the seal of the Treasury Department was placed on each note. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing was at that time located on the upper floor of the Treasury Building.
The Act of June 20, 1874, required that all notes printed after the approval of that act should bear the charter number of the bank issuing the notes. All notes on hand in the Comptroller's vault at that time were sent to the Bureau to have the charter number of the banks placed thereon before issues were made.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing was removed to the building adjoining the one it now occupies in 1875. All engraving and printing connected with Government securities was then transferred to that bureau from New York City and since that time has been executed under the direction of the Secretary of the Treasury, commencing at the beginning of the fiscal year July 1, 1875.
A new series of national bank notes was then adopted, known as the Series of 1875. The seal upon these notes was changed from the original saw-tooth seal to the round seal with scalloped edges, and the legend "Series of 1875" was printed across their face in red ink. This series of notes continued to be issued until the passage of the Act of July 12, 1882, providing for the extension of charters of national banks, when the Series of 1882 was adopted, and this series was issued to all new banks organized after that date as well as to the banks extending their charters.
The Act of April 12, 1902, provided for a further extension of the corporate existence of the banks, when the present series of notes, known as the Series of 1902, was adopted and were issued to all banks re-extending their charters as well as to all new banks organized since that date.
When the Series of 1882 notes was adopted the only entirely new design was that of the notes of the five dollar denomination, containing the vignette of President Garfield. The other notes, of the denominations of ten, twenty, fifty and one hundred dollars, were made from the original plates of the old series, amended by inserting on the margin of the note the charter number of the bank in six places and changing the seal of the Treasury Department from the small scalloped seal to the larger one of practically the same design.
As the notes authorized by the original act, of a higher denomination than one hundred dollars, had been practically discarded by the banks, on account of the cost of maintenance, notes of these denominations have not been printed since 1882.
The Act of May 30, 1908, authorized the issue of notes of the denomination of ten thousand dollars, but none of this amount ever has been ordered by the banks and no designs for this denomination ever have been prepared.
Previous to the passage of the Act of June 20, 1874, national banknote plates were engraved and the circulation printed therefrom at the expense of the Government, but a provision in that Act required each association thereafter organized to reimburse the Treasury Department the cost of engraving the plates, since which time the banks have paid for their plates.
The National Currency Bureau has been the source of considerable revenue to the Government since its establishment, and has been more than self-sustaining. The receipts from tax on circulation and other sources from 1863 to June 30, 1921, amounted to over $155,188,318.23. The operating expenses of the bureau during the same period amounted to over $20,965,820, leaving a net balance or profit to the Government of over $134,222,498, or an annual average profit of over $231,418, during the fifty-eight years of the bureau's existence.