Article — History of the US Department of Treasury

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In 1775, at the start of the American Revolution, the Continental Congress had no power to collect taxes or to borrow money to finance a war. However, the Congress could issue “bills of credit,” which were short-term public loans to the new government.

Ben Franklin Nature Print

Nature print image courtesy of Beyond My Ken (via Wikimedia Commons)

Fun Fact—Later that year, the Continental Congress issued two million dollars worth of bills of credit to finance the war. The bills were easy to counterfeit, and someone we all know came up with a printing process for “nature print” money to defeat counterfeiters. Do you know his ?

In April 1776—before the Declaration of Independence was signed—the Continental Congress created a “Treasury Office of Accounts” to manage finances for the United Colonies. In 1789, the First Congress of the United States established the Department of Treasury. It consisted of four officers and a Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, who served until 1795.

Historical Fact—In 1800, the Department of the Treasury moved to Washington, DC. The British burned the building down in 1814. Arsonists did the job again in 1833.

Today, the Department of the Treasury consists of several bureaus, such as the US Mint, which manufactures coins and bills, and the Internal Revenue Service, which enforces tax law and collects taxes. Other offices determine international economic policy, issue reports on the government’s daily financial transactions, and regulate national banks.

Helpful Fact—According to the Department of Treasury, metal coins outlast paper currency by several decades. You can redeem mutilated currency at the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing.


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