Profile America — Tuesday, February 25th. Paper money has circulated in North America since 1690, when the Massachusetts Bay Colony issued some to paper over -- so to speak -- the shortage of coins. But these were just promissory notes from governing bodies. That changed on this date in 1862 when Congress passed the Legal Tender Act, fixing paper money as a means of paying the government's considerable Civil War bills with something other than gold or silver. One result was that greenbacks became a means of exchange for all private transactions. Currently, there are over 1.2 trillion U.S. dollars in circulation. From that total, America's 115 million households draw an average annual income of just over $51,000. Profile America is in its 16th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.
Kane's Famous First Facts, p. 841