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 is over $1.4 trillion in cash circulating the country and the world. A good portion passes through America’s roughly 117 million households, which earn a median annual income of just over $53,000. You can find more facts about America’s people, places and economy, from the American Community Survey, at <www.census.gov>.