Major Wallace W. Kirby
(1881 - 1962)
Director, Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Wallace Kirby was a native of Washington, DC. After attending school, he went into the printing business. Kirby entered Government service in 1900, working for the U.S. Geological Survey. When the United States entered World War I, he was commissioned as an Army officer and assigned to the Corps of Engineers where he was responsible for map reproduction activities for the Army. While serving with expeditionary forces in France, Kirby commanded the 29th Engineers, a unit of experts in surveying and map-making. In February 1924, he was detailed by President Coolidge to head the Bureau of Engraving and Printing after Director Louis Hill’s resignation; however, because a military officer could not hold a civilian position, Congress passed a joint resolution that enabled Kirby to serve for 6 months while still a commissioned officer. At the end of his special term as Director, he returned to the Army’s Engineer Reproduction Plant in Washington. Later, in 1927, Kirby started a printing company—still in operation today in Arlington, Virginia—that he headed until his death at age 81. Additionally, he was a founding member of the National Association of Photo-Lithographers (later, the National Association of Printers and Lithographers, the forerunner of today’s National Association for Printing Leadership). Kirby is unique in that he was the only active duty military officer ever to serve as Director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the only Director appointed by an act of Congress. He also has the distinction of serving the shortest amount of time as Director.