2014 marked the 130th anniversary of the Enrolled Agent designation, but the anniversary passed with little fanfare.
On July 7, 1884, President Chester A. Arthur signed into law a bill called the “Enabling Act of 1884,” sometimes informally called the “Horse Act.”
The bill authorized “enrolled agents” to prepare claims against the government relating to Civil War losses.
After the Civil War, Congress allowed citizens to file claims against the government for lost horses and other property damage during the war. The Treasury Department came to realize that more than a few of these claims were fraudulent.
Enter the EA. A person enrolled to act as an agent on behalf of a citizen in matters before the Treasury Department.
EAs could also be sanctioned by the Treasury Department if the EA submitted fraudulent claims.
I have searched for the text of the Horse Act and been unable to find it, but Wikipedia says the following regarding standards for becoming an EA back in 1884:
Unlike enrolled agents of today, the first enrolled agents were appointed with little or no qualifications other than a minimal background in bookkeeping.
After the income tax was created in 1913, EAs became involved in tax preparation and representing taxpayers during disputes with the IRS.