Mayor Vincent C. Gray toured the U.S. Government Printing Office on Tuesday, where 26 participants in the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program are working in customer service, records management and other areas of the 150-year-old federal agency.

Gray, 68, told a crowd of youths and the adults who work there that he grew up in a neighborhood near the North Capitol Street building. “And no, I did not grow up 150 years ago,” he said to laughter.

The mayor has made the youth employment program a priority after criticizing its management under then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in last year’s election. He said the program “has had its fits and starts.”

This summer, Gray promised to scale back the program to make it more manageable. However, the program expanded from an initial cap of 12,000 to 14,126 when the Gray administration announced that it had found additional revenue.

But Gray said this year’s jobs program has run relatively smoothly. He said he told his staff, “Let’s not have it be defined by mistakes.” (There have been two unrelated, isolated sexual assault incidents .)

Participants were all smiles as they posed for photos with the mayor and public printer William Boarman, who said the agency may set a record as an agency that has employed District resident for 150 years in the same place. The agency prints several District government brochures and the DC One Card.

He said several summer jobs participants have come back in permanent positions in the past, though budget cuts have affected hiring. But he said participants learn skills that they can also apply to the private printing industry.

Gray recognized Jeanicia Hayes, 21, Adrienne Joyner, 17, and Bertram Nicholls, 19, as some of the top participants at the printing office. Nicholls, a junior at Marymount University, said this is his fifth summer working for the agency and he’s done a bit of everything there. He recalled having the duty of cataloguing one summer. “I remember that year because I did it in half the time they though I would,” he said.

The Government Printing Office is celebrating its 150-year anniversary with an exhibit in its building that includes an original printed copy of the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation, which Gray viewed during the tour.

Boarman said the printing office opened the same day as President Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration, and the Emancipation Proclamation was one of the first documents printed.

The office was among the hardest hit in a July 22 vote on spending for Capitol Hill operations. The measure approved this year cuts the office’s budget by almost $27 million over last year’s amount.