A statutorily imposed debt ceiling has been in effect since 1917 when the US Congress passed the Second Liberty Bond Act. Before 1917 there was no debt ceiling in force, but there were parliamentary procedural limitations on the level of possible debt that could be held by government.
1) The US has been in debt every year except for 1835.
Sometimes Congress gave Treasury discretion over what type of debt instrument would be issued. In 1917, during World War I, the debt ceiling law was passed, which allowed the executive branch to issue bonds and take on other debt without Congressional approval, as long as the total debt fell under the statutory debt ceiling.
2) Every President since Herbert Hoover has added to the national debt
Prior to the Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, the debt ceiling played an important role since Congress had few opportunities to hold hearings and debates on the budget. James Surowiecki argued that the debt ceiling lost its usefulness after these reforms to the budget process.
3) The debt ceiling has been raised 74 times since March 1962.
The 1995 request for a debt ceiling increase led to debate in Congress on reduction of the size of the federal government, which lead to the non-passage of the federal budget, and the United States federal government shutdown of 1995–96. The ceiling was eventually increased and the shutdown resolved.
4) The debt ceiling debacle contributed to the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 2,000 points in 2011
In 2011, Republicans in Congress used the debt ceiling as leverage for deficit reduction because of the lack of Congressional normal order for fiscal year budget votes on the chamber floors and subsequent conference reconciliations between the House and the Senate for final budgets.
The credit downgrade and debt ceiling debacle contributed to the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 2,000 points in late July and August.
Related: The History of the U.S. Debt Ceiling
5) Before 1917 there was no debt ceiling in force
The No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013 suspended the debt ceiling from February 4, 2013 until May 19, 2013. On May 19, the debt ceiling was formally raised to approximately $16.699 trillion to accommodate the borrowing done during the suspension period.
About the history of the U.S. Debt Ceiling at Wikipedia