In the opinion of the expert, emphatically expressed, a person never writes twice exactly alike. This is stated to be the point around which all his subsequent developments revolve when examining a manuscript. Let several examples of the natural handwriting of an individual be compared. It is true that there will be a general similarity, but, as has been asserted, when placed in juxtaposition or subjected to a careful comparison under a microscope no two words or letters will be found to be alike. Thus it is not the similarity between two pieces of writing that would arouse suspicion with some experts, but rather the natural dissimilarity. Based on this point such experts occupy a distinct position by themselves, since other experts take what is called the positive side. With the first-named class, however, handwriting is a science of negatives. A good microscope will always be found a good detective in determining the genuineness of handwriting.
By way of illustrating one method of forgery interesting material which had played an important part in a court case was carefully examined. It consisted of five or six graded photographic enlargements of the duplicate signature which were carefully examined with the aid of a microscope. The original had been made by an elderly person and the forger had used the tracing process. To the naked eye it appeared to be a capital copy; in fact, it seemed to bear every semblance of being genuine. In the first enlargement of several diameters certain inaccuracies of tracing could be discerned, only, however, after attention had been called to them by an expert. In the next enlargement these same errors were more apparent, and so on through the series. The largest photograph was magnified several hundred diameters greater than the original and stretched across quite an area of paper. From an examination of this largest one with a microscope it was evident that the forger first had traced his copy with pencil, afterward going over it with ink, but so irregularly had his pen followed the pencil lines that in certain portions of this enlargement there was room for a man's fist between the first tracing and its inky covering.
In trying to detect forged handwriting every letter of the alphabet, wherever written, may be examined with a microscope for the following characteristics: Size, shading, position relative to the horizontal line, inclination relative to the vertical line, sharpness of the curves and angles, proportion and relative position of the different parts, and elaboration or extension of the extremities. In scarcely one of these particulars can a man make two letters so much alike that they cannot be distinguished by microscopical examination.
Although a great deal can be determined in a general way by close observation with the naked eye, it is always best to employ some magnifying power—usually an ordinary hand lens or pocket magnifier will suffice—but the writer has found it better to use a microscope objective of low power (four or five diameters), which is provided with an easily slipping sleeve, terminating in a diaphragm which cuts out the light entering the outside rim of the lens. This sleeve may be pushed out for one or two centimeters, and the particular spot under examination isolated from the adjacent parts without undue magnification. It is one of the popular fallacies that a high magnifying power is desirable in all cases of difficulty, but usually the reverse is the case in questions of handwriting.
Experts have sometimes impressed the jury with the fact that they had employed on some thick and opaque document, powers of several hundred diameters without the lately applied illumination from the side, reflected by a glass plate, introduced obliquely into the tube of the microscope. Without such aid no microscopist need be told that the light would be wanting to illuminate the field under these circumstances. The best authorities prescribe a magnifying power of not more than ten diameters for ordinary observation. For special purposes higher powers are sometimes useful. An ocular examination of the ink in the various parts of a written paper, document or instrument of any kind will generally decide whether it is the same.
SIGNATURE EXPERTS THE SAFETY OF THE MODERN BANK
A New Departure in Banks—Examining All Signatures a Sure Preventive Against Forgery—The "Filling-in" Process—How One Forger Operated—Marvelous Accuracy of a Paying Teller—How He Attained Perfection—How Signature Clerks Work—A Common Dodge of Forgers—Post Dated Checks—A System That Prevents Forged and Raised Checks—Not a Forged or Raised Check Paid in Years.
[The following article has been kindly contributed by the manager of one of the largest English banks, located in London.]
One of the most trying positions in our business, is that of signature expert—the man who has to examine daily every draft that comes in through the clearing house and vouch for its genuineness. Our bank, one of the largest in London, employs six clerks who do nothing all day long but examine checks, and when I tell you that it is no uncommon thing for 10,000 drafts to come in during a single day you will understand that the job is not altogether the sinecure it is popularly supposed to be.
These clerks have not only to scrutinize the signatures both of drawer and drawee, but also examine the "filling-in," the latter being just as important, perhaps more so from a monetary point of view, as the signatures. As a matter of fact, the commonest forgery with which we have to deal is the "raising" of checks, and a forger of this nature generally chooses a check bearing a genuine signature but having very little "filling-in."
For instance, he knows that it would not be difficult to raise a check from L3 to L3000, for all he has to do is to erase the word "pounds," insert the word "thousand," and then add the erased word again. I have seen plenty of this kind of work during the time I have been examining checks.
One of the most impudent pieces of forgery, however, that I ever came across was a check raised from L5 to L500. The forger had evidently relied on colossal impudence carrying him through, for he had simply added a couple of ciphers and then between the words "five" and "pounds" had placed an omission mark and written the word "hundred" above, adding the initials of the drawer of the check just to give the thing a look of careless genuineness.
It was so astounding a piece of cool audacity that we had bets on the check, two of my assistants declaring it to be O.K., while the other three and myself declared it to be a forgery. Further inquiries, of course, proved that the opinion of the majority was the correct one.
It is marvelous what a vast number of signatures some paying tellers will carry in their mind's eye, as it were, and thus be able to pass checks by the thousand without once having to refer to the signature books. We had a paying teller here a few years ago who was little less than a wonder. He knew perfectly the signatures of at least 5000 customers, and could detect the alteration of a stroke in any one of them in an instant.
More remarkable still was the fact that he recognized with equal facility the signatures of those customers whose checks only came in once or twice a year. But he made an art of his work, and I afterward discovered that most of his evenings were spent in studying and learning the signatures of the customers, for he was a wonderful hand at copying writing, and whenever a new signature would come in, one with which he was not acquainted, he would at once facsimile it in his pocket-book, and by the next morning would be able to recognize it among 10,000.
Signature clerks are not, as a rule, supposed to make copies of customers' autographs, but many of them do, and some men are clever enough at the work to even deceive themselves.
Of course, it is understood that when the signature clerks are not examining checks they are studying the autograph books in order to familiarize themselves with the calligraphy of every customer. Each check, you must understand, passes through the hands of each clerk in turn, so that if one should pass a forgery or a "raised" draft it is very unlikely that the entire staff would do so. All these checks, of course, come through the clearing house, and if we should pass a forged draft and not find out our mistake before three o 'clock in the afternoon our bank would be held responsible. One of the commonest dodges adopted by the modern check-forger is to get a customer of some small country bank to introduce him to that institution as a likely depositor. On the recommendation of the friend (who is probably quite unaware that the acquaintance he made some few months ago is a "wrong'un") there is no difficulty in accepting their new client's check for L2000, and the following day, when the same customer calls and withdraws L100 to L500, as the case may be, he is politely handed the cash, and then, of course, loses no time in skipping the town. After the bogus customer's check has passed through the clearing house it is returned to the bank on which it has been drawn and the fraud is at once discovered.
Another part of a signature clerk's duties is to see that no checks are post-dated, as of course no drafts must be paid until they fall due. On occasions a careless man will post-date a check, but as a rule the mistake is purposely made. This spotting of post-dated checks, however, is the easiest part of a signature clerk's work, and it is very seldom that a check so dated escapes him. Then, again, we are often notified that payment on certain checks has been stopped, and the clerks have to be on the lookout for these, and it must be a very careless staff indeed that lets them slip by. We are held responsible for all checks passed after we have received notice to stop payment.
But it is very seldom now, owing to the cleverness of the experts, that any forged checks, "raised" checks, post-dated checks, or stopped checks pass the vigilant eyes of our staff without being detected, but when one does—well, although the signature clerks are not held monetarily responsible for the loss, it means a bad mark against them in the future, and they feel its effects next time promotions or "rises" are being handed out.
Altogether, though the work is interesting, and even fascinating in a way, the responsibilities are so great that the effect on the nerves is often very trying at times. One thing we are particular about, and that is to take no chances. If we have the slightest doubt about the genuineness of a check we at once communicate, either by telegraph, special messenger, or telephone, with the supposed drawer of the check, and in this way turn doubt into certainty. During the last three years not a single wrong check has passed our vigilant optics, and, though I say it who should not, I do not believe there is a cleverer set of experts any where than those who compose my staff.
HOW TO DETERMINE AGE OF ANY WRITING
The Different Kinds of Ink Met With—Inks That Darken by Exposure to Sunlight and Air—Introduction of Aniline Colors to Determine the Age of Writings—An Almost Infallible Rule to Follow—To Determine Approximate Age of Ink Possible—The Ammonia System a Sure One—A Question of Great Interest to Bankers and Bank Employes—Thick Inks and Thin Inks—So-called Safety Inks That Are Not Safe—How to Restore Faded Inks—An Infallible Rule—Restoring Faded Writing—Restored by the Silk and Cotton System That Anyone Can Arrange—Danger of Exposing Restored Writing to the Sun.
The inks in common use over the United States at the present time, and for some years past, are not as numerous as one might be led to conclude. They are probably fifteen or at most twenty in all, including the most popular blue, red, magenta, and green inks. But among these there is a notable difference in character. Some are thick, heavy, and glossy, in character, and flow sluggishly from the pen. Few of these become much darker by standing. In this class will be found the copying inks and those in which a large quantity of gums or similar thickening agents are used.
Other inks are pale, limpid, and flow easily from the pen, and this class usually shows a notable darkening by exposure to sunlight and air. It will be unnecessary here to refer more particularly to the intermediate varieties or to discuss their various composition.
It should be, remembered here that in the last twenty years, or since the introduction into general commerce of aniline colors, which Hofmann discovered in 1856, these latter have been employed more and more in writing fluids; not only in mixtures of which they are the principal ingredients, but to a greater or less degree in all inks. Their presence, even in small quantity, in the gallo-tannate of iron and logwood inks can be generally detected by an iridescent and semi-metallic luster.
To assist in determining the ages of writings by one and the same ink, it is to be observed that the older the writing the less soluble it is in dilute ammonia. If the writing be lightly touched with a brush dipped in ten-per-cent ammonia, the later writing will always give up more or less soluble matter to the ammonia before the earlier. In case of inks of different kinds this test is not serviceable, for characters written in logwood ink, for instance, will always give up their soluble material sooner than nutgall inks, even if the last named be later applied. To estimate the age of writing from the amount of bleaching in a given time by hydrochloric or oxalic acid is very precarious, because the thickness of the ink film in a written character is not always the same, and the acid bleaches the thinner layer sooner than the thicker.
The determination of the age of a written paper is a problem difficult of solution. According to F. Carre the age can be approximately determined if the characters written in iron ink are pressed in a copying press and a commercial hydrochloric acid diluted with eleven parts of water is substituted for water; or, if the written characters are treated for some time with this diluted acid.
The explanation is that the ink changes in time, its organic substance disappears little by little, and leaves behind an iron compound, which in part is not attacked even by acids.
An unsized paper is impregnated with the described diluted acid, copied with the press, and a copy from writing eight or ten years old can be obtained as easily as one by means of water from a writing one day old.
A writing thirty years old gives, by this method, a copy hardly legible, and one over sixty years old, a copy hardly visible. In order to protect the paper against the action of the acid, it should be drawn through ammoniacal water.
To determine the exact age of writings by the ink is not easy. The approximate age may be determined with some degree of certainty. If ink-writings are but a few days old, it is easy to distinguish them from other writing years old. But to tell by the ink which of two writings is the older, when one is but two months and the other two years, is, as a rule, impossible.
Where during the progress of a trial a document purporting to be years old is introduced in evidence, and it can be shown that it is but a few days old, having been prepared for the occasion, ordinarily the age of the writing will be comparatively easy of demonstration by the expert. Oxidization will not have set in to any extent, if the ink is very fresh, and this, with a careful watching of the color for any darkening, will determine whether or not the ink is fresh. This ink study should be a question of the utmost interest to bankers and bank employes.
A ten-per-cent solution of ammonia applied to two inks in question will show which is the fresher. The older ink will resist the action of the ammonia longer and give up less soluble matter than the newer writing. Nutgall, and logwood inks, of course, should not be tested comparatively by this method, as the logwood ink will respond to the ammonia sooner than the nutgall ink.
F. Carre also gives another method for determining, approximately, the age of ink-writings. If the writing is in iron ink, and is moistened with a solution of one part of hydrochloric acid to eleven parts of water and put in letter-copying press and copy transferred to copy paper it should give a strong copy, if but ten years old; a hardly legible copy, if thirty years old; and if sixty years old, a few marks will be copied, but they will not be legible.
If the same solution be used in place of water, as in the ordinary letter-copying process and the copying paper be saturated with it, the result will be the same.
To determine the age of writing by applying bleaching acids and watching results and counting the seconds is a dangerous method. Thick inks will respond to the acids slower than thin, and the time comparisons are misleading.
Safety inks, so-called, designed to resist the action of acids and alkalies have been repeatedly put upon the market, but no such ink has ever successfully challenged the world and proved its title of safety.
Many chemicals are recommended as restorations for faded writing, but these should be avoided as far as possible, as they are liable to stain, disfigure the paper, and in the end make matters materially worse. Familiarity with particular handwritings after some practice will enable the reader to make out otherwise unintelligible words without any other assistant than a powerful magnifying glass.
If the ink is very faint, the simplest and most harmless restorative is sulphate of ammonia, but its loathsome smell once encountered is not easily forgotten. The experiment in consequence is very seldom repeated for the result is scarcely good enough to risk a repetition of so horrible a smell.
The writing on old and faded documents may be restored, by chemical treatment, turning the iron salt still remaining into ferrous sulphate. A process which will restore the writing temporarily is as follows: A box four or five inches deep and long and broad enough to hold the document, with a glass, is needed. A net of fine white silk or cotton threads is stretched across the box at about one half the depth. Two saucers containing yellow ammonium hydrosulphide are placed in the bottom of the box. By means of a clean sponge or brush, moisten the paper with distilled water; then place it on the net with the writing side down. The action of the vapor of the ammonium hydrosulphide will cause the obliterated writing to slowly turn brown, then black. But within a short time after removal from the box the writing will again disappear.
Another method is to wash the document carefully in a solution of hydrochloric acid, one part, and distilled water, one hundred parts. Dry the moistened paper somewhat, leaving it just moist enough to hold a uniform layer of fine yellow prussiate of potash. A plate of glass with a light pressure should be placed on this. In a few hours dry the paper thoroughly, and carefully brush off the yellow prussiate of potash. The writing should come out a Prussian blue. This restored writing will be permanent unless exposed too much to the light.
The hydrochloric acid must be thoroughly removed; otherwise, it will destroy the paper. Crystallized soda, two parts, and distilled water, one hundred parts, in solution, will counteract the hydrochloric acid, if the document is allowed to float on it for twenty-four hours.
DETECTING FRAUD AND FORGERY IN PAPERS AND DOCUMENTS
Infallible Rules for the Detection of Same—New Methods of Research—Changing Wills and Books of Accounts—Judgment of the Naked Eye—Using a Microscope or Magnifying Glass—Changeable Effects of Ink—How to Detect the Use of Different Inks—Sized Papers Not Easily Altered—Inks That Produce Chemical Effects—Inks That Destroy Fiber of Paper—How to Test Tampered or Altered Documents—Treating Papers Suspected of Forgery—Using Water to Detect Fraud—Discovering Scratched Paper—Means Forgers Use to Mask Fraudulent Operations—How to Prepare and Handle Test Papers—Detecting Paper That Has Been Washed—Various Other Valuable Tests to Determine Forgery—A Simple Operation That Anyone Can Apply—Iodine Used On Papers and Documents—An Alcohol Test That is Certain—Bringing Out Telltale Spots—Double Advantage of Certain Tests—Reappearance of Former Letters or Figures—What Genuine Writing Reveals—When an Entire Paper or Document is Forged.
The art of detecting forgery or fraud, in checks, drafts, documents, seals, writing materials, or in the characters themselves is a study that has attracted handwriting experts since its study was taken up. There are almost infallible rules for the work and in this chapter is given several new methods of research that will prove of the utmost value to the public.
It is not an uncommon occurrence that wills and other public documents are changed by the insertion of extra or substituted pages, thereby changing the character of the instrument. Where this is suspected careful inspection of the paper should be made—first, as to its shade of color and fiber, under a microscope; second, as to its ruling; third, as to its water-mark; fourth, as to any indications that the sheets have been separated since their original attachment; fifth, as to the writing—whether or not it bears the harmonious character of the continuous writing, with the same pen and ink, and coincident circumstances, or if typewritten, whether or not by the same operator or the same machine. It would be a remarkable fact if such change were to be made without betraying some tangible proof in some one or more of the above enumerated respects.
Books of accounts are often changed by adding fictitious or fraudulent entries in such spaces as may have been left between the regular entries or at the bottom of the pages where there is a vacant space. Where such entries are suspected, there should be at first a careful inspection of the writing as to its general harmony with that which precedes and follows, as to its size, slope, spacing, ink, and pen used, and if in a book of original entry, the suspected entry should be traced through other books, to see if it is properly entered as to time and place, or vice versa.
The judgment by the naked eye as to the colors or shades of two inks in the same paper or document is very likely to be erroneous for the reason that when a lighter ink is more heavily massed than a darker one the effect on the eye is as if it were the darker. Under a microscope or magnifying glass the field is more restricted, the finer lines are broadened, and one has larger areas of ink to compare with less surface of strongly contrasted white paper. Then, again, an ink without noticeable bluish tinge to the naked eye may appear quite blue under the glass where the films of ink are broadened and thinned and their characters better observed.
In order to judge whether two marks have been made by the same ink, they should be viewed by reflected light to note the color, luster and thickness of the ink film. Many inks blot or "run" on badly sized paper—i.e., the lines are accompanied by a paler border which renders their edges less well defined.
Even on well-sized papers this class of inks usually exhibits only a stained line of no appreciable thickness where the fluid has touched the paper.
The copying and glossy inks, which often contain a considerable quantity of gum, do not "run" or blot even on partially sized paper, and show under the glass a convexity on the surface of the line and an appreciable thickness of the film.
It does not always follow when an ink has made a blur on one part of the paper and not on another that the paper has been tampered with. A drop of water accidentally let fall on the blank page will frequently affect the sizing in that place, and, besides, all papers are not evenly sized in every part.
The inks rich in gum, or those concentrated by evaporation from standing in an open inkstand, give a more lustrous and thicker stroke. Some inks penetrate deeper into the paper than others, and some produce chemical effects upon the sizing and even upon the paper itself, so that the characters can easily be recognized on the underside of the sheet. In some old documents the ink has been known to so far destroy the fiber of the paper that a slight agitation of the sheet would shake out as dust much of the part which it covered, thus leaving an imperfect stencil plate of the original writing.
Distilled water is very useful in many cases to ascertain whether paper has been scratched and partially sized or treated with resin. If it has not been altered by chemical agents, the partial sizing and the resinous matter used give to the paper a peculiar appearance. Sizing takes away from the whiteness of the paper, and, thinned by the scratching or washing, it absorbs much more quickly even when it has been partially sized.
A simple mode of operation is to place a document or paper suspected of being a forgery, on a sheet of paper or better still, on a piece of glass; then moisten little by little with a paint brush all parts of it, paying close attention to the behavior of the liquid as it comes in contact with the paper.
By means of water one can discover what acids, alkalis, or salts the parts of the paper with colored borders or white spots contain.
With the aid of a pipette cover these spots with water and let it remain for ten or fifteen minutes; then with the pipette remove the liquid and examine the products it holds in solution. Afterwards make a comparative experiment on another part of the paper which is neither spotted nor whitened.
If the original writing has been done with a very acid ink on a paper containing a carbonate, such as calcium carbonate, the ink, in attacking the calcareous salt, stains the paper, so that if the forger has removed the ferruginous salts this removal is denoted by the semi-transparence that water gives to the paper.
To study carefully the action of the water it is necessary to repeat the experiment several times, allowing the paper to dry thoroughly before recommencing it.
According to Tarry, it is necessary to have recourse to alcohol to discover whether the paper has been scratched in any of the parts and then covered with a resinous matter to prevent the ink from blotting.
Place the document on a sheet of white paper and with a paint brush dipped in alcohol of specific gravity 0.86 or 0.87 cover the place supposed to have been tampered with. It may be discovered if the writing thickens and runs when the alcohol has dissolved the resin.
Hold the paper moistened with alcohol between the eye and the light; the thinning of the paper shows the work of the forger.
Some more skillful forgers use paste and resin at the same time to mask their fraudulent operations; in this case luke-warm water should be first employed and then alcohol; water to dilute the paste, and alcohol to dissolve the resin. The result is that the ink added on the places scratched out spreads, and the forgery is easily seen.
Test-papers (litmus, mauve, and Georgina paper) serve to determine whether a paper has been washed either by the help of chemical agents, acids incompletely removed, or the surplus of which has been saturated by an alkali, or by the help of alkaline substances. The change of the color to red indicates an acid substance; an alkali would turn the reddened litmus paper to blue, and the mauve and Georgina test-papers to green.
Take a sheet of test-paper of the same dimensions as the document to be examined, moisten it, and cover it underneath with a sheet of Swedish filter-paper. These two sheets together (the filter-paper underneath) are then applied to the document which has been moistened already. The whole is then laid between two quires of paper, covered by a weighted board, and left in this condition for about an hour. At the end of this time examine the test-paper to see if it has partly or altogether changed color. This examination finished, put the test-paper in contact with distilled water, to be afterwards removed and tried by appropriate tests to discover the nature of the alkali or acid present.
Silver nitrate is also used to discover whether the paper has been washed with chlorine or chlorites. A paper in that way becomes acid. The chlorine changes to hydrochloric acid, which dissolves in the water with which the suspected document or paper is moistened, and at the contact of silver nitrate little spots of silver chloride appear.
There are various other tests such as gallo-tannic acid or infusion of nutgalls prepared a short time before application and may be used with advantage to restore writings that have been removed by washing. Place the document or paper on a sheet of white paper and moisten the whole of its surface with a paint brush dipped in the reagent, taking care not to rub it or strongly press it. When the surface is well impregnated allow the solution to act for an hour, and at the end of this time examine the document again. Then moisten it a second time and the following day, examine the results. Repeat the moistening several times if necessary, for it often takes some time to make the traces of writing reappear.
Chevallier and Lassaigne experimented together on the effect produced by the vapor of iodine on the surface of the papers or documents upon which the alteration of writing was suspected. Take a bottle with a wide mouth from ten to eleven centimeters in height, and the opening from five to six centimeters in width. This last is covered by a disk of unpolished glass. Into the bottom of this vessel introduce from twenty to thirty grams of iodine in crystals.
Place the portion of paper on which the vapor of iodine is to act at the opening of the bottle, and cover it with the stopper of unpolished glass, on which put a weight so as to exert a slight pressure, and in order that the aperture may be hermetically closed. Then allow the vapor of iodine to act on the dry paper for three or four minutes at the temperature of 15 deg. to 16 deg. C. and examine it attentively. When the surface has not been spotted by any liquid (water, alcohol, salt water, vinegar, saliva, tears, urine acids, acid salts, or alkalis) a uniform pale-yellow or yellowish-brown tinge will be noticed on all parts of the paper exposed to the vapor of iodine.
Otherwise a different and easily distinguished tinge shows itself on the surface that has been moistened and then dried in the open air.
Machine-made papers with starchy and resinous sizing give such decided reactions that sometimes it is possible to distinguish by the color the portion of the paper treated with alcohol from that moistened with water. The spot produced by alcohol takes a kind of yellow tinge; that formed by water becomes a violet blue, more or less deep, after having dried at an ordinary temperature. As to the spots produced by other aqueous liquids, they approach in appearance, though not in intensity, those occasioned by pure water. Feeble acids, or those diluted by water, act like water; but the concentrated mineral acids, in altering more or less the substance of the sizing, produce spots that present differences.
Spots which become apparent by using vapor of iodine are due to chemical agents whose strength has altered either the fibers of the surface, or the paste uniting them.
In a word, the test of a document or paper by vapor of iodine has the double advantage of indicating the place of the supposed alteration and operating afterwards with appropriate reagents to bring back the traces of ink. It is only the reappearance of former letters or figures written or effaced that demonstrates forgery. Much time may be profitably spent in merely scanning each letter of a document, and the writing by lines, paragraphs, and pages before a closer scrutiny. Gradually, if the writing be genuine, its character will begin to reveal itself, and unconsciously a hypothesis as to the physical causes of the irregularities or characteristics will be formed.
When an entire document or page is forged, the ornamentation, flourishes, or the capitals at its head will often be seen to be out of keeping, either with its nature or with the supposed author's habits in similar cases. In a writing all must agree, place, day, year, handwriting, superscription or heading, signature, and material carrying the writing, especially paper, both as to constitution and color and ink.
See illustrations of various kinds of handwriting at end of this book.
GUIDED HANDWRITING AND METHOD USED
The Most Frequent and Dangerous Method of Forgery—How to Detect a Guided Signature—What Guided Handwriting Is and How It Is Done—Character of Such Writing—Writing by a Guided Hand—Difficulty in Writing—Force Exercised by Joint Hands—A Hand More or Less Passive—Work of the Controlling Hand—How Guided Writing Appears—Two Writers Acting in Opposition—Distorted Writing—How a Legitimate Guided Hand is Directed and Supported—Pen Motion Necessary to Produce Same—Influence in Guiding a Stronger Hand—Avoiding an Unnatural and Cramped Position—Effect of the Brain on Guided Hand—Separating Characteristics From Guided Joint Signature—Detecting Writing by a System of Measurement.
Guided handwriting is one of the most frequent means of forgery and oftentimes the most difficult to detect. It has been established that with care the elements of each handwriting can be detected and proven in a guided signature. The leading handwriting experts of the world are unanimous in declaring that it is possible for holding another's hand in making a guided signature to infuse the character of the guider's hand into the writing.
Guided handwriting is the writing produced by two hands conjointly and is usually erratic, and at first sight, hard to connect with the handwriting of any one person.
The character and quality of writing in case of a controlled or assisted hand must depend largely upon the relative force, exercised by the joint hands. The difficulty in writing arises from the antagonizing motion of one hand upon the other, which is likely to produce an unintelligible scrawl, having little or none of the habitual characteristics of either hand.
Where one hand is more or less passive, the controlling hand doing the writing, its characteristics may be more or less manifest in the writing. But obviously the controlling hand must be seriously obstructed in its motions by even a passive hand; and since the controlling hand can have no proper or customary rest, the motion must be from the shoulder and with the whole arm. The writing will therefore be upon an enlarged scale, loose, sprawling, and can have little, if any, characteristic resemblance to the natural and habitual style of the controlling writer, and of course none of the person's whose hand is passive.
In appearance it changes abruptly from very high or very wide to very low or narrow letters. This is to be explained by the non-agreement in phase of the impulses due to each of the two writers. If both are endeavoring at the same moment to write a given stroke the length of that stroke will be measured by the sum of the impulses given by the two writers. If they act in opposition to one another, one seeking to make a down stroke while the other is trying to make an up stroke, the result will be a line equal to the difference between the stronger and the weaker force.
As these coincidences and oppositions occur at irregular but not infrequent intervals, like the interference and amplification phases of light and sound waves, the result traced on the paper might be expected in advance to be—and in fact is—a distorted writing where maxima and minima of effect are connected together by longer or shorter lines of ordinary writing.
The only state of things which can justify the guiding of a hand executing a legal instrument is the feebleness or illness of its owner.
When such assistance is required it is usually given by passing the arm around the body of the invalid and supporting the writing hand while the necessary characters are being made.
Both participants in this action are looking at the writing, and both are thinking of the next letter which must be written, and of the motion of the pen necessary to produce it. Unless the executing hand were absolutely lifeless or entirely devoid of power, it would be impossible for it not to influence the guiding and presumably stronger hand; for the least force exerted cannot fail to deflect a hand, however strong, in an unnatural and cramped position. Nor can the hand of the guider fail to add its contribution to the joint effort, however much the brain which controls it may strive to render the hand entirely passive. Both minds are busy with the same act, and insensibly both hands will write the same letter with the results just described.
Can the characteristics of each hand be separated from those of the other and the relative amount of the two contributions to the joint signature be stated?
This is a question which is naturally asked during the trial of a case involving the consideration of a guided hand. From the comparatively small number of experiments made in this direction it would be too hazardous to answer it in the affirmative, but it may be said that some of the characteristics of each hand can usually be made apparent by the system of measurement, and the indications seem to point to the probability of being able to increase the number of characteristics elicited in proportion to the number of observations made. If the significance of every part of every stroke could be properly interpreted, it follows that a complete separation of characteristics would be effected, but this would require an indefinitely large number of observations to be made and a quite unattainable skill in explaining them.
See specimens of guided signatures in Appendix.
TALES TOLD BY HANDWRITING
Telling the Nationality, Sex and Age of Anyone Who Executes Handwriting—Americans and Their Style of Writing—How English, German, and French Write—Gobert the French Expert and How He Saved Dreyfus—Miser Paine and His Millions Saved by an Expert—Writing with Invisible Ink—Professor Braylant's Secret Writing Without Ink—Professor Gross Discovers a Simple Secret Writing Method With a Piece of Pointed Hardwood—A System Extensively Used—Studying the Handwriting of Authors—How to Determine a Person's Character and Disposition by Handwriting.
It is possible for a trained expert in handwriting to tell with a fair degree of accuracy the nationality, sex, and age of any one who executes writing of any kind. A study of the handwriting of the different nations makes it comparatively easy to recognize in any questioned specimen the nationality of the writer. The aggregate characteristics of a nation are reflected in the style of handwriting adopted as a national standard. The style most in use in the United States is the semi-angular, forward-slant hand, although the vertical round-hand is now being largely taught in the public schools and will affect the appearance of the writing of the next generation quite appreciably.
Frequently educational and newspaper critics compare unfavorably American writing with that of other nations. The writer has investigated the subject by collecting from many countries copy-books and specimens of writing from leading teachers of writing, students in various grades of schools, clerks and business men.
America is so far in advance of any other country in artistic and business penmanship that there is really no second. Americans as a whole write at a much higher rate of speed and with a freer movement than any other nations, and, consequently, many critics stop when they have criticized form alone, not making allowance for quantity. Nervous, rapid writers (and such the Americans are) produce writing more or less illegible, but it is not the fault of the standard so much as the speed with which the writing is done.
The writing of England is either angular (for rapid business style), or the civil-service round-hand—too slow for the every-day rush of business. England's colonies, influenced by her copy-books and teachers, write about as England does. Canada is an exception, as her proximity to the United States causes her to mix the English and American styles, with the American gaining ground.
The German and French write two radically different styles. Hence the identity of the nation producing the writer as well as the identity of the writer himself usually can be established. Before the writer is known this frequently is of great benefit to the cause of justice as it narrows down the search.
A case such as the Dreyfus affair has a tendency to confuse the public mind and leads to wrong conclusions. In initiating the prosecution of Dreyfus the French government submitted the documents to expert Gobert, of the Bank of France, who is considered the leader in this line in France. Gobert reported that Dreyfus did not write the incriminating documents. The prosecutors then placed the papers in the hands of Bertillon, the inventor of the anthropometric system of measurements (used principally on criminals) which bears his name. It mattered not that Bertillon had never appeared in a handwriting case before, or that his skill in this line was unknown. He was a man of science, of great renown in other lines, and the government relied on these facts to bolster up its claim that Dreyfus wrote the incriminating papers Bertillon reported in favor of the government's contention, and it was an easy matter to get some alleged experts—weak as to will and ability—and one or two honest but misguided men to agree with him. Some of these afterward changed their opinions when better standards of writing were given to them.
Dreyfus' friends sent engraved reproductions of standards and disputed documents to the best-known experts all over the world, and without exception these reported that Dreyfus was not the writer of the disputed papers. On the side of the French government were a few so-called "experts," headed and dominated by a man with no experience whatever. The experts of skill and experience in France and the world over were practically unanimous in favor of Dreyfus. A critical examination of the documents in question produced an absolute conviction that they could not possibly have been written by Dreyfus.
Unless the individual is fitted by nature and inborn liking for investigations of this character, no amount of education and experience will fit him. But, given natural equipment and inclination, it is necessary first of all that the expert have a good general education. He should have a sufficient command of language to make others see what he sees. He should have a good eye for form and color, and a well-trained hand to enable him to describe graphically as well as orally what his trained eye has detected. A few strokes on a blackboard or large sheet of paper will often make a clouded point appear much plainer to court, jury and lawyers than hours of oral description. The ability to handle the crayon and to simulate well the writings under discussion is a great aid.
A very interesting case was involved in the will of Miser Paine in New York in 1889. Here a deliberate attempt to get away with something like $1,500,000 was made, which was frustrated by a handwriting expert. When quite a young man, James H. Paine was a clerk in a Boston business house. He absconded with a lot of money and went to New York, where all trace of him was lost. He speculated with the stolen money, and everything he touched turned to gold. He soon became a millionaire. Then he became a miser. He went around the streets in rags, lodged in a garret with a French family on the West Side, who took him out of pure charity, and lived on the leavings which restaurant-keepers gave him. There was only one thing that he would spend money on; that was music. He was passionately fond of music, and for years was a familiar figure in the lobby of the Academy of Music during the opera season. He would go there early in the evening, and beg people to pay his way in. If he didn't find a philanthropist he would buy a ticket himself, but he never gave up hope until he knew that the curtain had risen.
Finally Paine was run over by a cab in New York. He was taken to a hospital, but made such a fuss about staying there that he was finally removed to his garret home. He died there in a few days. Then a man came forward with a power of attorney which he said Paine gave him in 1885 and which authorized him to take charge of Paine's interest in the estate of his brother, Robert Treat Paine. The closing paragraph empowered him to attend to all of Paine's business and to dispose of his property without consulting anybody, in the event of anything happening to him. Nothing was known then of Paine's possessions. Later the French family with whom Paine lived opened an old hair trunk they found in the garret. In this trunk they found nearly half a million dollars in gold, bank notes, and securities. Chickering, the piano man, came forward then and said that some years before Paine gave him a package wrapped up in an old bandana handkerchief for safe keeping. He had opened this package and found that it contained $300,000 in bank notes. Other possessions of Paine's were found. Relatives came forward and employing handwriting experts proved that the power of attorney presented was a forgery and the estate went to the relations of Paine. This was a celebrated case in its day and called attention to the value of experts in this line.
Ovid, in his "Art of Love," teaches young women to deceive their guardians by writing their love letters with new milk, and to make the writing appear by rubbing coal dust over the paper. Any thick and viscous fluid, such as the glutinous and colorless juices of plants, aided by any colored powder, will answer the purpose equally well. A quill pen should be used.
The most common method is to pen an epistle in ordinary ink, interlined with the invisible words, which doubtless has given rise to the expression, "reading between the lines," in order to discover the true meaning of a communication. Letters written with a solution of gold, silver, copper, tin, or mercury dissolved in aqua fortis, or simpler still of iron or lead in vinegar, with water added until the liquor does not stain white paper, will remain invisible for two or three months if kept in the dark; but on exposure for some hours to the open air will gradually acquire color, or will do so instantly on being held before the fire. Each of these solutions gives its own peculiar color to the writing—gold, a deep violet; silver, slate; and lead and copper, brown.
There is a vast number of other solutions that become visible on exposure to heat, or when having a heated iron passed over them; the explanation is that the matter is readily burned to a sort of charcoal. Simplest among these are lemon juice or milk; but the one that produces the best result is made by dissolving a scruple of salammoniac in two ounces of water.
Several years ago Professor Braylant of the University of Louvain discovered a method in which no ink at all was required to convey a secret message. He laid several sheets of note paper on each other and wrote on the uppermost with a pencil; then selected one of the under sheets, on which no marks of the writing were visible. On exposing this sheet to the vapor of iodine for a few minutes it turned yellowish and the writing appeared of a violet brown color. On further moistening the paper it turned blue, and the letters showed in violet lines. The explanation is that note paper contains starch, which under pressure becomes "hydramide," and turns blue in the iodine fumes. It is best to write on a hard surface, say a pane of glass. Sulphuric acid gas will make the writing disappear again, and it can be revived a second time.
One of the simplest secret writings, however, to which Professor Gross of Germany calls attention is the following:
Take a sheet of common writing paper, moisten it well with clear water, and lay it on a hard, smooth surface, such as glass, tin, stone, etc. After removing carefully all air bubbles from the sheet, place upon it another dry sheet of equal size and write upon it your communication with a sharp-pointed pencil or a simple piece of pointed hardwood. Then destroy the dry paper upon which the writing has been done, and allow the wet paper to dry by exposing it to the air (but not to the heat of fire or the flame of a lamp). When dry, not a trace of the writing will be visible. But on moistening the sheet again with clear water and holding it against the light, the writing can be read in a clear transparency. It disappears again after drying in the air, and may be reproduced by moistening a great number of times. Should the sheets be too much heated, however, the writing will disappear, never to reappear again. This system is used extensively in Germany.
An interesting study is the handwriting of authors, as it indicates to a greater or less degree their personal temperaments.
Longfellow wrote a bold, open back-hand, which was the delight of printers, says the Scientific American. Joaquin Miller wrote such a bad hand that he often becomes puzzled over his own work, and the printer sings the praises of the inventor of the typewriter.
Charlotte Bronte's writing seemed to have been traced with a cambric needle, and Thackeray's writing, while marvelously neat and precise, was so small that the best of eyes were needed to read it. Likewise the writing of Captain Marryatt was so microscopic that when he was interrupted in his labors he was obliged to mark the place where he left off by sticking a pin in the paper.
Napoleon's was worse than illegible, and it is said that his letters from Germany to the Empress Josephine were at first thought to be rough maps of the seat of war.
Carlyle wrote a patient, crabbed and oddly emphasized hand. The penmanship of Bryant was aggressive, well formed and decidedly pleasing to the eye; while the chirography of Scott, Hunt, Moore, and Gray was smooth and easy to read but did not express distinct individuality.
Byron's handwriting was nothing more than a scrawl. His additions to proofs frequently exceeded in volume the original copy, and in one of his poems, which contained in the original only four hundred lines, one thousand were added in the proofs.
The writing of Dickens was minute, and he had a habit of writing with blue ink on blue paper. Frequent erasures and interlineations made his copy a burden to his publishers.
Horace Greeley could not decipher his own writing after it got cold.
Mark Twain writes a cramped, plain hand, and writes with haste.
For an evening entertainment when a few friends happen to drop in ask each one to write any quotation that pops into his head and carefully sign his name in full. Pen and ink are better than pencil, but the latter will answer in a pinch. If the writing is dark this shows a leaning toward athletics and a love for outdoor life and sports. If the letters are slender and faint the writer is reserved and rarely shows emotion or becomes confidential. Sloping letters indicate a very sensitive disposition, whereas those that are straight up and down evince ability to face the world and throw off the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune."
Curls and loops are out of fashion nowadays, but any inclination to ornate penmanship is a sure indication of a leaning toward the romantic and sentimental, while the least desire to shade a letter shows imagination and a tendency to idealize common things. If the same letter is formed differently by the same person this shows love of change. Long loops or endings to the letters indicate that the writer "wears his heart upon his sleeve," or in other words, is trusting, non-secretive, and very fond of company. If the "y" has a specially long finish, this shows affectation, but if the same person is also careless about crossing the "t's," the combination is an unhappy one, as it points to fickleness in work and to affectation. A curved cross to the "t," or the incurving of the first letters of a word shows an affectionate and good-natured disposition if taken separately; but if the two are indulged in by the same writer it is a sign of jealousy.
Writing that is rather small points to cleverness, quick intuitions, a liking for one's own way, brilliant intellect, and fine powers of penetration. Round, jolly, comfortable-looking letters betoken a disposition to correspond.
With these hints in mind it will be surprising to find how many caps may be found to fit ourselves and our friends.
WORKINGS OF THE GOVERNMENT SECRET SERVICE
Officials of This Department Talk About Their Work—How Criminals Are Traced, Caught and Punished—Its Work Extending to All Departments—Secret Service Districts—Reports Made to the Treasury Department—Good Money and Bad—How to Detect the False—System of Numbering United States Notes Explained—Counterfeiting on the Decrease—Counterfeiting Gold Certificates—Bank Tellers and Counterfeits—The Best Secret Service in the World.
The secret service bureau of the Treasury Department is not an old concern. It has not been in operation many years, compared to the existence of other bureaus, but it grows in importance each year. There are now a large number of investigators, by some called detectives, in the field, but the exact number is not known and will not be made public.
Counterfeiting money is an old offense. It was done before the United States became a government, but does not seem to have become so widespread until the United States began making its own paper money during the Civil War. Prior to that time the offenses had been dealt with by states and municipalities, with such help as the general government cared to give. The increase in the crime, however, caused recognition by Congress in 1860, when $10,000 was appropriated for its suppression to be expended under the direction of the Secretary of the Treasury. This sum was paid out in rewards to private detectives, municipal officers and others instrumental in bringing to trial and punishment those engaged in making bogus money.
With the turning out of greenbacks by the government an increase in the appropriation and a more organized fight against counterfeiting were necessary. In 1864 Congress appropriated $100,000 and placed upon the solicitor of the treasury the responsibility and supervision of keeping down counterfeiting. This really inaugurated a methodical system of hunting and punishing counterfeiters. The solicitor of the treasury gathered about him a corps of men experienced in criminal investigations and set them to work. The plan worked so well that when John Sherman was secretary of the treasury he gave his approval to the organization of a separate bureau for suppressing the output of spurious currency. Under foreign governments the handling of counterfeiters is in control of a centralized police organization, which looks after all kinds of criminal offenses against the general governments. The one bureau has surveillance over criminals of every class. The tendency is in that direction in this government. The secret service bureau is now being used by a number of departments of the government.
The operations of the secret service are confined by law to the suppression of counterfeiting and the investigation of back pay and bounty cases. This is all the law permits the officials of the service to work on, but every day they are at work on other matters. That the law may not be openly violated the secret service operators assigned to do other work are practically taken off the secret service rolls and the department employing them is required to pay their salaries and expenses. Nearly all the departments now recognize the efficiency of the service and call upon the bureau at any time for a man. The Department of Justice has used a number of the operators in the last few years. In the course of time this will become so general that this government will probably build up a great criminal bureau, one that will supply officers for investigation of any crime. The Postoffice Department now has its own system of inspectors, who investigate violations of postal laws, and the plan of pitting specialist against specialist is regarded as perfect. This could be continued, though, if all the criminal organizations of the government were centralized.
The United States is divided into thirty secret service districts, each in charge of an operative who has under his direction as many assistants as the criminal activity of the section demands. The force is concentrated in one district if there are counterfeiting operations in progress, and then sent to another district as required. A written daily report, covering operations for twenty-four hours, is exacted from each district operative and from each man under him. These daily reports frequently contain many fascinating stories, many details of criminal life and espionage that would make columns. The reports received by the bureau in Washington are carefully filed away in the offices of the Treasury Department. Accompanying the reports are the photographs and measurements of every man arrested for counterfeiting. The Bertillon system of measurements is used by the service, as well as a plain indexed card system. The two are so complete that even without the name of a man his name and record can be obtained if his measurements are forwarded.
Hanging on the walls and in racks in the two rooms that are occupied by the chief and his two assistants are the photographs of every known counterfeiter in the country. Among these are the faces of William E. Brockway, the veteran dean of counterfeiters; Emanuel Ninger, the most expert penman the service ever knew, and Taylor and Bredell, who hold the record as the cleverest counterfeiters in history next to Brockway. There are hundreds of others who have at some time or other gotten into the clutches of the service, many of them the most desperate characters. Some of these have taken human life with the same ease they would make a paper dollar or a silver coin.
The development of modern processes of photolithography, photogravure, and etching has revolutionized the note counterfeiting industry. So famous a counterfeiter as Brockway realized this. In the old days all counterfeiting plates were hand engraved and it took from eight to fifteen months to complete a set. Now this part of the work may be done in a few hours.
Information as to the personnel and operations of the secret service is carefully withheld from the public. The names of the heads of the various districts and the operators are unknown and are seldom published unless in case of the arrest of a counterfeiter and the the facts get into the newspapers. The bureau is managed by John E. Wilkie, chief. He has held the position since 1898, when he succeeded Chief Hazen. Mr. Wilkie is a newspaper man having held responsible positions on many large papers. He began his career as a reporter and worked his way up to city editor of one of the big Chicago papers. He has a great "nose" for criminal investigation, and his work is regarded as brilliant.
All the United States notes are printed in sheets of four notes of one denomination on each sheet. Each note is lettered in its respective order, in the upper and lower corners diagonally opposite, A, B, C, and D, and this is the system for numbering notes: All numbers, on being divided by 4 and leaving 1 for a remainder, have the check letter A; 2 remainder, B; 3 remainder, C; even numbers, or with no remainder, D. Any United States note the number upon which can be divided by 4 without showing the above result is a counterfeit, and while this rule is not infallible in all instances it will be found of service in the detection of counterfeits.
Compared with a dozen or so years ago, there is nothing like the counterfeiting going on in this country. Shortly after the war the country was practically flooded with it, but so perfect is the machinery of the secret service and so successful have its officers been in recent years in unearthing the big plants and their operators, and placing the latter behind the bars, that counterfeiting has almost ceased.
The receipts of subsidiary counterfeit coins at the subtreasury at New York have been in recent times inconsequential. Some time ago an Italian silversmith, who was an expert coin counterfeiter, was captured, and the destruction of his plant and his subsequent conviction had a wholesome effect upon his fellow countrymen, some of whom have come over to the United States for the express purpose of counterfeiting its silver coins. Only five counterfeit issues of notes made their appearance during the year in question, and of these three were new and two were reissues of old counterfeits.
This shows how well the counterfeit situation, as it were, is kept in check and under control by the government. By some it is supposed that most of our counterfeiters come from abroad, but this is not strictly accurate, though many of those who attempt to imitate our silver dollar and the subsidiary coin issues hail from Italy and Russia.
In order to set up a first-class counterfeit shop for the turning out of good paper counterfeits, there are so many indispensable requisites on the part of the spurious money-makers that they get discouraged or caught in most instances almost at the very outset of their would-be easy money-making careers. All of the good engravers who are capable of turning out good plates are more or less under the constant supervision of the secret service officers, while the paper supply, or its possible supply, is equally well watched.
Because gold and silver coins pass current out on the Pacific coast, where notes do not yet circulate freely as in the east, California has more counterfeiting cases than any other state in the Union, with Pennsylvania, with its large foreign population in the mining regions, a close second.
A moderately deceptive $5 silver certificate was made in Italy, imported into this country by various gangs of Italians and passed quite extensively in the eastern states, but the secret service officers quickly got on to the source of issue, and made many arrests and secured convictions. So closely did they hit the trail of a fairly good counterfeit note issued in the west that they got the maker and passer arrested and convicted and the plates captured so quickly that it must have caused him acute pain. It was the same with a $10 note of deceptive workmanship which appeared in New York. Only three of these notes were circulated.
Of course there are plenty of counterfeit notes and coins in circulation—if there were not the secret-service officers would have an easy time of it—but the output has largely decreased as compared with former years, and, unless all signs fail, it is likely to go still lower, as the secret service officers become each year more expert in detecting this class of crime and putting the criminals away where they will serve the state the best. Gold certificates issued below the denomination of $20, are numbered the same as treasury notes and are check-lettered in their order upon each sheet.
The only denominations of the gold certificates which have been counterfeited are the issues for $20 and $100, respectively, as the gold certificates present a pretty tough counterfeiting proposition, though most of the denominations of the various issues of the silver certificates have been more or less extensively counterfeited, perhaps the issues for $5 and $10, respectively, being the most favored at the counterfeiter's hands, by reason of the ready circulation of these two issues.
The main deterrents to counterfeiting nowadays are, first, lack of good engravers who will take the risk; second, the difficulty in the making and the assembling of first-class plates, and third, the difficulty in the securing of suitable paper. As to the last, the fiber paper now in use with the two silk threads running through the note lengthwise presents a hard proposition for imitation, and lastly, and an important provision, is the fact the public is now pretty well educated on the question of counterfeits, and know how a spurious bill both looks and feels. As for the bank tellers, they scent counterfeits by instinct. Things have changed for the counterfeiter, too, and they are not for the best from his point of view.
The secret service of the United States is without a question the best in the world.
CHARACTER AND TEMPERAMENT INDICATED BY HANDWRITING
A Man's Handwriting a Part of Himself—Cheap Postage and Typewriters Playing Havoc with Writing by Hand—Old Time Correspondence Vanishing—Two Divisions of Handwriting—Fashion Has Changed Even Writing—Characteristic Writing of Different Professions—Handwriting a Sure Index to Character and Temperament—Personality of Handwriting—Handwriting a Voiceless Speaking—A Neglected Science—Interest in Disputed Handwriting Rapidly Coming to the Front—Set Writing Copies no Longer the Rule—Formal Handwriting—Education's Effect on Writing—Handwriting and Personality—The Character and Temperament of Writers Easily Told—Honest, Eccentric, and Weak People—How to Determine Character by Writing—The Marks of Truth and Straightforwardness—How Perseverance and Patience Are Indicated in Writing—Economy, Generosity and Liberality Easily Shown in Writing—The Character and Temperament of Any Writer Easily Shown—Studying Character from Handwriting a Fascinating Work—Rules for Its Study—Links in a Chain That Cannot Be Hidden—A Person's Writing a Surer Index to Character Than His Face.
A person's handwriting is really a part of himself. It is an expression of his personality and his character and is as characteristic of his general make-up as his gait or his tone of voice.
There is always a direct and apparent connection between the style of handwriting and the personality of the writer. Another familiar evidence of this is the fact that no two persons write exactly alike, notwithstanding that hundreds of thousands of people learned to write from the same copy-books and were taught to form their letters in precisely the same way. Thus, it will be seen, if handwriting bore no relationship to personality and temperament and was not influenced by the character of the individual, we would all be writing the beautiful Spencerian copper-plate we were taught in our school days. But, as it is, not one in fifty thousand writes in this manner five years after leaving school.
Like speech or gesture, handwriting serves as a means for the expression of thought; and in expressing our thoughts we give expression to ourselves. When once the art of writing is learned we are no longer conscious of the mental and manual effort required to form the letters. It becomes, as it were, a second nature to us. We do it mechanically, just as we form our words when talking, without realizing the complex processes of mind and muscle that it involves.
Of course, the style of handwriting does not in every case remain the same throughout the entire life of a man or woman. A man of fifty may not write the same hand that he did when he was eighteen or twenty, and if he lives to be eighty or ninety it will in all probability show further indications of change. This fact only emphasizes the relationship between handwriting, character, and personality; for it will always be found that where there is a change in the style of penmanship there is a corresponding change in the person himself. Very few of us retain the same character, disposition, and nature that we had in youth. Experience and vicissitudes do much to modify our natures, and with such modifications come alterations in our handwriting. In some persons the change is very slight, while in others it is noticeably evident.
When a man attempts to change his style of handwriting he simply alters the principal features of it. If his writing normally slopes to the right, he will probably adopt a back-hand. He may also use a different kind of pen; may change the size of the writing, alter the customary formation of certain letters, and add certain unfamiliar flourishes. But knowing nothing about the many minor characteristics of his natural writing he unconsciously repeats them, notwithstanding his best efforts to veil the identity of his chirography. In this respect he resembles the actor, who, while he may assume all the outward characteristics of another individual, still retains certain personal peculiarities of which he is himself unaware and which render it impossible for him to completely disguise his own individuality.
The introduction of cheap postage and the immense increase of every-day correspondence has ruined handwriting and banished forever the art of composition. The short, modern, business-like letters of to-day will not bear comparison with the neat, voluminous letters full of graphic scenic descriptions, which our forefathers were wont to compile, and were worth keeping and rereading. Now, when similar correspondence is undertaken, it is dictated to a stenographer, copied on a typewriter, or printed, for few people will take the trouble to read manuscript composition of any kind. Looking backward, we find a marked paucity of ideas and carelessness of writing in correspondence, getting worse the farther back we go. Few letters are preserved these days, except those on business, which is a pity, for a letter is always a unique production, being a correct reflect of a writer and his times.
There are always two divisions of handwriting, the formal hand employed for clerk's work, and a freer, less mechanical, less careful style, used for private correspondence. Writing was a profession only understood by a few, and as late as the sixteenth century, when it was necessary to communicate with persons at a distance, a professional scribe was employed to write the letter. But letter-writing was rare and did not become general till after the close of the sixteenth century, and even then it was restricted to the upper classes of society.
Fashion changes in everything. Every generation had its own particular type of writing. Compare, for instance, any bundle of letters taken at random, out of an old desk or library. It is quite easy to sort them into bundles in sequence of dates, and also guess accurately the age and position of the writers. The flowing Italian hand, used by educated women early in the nineteenth century, has now developed into a bold, decisive, almost masculine writing.
It will be found that most professions have special characteristics in writing and these are all liable to change, according to circumstances and writing is the clearest proof of both bodily and mental condition, for in case of paralysis, or mental aberration, the doctor takes it as a certain guide.
The most noticeable movement by which cultured people recognize one another are the play of the features, the gait, talking and writing. Of these evidences the last named is the most infallible, for by a few hasty lines we may recognize again a person whom we neither see nor hear, and enjoy in addition the advantage of being able to compare quietly and at our leisure the traits of one individual thus expressed with the characteristics of another. There are not many men to be found in any walk of life who do not endeavor to conceal to some extent, however slight, their true views and emotions, when brought into close contact with their fellow-beings. But the mind photographs itself unsuspectingly in the movements of the hands, by the use of pen and ink away from all alien observation, and with the rigid unchangeable witness in our possession the character of the author of the manuscript lies open to the gaze of the intelligent reader.
In this way handwriting becomes much more individual than any other active sign of personality. It varies more, it is more free, it represents the individual less artificially than voice or gesture. There must exist between the form and arrangements of letters in words and lines, on the one hand, and certain individual peculiarities of the writer, on the other, some kind of connection. It is strange that no scientific writing has ever yet been undertaken, for it seems conclusive that handwriting is a kind of voiceless speaking, consequently a phenomenon, and therefore an operation which lies within the province of physiology.
Yet there are no books or studies on the subject of disputed handwriting up to the present time, short newspaper and magazine articles and sketches being the only contributions the public has been favored with up to the publication of this work.
There is as yet no physiology of handwriting formulated, and that the further question of the relation of handwriting to the moods of the writer has not ever been touched upon scientifically. The history of science teaches us that in case a fact, which is theoretically and practically important, has been neglected for decades and even centuries by trained scientists; but the subject will now be taken up and a place made for it among the prominent and leading studies of the day. Interest in disputed handwriting and writing of all kinds is rapidly coming to the front in the United States, and is a study and research that the business man of the future will be perfectly familiar with.
It is now no longer the rule to teach to write entirely by the aid of set copies, as was the case with our forefathers, who wrote after one approved pattern, which was copied as nearly as possible from the original set for them; therefore characteristics, peculiarities are longer in asserting themselves and what is now considered a "formal" handwriting was not developed till late in life. There were, and still are, two divisions or classes of handwriting, the professional and personal; with the first the action is mechanical and exhibits few, if any, traces of personality. Yet in the oldest manuscripts studied and consulted there are certain defined characteristics plainly shown. The handwritings of historical and celebrated personages coincide to a remarkable degree with their known virtues and vices, as criticized and detailed by their biographers.
As the art of writing became general, its form varied more, and more, becoming gradually less formal, and each person wrote as was easiest to himself.
Education, as a rule, has a far from beneficial effect upon handwriting; an active brain creates ideas too fast to give the hand time to form the letters clearly, patiently and evenly, the matter, not the material, being to the writer of primary importance.
So as study increased among all classes, writing degenerated from its originally clear, regular lettering into every style of penmanship.
If the subject of handwriting, as a test of personality is carefully studied, it will be found that immediate circumstances greatly influence it; anxiety or great excitement of any kind, illness or any violent emotion, will for the moment greatly affect the writing. Writing depends upon so many things—a firm grasp of the pen, a pliability of the muscles, clearness of vision and brain power—even the writing materials, pens, ink and paper, all make a difference. It is not strange, then, that with so many causes upon which it depends, writing should be an excellent test of personality, temperament and bodily health.
Excitability, hastiness, temperament, personality and impatience are all seen in the handwriting at a glance. A quick brain suggests words and sentences so fast, one upon another, that though the pen races along the page, it cannot write down the ideas quickly enough to satisfy the author.
Temper depends upon temperament. The crosses of the letter "t" are the index whereby to judge of it. If those strokes are regular through a whole page of writing, the writer may be assumed to have an even-placed temper; if dashed off at random-quick short strokes somewhat higher than the letter itself, quick outbursts of anger may be expected, but of short duration, unless the stroke is firm and black, in which case great violence may safely be predicted.
Uncertainty of character and temperament is shown by the variation of these strokes to the letter "t." Sometimes the cross is firm and black, then next time it is light, sometimes it is omitted altogether, varying with each repetition of the letter like the opinions and sentiments of an undecided person. The up and down strokes of the letters tell of strength or weakness of will; graduations of light and shade, too, may be observed in the strokes.
Capital letters tell us many points of interest. By them originality, talent and mental capacity are displayed, as well as any deficiency or want of education. There are two styles of capital letters at present in use. The high-class style employed by persons of education is plain and often eccentric, but without much ornamentation. The other may be called the middle-class, for it is used by servants and tradespeople, having a fair amount of education, mingled with a good deal of conceited ignorance and false pride.
With these last, the capital letters are much adorned by loops, hooks and curves, noticeable principally in the heads of the letters, or at their commencements.
Therefore to become an expert on handwriting, a careful study must be made of the writings of those whose life and character, together with personal peculiarities, are intimately known and understood, and from this conclusions may be drawn and rules arrived at for future use. Get some friend to write his name and from your knowledge of his character follow rules given in this work and you will find that a correct conclusion will be arrived at. The same correct solution will be found by studying any signature.
Affection is marked by open loops and a general slant or slope of the writing. A hard nature, unsympathetic and unimpressionable, has very little artistic feeling or love of the fine arts; therefore the same things which indicate a soft, affectionate disposition will also indicate poetry, music and painting, on one or other kindred subjects. The first of these accompanies a loving, impulsive nature. In painting, four things are absolutely necessary to produce an artist, form, color, light and shade. Success in art implies a certain degree of ambition, and consequently upon its vanity and egotism; hence an artist's signature is generally peculiar and often unreadable from its originality, egotism and exuberance of creative power.
Imagination and impulse do not tend to improve handwriting. The strokes are too erratic. Haste is visible in every line. A warm-hearted, impulsive person feels deeply and passionately at the moment of writing and dashes off the words without regard to the effect they will produce upon the reader.
Truth and straightforwardness give even lines running across the page and at regular distances from one word to another. Tact is very essential. This quality requires often slight deceptions to be allowed or practiced; hence an unevenness in the writing is observed. Untruthfulness gives greater unevenness still; but do not rush to conclusions on this point for an unformed handwriting shows this peculiarity very often, being due, not to evil qualities, but to an unsteady hand employed in work to which it is unused.
Very round, even writing, in which the words are not closed, denotes candor and openness of disposition, with an aptitude for giving advice, whether asked or unasked, and not always of a complimentary kind.
Blunt, crabbed writing suggests obstinacy and a selfish love of power, without thought for the feelings of others. True selfishness gives every curve an inward bend, very marked in the commencement of words or capital letters.
Perseverance and patience are closely allied. In the former the letter "t" is hooked at the top and also its stroke has a dark, curved end, showing that when once an idea has been entertained no earthly persuasion will alter or eradicate it. Such writers have strongly defined prejudices and are apt to take very strong dislikes without much cause.
Carelessness and patience also are frequently linked together, more often in later life, when adversity has blunted the faculties, or the drill routine of an uneventful existence has destroyed all romance. Then the writing has short, up and down strokes, the curves are round, the bars short and straight; there are no loops or flourishes, and the whole writing exhibits great neatness and regularity.
Economy of living, curiously enough, is marked by a spare use of ink. The terminals are abrupt and blunt, leaving off short. Where economy is the result of circumstances, not disposition, only some of the words are thus ended, while others have open, free curves and the long letters are looped.
Generosity and liberality may be seen likewise in the end curve of every word. Where these characteristics are inconstant and variable, the disposition will be found to be uncertain—liberal in some matters, while needlessly economical and stingy in others.
When a bar is placed below the signature, it means tenacity of purpose, compared with extreme caution; also a dread of criticism and adverse opinions. No dots to the letter "i" means negligence and want of attention to details, with but a small faculty of observation. When the dots are placed at random, neither above nor in proximity to the letter to which they belong, impressionability, want of reflection and impulsiveness may be anticipated.
Ambition and gratified happiness give to the whole writing an upward tendency, while the rest of the writing is impulsive without much firmness.
Sorrow gives every line of the writing a downward inclination. Temporary affliction will at once show in the writing. A preoccupied mind, full of trouble, cares little whether the letter then written is legible or not; hence the writing is erratic, uncertain, and the confusion of mind is clearly exhibited in every line. Irritable and touchy persons slope the nourishes only, such as the cross of the letter "t" and the upper parts of the capital letters. When the capital letters stand alone in front of the words and the final letters also are isolated, it betokens great creative power and ideality, such as would come from an author and clever writer.
The most personal part of a letter or document is, of course, the signature, but alone without any other writing it is not always a safe guide to character. In many instances the line placed below or after a signature tell a great deal more than the actual name. A curved bending line below a signature, ending in a hook, indicates coquetry, love of effect, and ideality. An exaggerated, common-like form of line means caprice, tempered by gravity of thought and versatility of ideas. An unyielding will, fiery, and at the same time determined, draws a firm hooked line after the signature. A wavy line shows great variety in mental power, with originality. Resolution is shown in a plain line, and extreme caution, with full power to calculate effect and reason a subject from every point of view, is shown by two straight dashes with dots, thus —:—
The personality of a writer can never be wholly separated from his works. And in any question of date or authenticity of a document being called in dispute, the value of graphology and its theories will be found of the utmost importance, for the various changes in the style of handwriting, or in the spelling of words, although, perhaps, so minute and gradual as seldom to be remarked, are, nevertheless, links in a chain which it would be extremely hard to forge successfully so as to deceive those acquainted with the matter as well as versed in its peculiarities.
See specimens of handwriting in Appendix with descriptions thereof.
HANDWRITING EXPERTS AS WITNESSES
Who May Testify As An Expert—Bank Officials and Bank Employees Always Desired—Definition of Expert and Opinion Evidence—Both Witness and Advocate—Witness in Cross Examination—Men Who Have Made the Science of Disputed Handwriting a Study—Objections to Appear in Court—Experts Contradicting Each Other—The Truth or Falsity of Handwriting—Sometimes a Mass of Doubtful Speculations—Paid Experts and Veracity—Present Method of Dealing with Disputed Handwriting Experts—How the Bench and Bar Regard the System—Remedies Proposed—Should an Expert Be an Adviser of the Court?—Free from Cross-Examination—Opinions of Eminent Judges on Expert Testimony—Experts Who Testify without Experience—What a Bank Cashier or Teller Bases His Opinions on—Actions and Deductions of the Trained Handwriting Expert—Admitting Evidence of Handwriting Experts—Occupation and Theories That Make an Expert—Difference Between an Expert and a Witness—Experts and Test Writing—What Constitutes an Expert in Handwriting—Present Practice Regarding Experts—Assuming to Be a Competent Expert—Testing a Witness with Prepared Forged Signatures—Care in Giving Answers—A Writing Teacher as an Expert—Familiarity with Signatures—What a Dash, Blot, or Distortion of a Letter Shows—What a Handwriting Expert Should Confine Himself to—Parts of Writing Which Demand the Closest Attention—American and English Laws on Experts in Handwriting—Examination of Disputed Handwriting.
While the qualification necessary for the permission of a witness to testify in court as an expert is largely discretionary with the judge, such discretion is usually exercised with so great liberality that it is not often that a witness offered as an expert is refused by the court on the ground of deficient qualification. It is usually held that any one possessed of anything more than ordinary opportunity for studying or observing handwriting may give expert testimony, which the jury may receive for what it is deemed to be worth. Bank officials and employees are declared by most courts to be competent witnesses. If on any previous occasion one has given testimony, that fact is usually accepted as a sufficient qualification, or if he has ever seen the person write whose writing is in question, he is deemed competent. With such limited qualification it is no matter of surprise that expert testimony is sometime made to appear at very great disadvantage. Incompetent and mercenary witnesses will seek employment, and since there are always two sides to a case, and on each side lawyers who spare no efforts for victory, there is a chance for every kind of witness, as there is for every kind of attorney.
Expert evidence is that given by one especially skilled in the subject to which it is applicable, concerning information beyond the range of ordinary observation and intelligence.
Opinion evidence is the conclusions of witnesses concerning certain propositions, drawn from ascertained or supposed facts, by those who have had better opportunities than the ordinary individual or witness to judge of the truth or falsity of such propositions, or who are familiar with the subject under inquiry, and give their conclusions from the facts within their own knowledge concerning certain questions involved.
Let us look at the question as it presents itself to the layman, to men of science and experience, to microscopists, to bank officials and others having much to do with writing. An expert in handwriting occupies a totally anomalous position when called before a court as a witness. Technically he is both a witness and an advocate, sharing the responsibilities of both but without the privileges of the latter. He has to instruct counsel and to prompt him during its course. But in cross examination he is more open to insult because the court does not see clearly how he arrives at his conclusions, and suspects whatever it does not understand. Nearly every person who has had to appear in court as an expert has been subjected to more or less humiliation by the judge.
It may be, perhaps, cynically hinted that men who have made the science of disputed handwriting a study should be willing to bear all kinds of arrogance for the public good. In the first place, many thoroughly competent experts in any department of science distinctly and peremptorily refuse to be mixed up in any affair which may expose them to cross examination. Many experts will investigate a matter, give a report of their conclusions, but absolutely refuse to appear in court.
Another not very edifying spectacle is that of paid handwriting experts standing in court and contradicting each other, or pretending to contradict in the interests of their respective clients, is not exactly right. These men would change places and reverse positions and arguments if necessary. Men of the world are tempted to say that "Science can lay but little claim to certainty in demonstrating the truth or falsity of handwriting and the whole procedure is more a mass of doubtful speculations than a body of demonstrable truths." But it must be remembered that a professional expert must be paid for his services, and always tell the truth as it appears to him.
It is clearly seen that our present method of dealing with experts regarding disputed handwriting is found to be on all sides not just exactly satisfactory. Oftentimes the public is skeptical and many honest and thorough experts are scandalized. The bench and bar share this feeling but unfortunately are disposed to blame the individual rather than the system.
There is no question but what this unanimity of dissatisfaction will vanish as soon as a remedy is seriously proposed. To that, however, we must come unless we are willing to dispense with expert evidence altogether.
It is contended by many that an expert should be the adviser of the court, not acting in the interest of either party in a lawsuit. Above all things an expert ought to be exempt from cross-examination. His evidence, or rather his conclusions, should be given in writing and accepted just as the decisions of the bench on points of law.
Opinions of eminent judges have differed widely respecting the reliance to be placed upon testimony founded upon expert comparisons of handwriting, but it should be remembered that those opinions have been no more varied than has been the character and qualifications of the experts by whose testimony they have been called forth.
It is too true that very frequently persons have been allowed to give testimony as experts who were utterly without experience in any calling that tends to bestow the proper qualifications for giving expert testimony.
The constant professional observation of handwriting in any line of financial or commercial business tends to confer expert skill. It should be said here, however, that the average bank cashier or teller bases his opinions and his identifications generally upon the pictorial effect without recourse to those minuter and more delicate points upon which the skilled expert rightly places the greatest reliance. Such testimony can not be compared for accuracy or value with that of the scientific investigator of handwriting. It follows, then, that one who is endowed with more than ordinary acuteness of observation, and has had an experience so varied and extensive as to cover most of these lines, is likely to be best fitted for critical and reliable expert work.
In a word, the trained expert eye, even on so slight a thing as a simple straight line, will detect certain peculiarities of motion, of force, of pressure, of tool-mark, etc., that in normal circumstances the result will stand for its author just as his photograph stands for him. Now, this being undoubtedly true within certain limitations, how more than incontestable must be the proposition to any rational man that if, instead of a simple undeviating pen-stroke, lines that run to curves and angles and slants, and shades and loops and ticks, and enter into all sorts of combinations, such as any specimen of handwriting must, however simple, bear inherent evidences of authorship that yield their secrets to the expert examiner as the hieroglyphics on an Egyptian monument do to a properly educated antiquarian.
The propriety of admitting the evidence of handwriting experts in investigating questions of forgery is now recognized by statute in most states. Common sense dictates that in all investigations requiring special skill, or when the common intelligence supposed to be possessed by the jury is not fully adequate to the occasion, we should accept the assistance of persons whose studies or occupations have given them a large and special experience on the subject. Thus such men of experience or experts are admitted to testify that work of a given description is or is not executed with ordinary skill; what is the ordinary price of a described article; whether described medical treatment or other practice was conducted with ordinary skill in a specific case; which of two colliding vessels, their respective movements being given, was in fault; whether one invention was an infringement of another, looking at the models of both; and other cases already mentioned.
This is as near to an exact definition of who are admissible as experts as it is possible for us to come. In all these cases it is to be observed that the expert is to speak from no knowledge of the particular facts which he may happen to possess, but is to pronounce the judgment of skill upon the particular facts proved by other witnesses. Of course the court must be first satisfied that the witness offered is a person of such special skill and experience, for if he be not, he can give no proper assistance to the jury; and of course, also, very much must at least be left to the discretion of the court, relative to the need of such assistance in the case; for very often the matter investigated may be so bunglingly done that the most common degree of observation may be sufficient to judge it.
Where a witness is called to testify to handwriting, from knowledge of his own, however derived, as to the hand of the party, he is not an expert, but simply a witness to a fact in the only manner in which that fact is capable of proof. Nor is he an expert who is called to compare a test writing, whose genuineness is established by others, with the writing under investigation, if he have knowledge of the handwriting of the party, because his judgment of the comparison will be influenced more or less by his knowledge, and will not be what the testimony of an expert should be, a pure conclusion of skill.
But when a witness, skilled in general chirography, but possessing no knowledge of the handwriting under investigation, is called to compare that writing with other genuine writings that have been brought into juxtaposition with it, he is strictly an expert. His conclusions then rest in no degree on particular knowledge of his own, but are the deductions of a trained and experienced judgment, from premises furnished by the testimony of other witnesses.
One of the palpable anomalies of the present practice regarding experts on handwriting is that a person who has seen another write, no matter how ignorant the observer may be, is competent to testify as to whether or not certain writing is by the hand of the person he has once seen engaged in the art of writing, while an expert handwriting witness may only testify that the hand appears to be simulated but may not point out the differences between specimens of genuine writing and the instrument in controversy.
It is safe to presume that the apparently unreasonable position of the law was assumed with a good object in view, and it is probable that the object was the protection of the court from the swarm of so-called experts which might be hatched by a laxity in the wording of the law. Few things would be easier for a dishonest person than to swear he was a competent expert, and then to swear that a document was, in his opinion, forged or genuine, according to the requirements of his hirer. The framers of the practice in reference to expert testimony on documents seem to have had in mind that the only possible kind of testimony as to documents was that based upon impressions; and that the only method of coming to a conclusion was by giving words to the first mental effect produced on a witness after he has looked at a writing.
For this reason the practice has grown up in many trials of preparing carefully forged signatures and producing them before the witness as a test of how far he is able to distinguish genuine from forged signatures.