Articles from Disputed Handwriting
How Forgers Reproduce Signatures
Thumb-prints Never Forged
Characteristic Writing Of A Few Of The World's Best-known Literary Men And Authors
Forgery By Tracing
Greatest Danger To Banks
Detecting Fraud And Forgery In Papers And Documents
How To Study Forged And Disputed Signatures
How To Write A Check To Prevent Forging
Greeley's Last Letter
Workings Of The Government Secret Service
Character And Temperament Indicated By Handwriting
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
See specimens of handwriting in Appendix with descriptions thereof.
Next: HANDWRITING EXPERTS AS WITNESSES
Previous: WORKINGS OF THE GOVERNMENT SECRET SERVICE