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In detailing matters which experience suggests as importantly

connected with the examination of disputed signatures, there are none

more essential to a proper consideration of the subject than an

understanding of those characteristics often appearing in forged

signatures, and by which they are distinguished as such. When the

features occurring as a concomitant of most forgeries are understood,

their appeara
ce may suggest a short and easy route to reach a

conclusion: yet the careful and conscientious examiner will, even with

these indications present in a disputed signature, institute a very

careful and detailed study of the latter by comparison with the

standard writings; and with as much effort as if the indications of

forgery were not present. To make these features positive evidence,

each other developed detail must also tend to the same deduction, and

each detail must be compatible with every other feature, and all point

to the same conclusion.

As forgers differ in their capability as to accuracy in simulation,

all grades of its proficiency come up in the experience of those who,

as experts, are called upon to make such matters a study. At one

extreme will be found to occur signatures written with but little

effort to imitate the genuine signature they purport to represent;

with all the intermediate grades of imitation extending to the other

extreme, wherein a skilful forger will, by practice, so simulate the

signature of a person and with such close resemblance that the very

individual whose name is imitated cannot, independently of attending

circumstances, tell the forgery from the signature which he knows he

has written.

Among the most common forgeries of signatures are those which have

been traced from genuine ones, and these are produced in various ways;

the most common method being to place the genuine signature over a

plate of glass horizontally arranged, with a strong light behind it,

or against the window frame, and then to place over the signature so

positioned the paper on which the forgery is to be made. When this has

been done the papers are held in contact firmly, the pen is dipped-in

ink and moved over the paper, guided by the lines of the genuine

signature beneath, which show through the superimposed paper, and by

means of which the form of the signature is transferred to the paper,

which is exteriorly placed.

While the process of tracing produces very nearly the proper form of

the matter thus copied, and if well done by the forger the copy will

in general appearance and to a certain extent resemble in outline the

signature thus traced, there are usually apparent in all reproduced

signatures thus made, peculiarities and ear marks indicating the

manner in which they were produced and by which they can be identified

as such.

One of the most prominent features of reproduced signatures is the

general sameness of the writing as appearing in the uniform width of

the lines, and the omission of the usual shading emphasis. The cause

of this appearance is the absence of habitual pen pressure, and the

necessitated slow movement of the pen held closely in contact with the

paper and by which a uniform and steady flow of ink is deposited

thereon; thus making what should be the heavier and lighter lines of

one width and density as to shading. This method of tracing and

reproducing signatures is that usually resorted to by novices but is

seldom employed by expert forgers.

Another condition appearing in all traced signatures is the absence of

all evidence of pen pressure when examined as a transparency; this

deficiency occurring as consequent upon the manner of moving the pen

over the paper. While signatures thus made may resemble the one from

which they are copied, the only likeness they have is that of

pictorial resemblance and it will be found to be destitute of all the

appearances and indications of habitual writing in other respects.

Another method of tracing signatures is frequently resorted to by

persons adept in the art, and this consists in making a lead-pencil

copy of the genuine signature holding the paper on which the forgery

is to be produced; tracing the outline of the signature by means of a

pencil, and then with ink to write over the pencil copy. But as the

method necessitates the use of an india rubber to remove the surplus

black lead where not covered by the ink, evidences of the use of the

rubber will be found to occur, and traces of the black lead can be

found by the microscope. While the appearances and conditions are

common to traced signatures, there are in addition to their presence

generally found evidences of pauses made in the writing, the effect of

which will appear not as shading of the lines, but as irregularities

or excrescences produced thereon by resting the hand in its movement,

and by which at intervals more ink flowed from the pen than would

occur when the latter was being moved habitually over the paper. Where

the signatures of the same person exactly coincide when one is laid

over the other in parallel arrangement with a strong light behind

them, this condition of their appearance is very positive evidence

that one of them was traced from the other and is a forgery, as it is

a circumstance which cannot possibly occur in the writing of two

signatures produced habitually.

In considering reproduced signatures and forged writing and in

detailing some of the most common features which are found to occur in

it, it must not be understood that all the phenomena attending the

production of forged signatures can be given. Inasmuch as each person

has a peculiar muscular co-ordination that is manifested in the

production of habitually written signatures, so each forger from the

same cause has an individual habit that must be used when simulating;

hence there will be as many styles of writing manifested in production

of forgeries as there are forgers to produce them. No positive rule

can be laid down for the classification of their peculiarities

excepting the manner of accuracy with which the simulation appearing

in them is done. Each case of disputed writing must be examined by

itself, and while there are certain process steps to be followed which

experience suggests as facilitating the analysis, yet the examiner

must wholly depend upon what is seen in the disputed signature that

is, or is not, found in the admittedly genuine writing of the person

whose signature is questioned, and the comparison of the one with the


Reproduced signatures often show a copying effort that is manifested in

the details of their production. These evidences generally appear, in

some instances, as pauses made in the lines connecting the letters of

the signature, where the pen rested while the eye of the forger was

directed from the writing being done to the copy, that the writer could

fix in the mind the form of a succeeding letter. These pauses appear in

different measure of prominence in different forgeries, and there is no

rule as to their measure or appearance. With some forgers the pen rests

with considerable emphasis and with others it is lifted from the paper

and returned to the paper while the eye of the writer goes back to the

copy. With others there will appear but little hesitancy. Some forgers,

well skilled in the art, will, by practicing the simulation until they

have the form of the genuine signature well fixed in the mind, become

enabled to produce a forged copy of a genuine signature that will show

no pauses--hence the absence of pauses is not proof of the genuine

character of a signature. Another common characteristic of forged and

reproduced signatures and particularly such of them as are not traced

and are produced by persons not skilled in the art is found in the

studied appearance which they have, as if written under restraint, and

without the apparent freedom consequent upon habitual writing. Another

characteristic of forged signatures that are not traced from a genuine

signature is that they are written with greater length in proportion

to the width and height of the letters, than occurs in the genuine

signature from which they are copied in imitation. This want of

proportion occurs generally from making the lines connecting the

letters of the signature longer than those of the copy.

At the same time, while these characteristics are common to forged

writing, to make them available in formulating an opinion from an

analysis they must be substantiated by every other occurring in the

writing. It must be clearly kept in view that general impressions

derived from a cursory examination of a disputed or reproduced

signature should have no weight in the mind of the examiner before

proceeding with the analysis, as such an impression is apt to lead the

investigation into a particular line of research and it should be

understood that the work of the examiner must relate to the comparison

of the details in each of the writings as to their correspondence or


As before stated in this chapter, and a fact that should be remembered

in studying fraudulent signatures, that one of the commonest and

easiest means of reproducing a signature is to put the genuine

signature on a piece of glass, lay another piece of glass on top of it

and fasten the piece of paper that is to receive the forgery on top of

that. Then by holding the glass strips to a bright light, the original

signature casts a shadow through, which may be traced in pencil. From

this tracing the ink forgery is completed.

But when a forgery done in this way is put under a strong magnifying

lens it will not bear scrutiny. If the original has a strong down

stroke on the capital letters the movement will be free and will leave

the pen lines with smooth edges. The man who is tracing such letters

cannot trust himself to the same free movement of the pen and the

result under the glass shows hesitancy and uncertainty. Also if other

lines in the signature be lighter than the forger naturally uses the

same hesitancy will be shown. When the lines have passed scrutiny, too,

there is another "line" test which will show that the impossibility of

one's writing two signatures alike has been accomplished.

From dotted points made above the genuine signature straight lines are

drawn radiating from it to certain portions of certain letters in the

signature that is forged. When the forged signature is replaced in the

glass and the other on top, as is done in the tracing, these radiating

lines will fall one upon the other with the exactness of the lines in

the signatures.

These radiating lines, too, may be used in the few cases where the

forger is an expert penman depending upon an offhand duplication of a

signature. This penman will have his inevitable natural slant to his

letters. This characteristic slant never is the same in two individuals.

In his free and easy forgery of a name written by another person this

"Jim, the penman" exposes his acquired slant which disputes the original.

This slant of individual writing shows especially in any attempt to

write a forged letter or document. When the pen scope of the original

has been lined out, proving the characteristic common lengths between

the lifting of the pen from the paper, the lines radiating from the

points to individual letters in words or groups of words in authentic

and bogus specimens, these radiations point at once to the fact that

the same person did not write the matter.

These are some of the things upon which the handwriting expert works

upon and brings to bear in proof of reproduced signatures and

handwriting in general. How the more or less inexpert person discovers

questionable showing in these duplications are many. His intuitions

may suggest his doubts. Material evidences may have come to bear upon

him. Likelihood of some one person's having self-interests in the

matter may induce him to make sure.

In the case of a banker or business man, having large interests and

required to affix his signature to many papers of moment, he ordinarily

makes it certain that through adapted whorls and freehand sweeps of the

pen, the signature will be least careless and inviting to the

adventurous forger. In much of his personal correspondence with

strangers, however, this adapted and unusual signature frequently

becomes a source of loss to himself and irritation to his correspondents.

In the case of hundreds of such individuals, the writing to a stranger

in expectation of a reply becomes an absurdity for the reason that

the person addressed is hopelessly barred from reading the name

attached to the letter. A plain signature is always the best.