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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


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


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.