History of Forgery by Typewriter
"An Introduction to Handwriting Examination and Identification"
(Nelson-Hall Publishers; Chicago; 1992), by Russell R. Bradford
and Ralph B. Bradford.
typewriting cases date back to the early courts. The first
case that went to a court for review was Levy v. Rust, 49
Atl. 1017 (New Jersey). The court in Levy v. Rust stated:
expert in typewriting is brought here and that expert sat
down by my side at the table here and explained his criticisms
on this typewriting, and I went over it with him carefully
with the glass... it appeared very clearly. I was very much
struck by his evidence. If you compare the typewriting work,
it contains precisely the same peculiarities which are found
in the typewriting in these seven suspected papers.
judge in ruling on the case did not cite any prior case on
typewriter examination. This case was in l893, just twenty
years after Sholes' typewriter was sold to Remington Arms.
incredible feat occurred two years before the Levy v. Rust
typewriter trial of 1893. In 1891, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
wrote about typewriter identification in his Sherlock Holmes
story "A Case of Identity." "It is a curious
thing.' remarked Holmes, "that a typewriter has really
quite as much individuality as a man's handwriting. Unless
they are quite new, no two of them write exactly alike. Some
letters get more worn than others, and some wear only on one
side. Now, you remark in this note of yours, Mr. Windibank,
that in every case there is some little slurring over of the
'e' and a slight defect in the tail of the 'r.' There are
fourteen other characteristics, but those are the most obvious."
This statement by the character Holmes was made, using sound
principles and precise terminology, two years before the first
62nd Congress enacted the United States Statute of 1913, Chapter
79, which allows for the introduction of admitted or proven
handwriting exemplars for comparative purposes. By court decisions,
this statute was extended to cover typewriting. In People
v. Werblow, 209 N.Y.S. 88 (1925), it was stated that "The
law is well settled that such specimens of typewriting are
properly received in evidence for the purposes of comparison."
In the case of State v. Swank, 99 Ore. 571, 195 Pac
168 (1921 ), J. F. Wood, document examiner, testified in clear,
analytical and convincing terms the reasons for his brief
that the two notes were prepared by the same person on the
document can be identified as being typed by a particular
typewriter, if defects and imperfections can be found on both
questioned document and on exemplars. The identification is
made by the individuality of the typewriter characteristics.
Forgery by typewriter is committed by obtaining a typewriter
of the same make and model as the one used on the questioned
document. The forger then alters the keys to create the same
defects and imperfections as are on a known document. Theoretically,
the two typewriters could type a document containing the exact
same characteristics. Forgery by typewriter has been attempted
in several cases and is still going on today.
People v. Risley (214 NY 75, 108 NE 200 (1915) ) involved
the first known attempt at a forgery with the use of a typewriter.
Risley, a New York lawyer, altered another lawyer's affidavit
by adding the words "the same" with his Underwood typewriter.
Examiner William J. Kinsley identified thirteen characteristics
that were different from the Remington which had been used
to type the affidavit. Kinsley also identified Risley's typewriter
as adding the two words.
the eight months between the charge and the trial, Risley
contacted Arthur W. Buckwell of the General Typewriter Company.
Risley asked Buckwell to alter an Underwood of the same model
as his so that it would contain the same characteristics.
Risley hoped at the trial to be able to say, "You say
those words 'the same' were written by my machine and no other.
But here is another machine which I picked up secondhand,
and which can also write those words, just like they were
written in the affidavit. Now if another machine can write
them..." The expert, however, proved that the altered
typewriter was different from the Underwood used in the case.
The mechanic later testified that he hadn't made as many alterations
as he should have.
Intelligence Uses Forgery by Typewriter [During World War
II] under the cover of the British Passport Control, British
Intelligence established offices in New York. The British
Security Coordination (BSC), under the leadership of Sir William
Stephenson, had its own agents who developed a full-fledged
alliance with J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. The agents for
the BSC trained at "Camp X" in Canada, on the north side of
Lake Ontario. This site was chosen because it could be easily
reached by FBI agents as well as by the British. At Camp X
was a group called "Station M." Station M was an important
part of Camp X, as it produced all types of paraphernalia
for the spy trade. The production of false documents was one
of the important products of Station M. The experts included
leading authorities on the manufacture of special inks and
paper, and individuals who could reproduce faultlessly the
imprint of any typewriter on earth.
In June 1940, the American ambassador in Uruguay cabled to
President Roosevelt that unless the United States acted effectively,
countries in South America might fall under Nazi domination.
The President empowered the FBI to act, and they were greatly
helped by Stephenson's agents. Stephenson's men determined
that the Italian airline Linee Aeree Transcontinental Italiane
(LATI), which flew regularly between Europe and Brazil, carried
German and Italian diplomatic bags, couriers, and agents.
The Brazilian Government showed no intention of closing down
the airline, since powerful Brazilians had an interest in
the operation of the airline.
Station M was asked to fabricate a letter from the head of
LATI to the airline's general manager in Brazil. Notepaper
was produced using the straw pulp normally found only in Europe.
The engraved letterhead of Italy's state owned LATI was copied
by counterfeiters, using a genuine letter the agents had succeeded
in obtaining. An Olivetti typewriter was rebuilt to conform
to the exact mechanical imperfections of the machine upon
which the general's secretary had typed the original letter.
documents were then smuggled into Rio and eventually leaked
to President Vargas' friends. Then Brazilian President Getulio
Vargas read in the letter that "There can be no doubt the
little fat man is falling into the pocket of the Americans,
and that only violent action on the part of the green gentlemen
can save the country. I understand such action has been arranged
for by our respected collaborators in Berlin." President Vargas
knew that the "little fat man" referred to him, and that the
"green gentlemen" referred to Germans. Vargas canceled LATI
landing rights and ordered the arrest of the LATI general
manager in Brazil. A few weeks later, Brazil broke off relations
with the Axis and moved under the Allied umbrella. There is
no doubt that one of the main factors in persuading Brazil
to turn against the Axis was the insulting remarks contained
in a letter that was typed by a "forged typewriter."
The Allies were not the only ones to use forged typewriters.
Wythe Williams reported in the Reader's Digest (July
1940) that the Gestapo had the finest setup for the falsification
of documents that has ever existed. This included handwriting
wizards, ace chemists, and a typewriter bureau that had every
make of typewriter in the world. A Gestapo expert would check
a document for the type of typewriter used; lines were then
chemically expunged and new ones inserted. There was little
that the German experts could not imitate.
by Typewriter Today
magazine (February 10, 1961) reported that in 1958 a Communist
forgery factory in East Berlin turned out a rash of eighteen
forgeries. One of these - purportedly from the United States
Embassy in Bonn, Germany - was planted in a United States
diplomatic dispatch. U.S. News & World Report (March
3, 1980) referred to a CIA report which stated that the Soviets
called a halt to these activities for four years in the mid-l970s
for unknown reasons. In 1978, the Kremlin streamlined and
heavily financed an International Information Department.
The agency, working with the KGB, carried out "disinformation"
operations that relied heavily on forgery. The CIA believed
that as many as fifty KGB technicians were detailed to their