The reward of invention

Forged Stamps
Visit to Somerset House
The Legion of Honour
Letter to Lord Beaconsfield(1878)
Letter to The Times The Reward of Invention
A tardy recognition -- The Honour of Knighthood

While this die-making and stamping business was going on, I had discovered another and distinctly different mode of making, from an embossed paper stamp, dies which were capable of reproducing thousands of facsimile impressions. I at once saw to what a dangerous result this discovery might lead if made known to unscrupulous persons, and hence I carefully guarded the secret, which was, in fact quite useless to me, and might soon have been forgotten had not my attention been directed by some accidental circumstance to the fact that the forgery of stamps to an alarming extent was known by the Government to have been practised.

One of these sources of fraud was the removal from old and useless parchment deeds of stamps, which were again stuck on to new skins of parchment. Thinking over this subject, it struck me that a stamp might be made which it would be impossible to transfer from one deed to another, and at the same time would be much more difficult to produce by the stamping press; while it would be impracticable to obtain from it a die that would be capable of reproducing the stamp.

This appeared to me to be a most important invention, and one that I conceived it would be impolitic for the Government to reject; I supposed that I should be handsomely rewarded if I brought it under the notice of the authorities. I felt the more certain of success because I was able to show that their ordinary receipt and bill stamps, as well as the blue paper adhesive stamps on parchment deeds, could be forged by any office-boy, who could make a die from a paper stamp for a few pence, wholly without talent or technical knowledge.

Thus confident of success, I set to work to make a die for parchment deeds on my new plan, for the time putting aside and neglecting everything else, for this grand project was to make my fortune at once. After providing myself with a suitable press and experimenting with different forms of cutting punches, I decided on a plan. Having worked for some months, making long days which not unfrequently extended to the early hours of the morning, the task was finished, and I prepared some specimens to take with me to Somerset House.

With the idea of showing that there was no escape from the adoption of my new plan, I thought it advisable to make a die from a genuine Government stamp. For this purpose, I obtained a dozen ordinary embossed bill stamps, and from one of them made a die, and stamped about as many impressions with it as I had real stamps. In order that I might be able to prove that these were forged ones, I stamped the impressions on a large sheet of paper, and then cut out a slip from it with a slightly indented edge, but otherwise of the same form and size as those I had purchased. I may mention that the Stamp Office presses were so constructed that they could not put a stamp in the middle of a large sheet of paper, and hence I was enabled to prove that these particular stamps, with their slightly-indented edges, did not emanate from the Stamp Office. I made up a small parcel containing six genuine stamps and six of those I had myself made, and also the sheets of paper from the centre of which they had been cut. With these I also enclosed a few impressions of my new parchment stamp. The old form of Government stamps is illustrated in Fig. 4, Plate III.,

Government Deed Stamp

while Fig.5 illustrates my perforated stamp.

Bessemer Perforated Stamp

Below is shown a system introduced a few years ago for cancelling cheques and other documents.

Cancelled stamp

Full of hope and high expectation, I started off one morning to call on Sir Charles Presley, the then President of the Stamp Office. I had, up to this moment, kept all my plans and what I was doing a profound secret. The whole affair seemed to my overwrought imagination almost like a skilful plot, such as we see depicted on the stage or read of in a sensational novel; and I had, like the hero of the piece, only to walk into Somerset House and accept unconditional surrender.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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