Those who visually inspected the Carey Document agreed that its ink does not match known iron gall samples. Iron gall ink, upon being applied is black, and, as it ages, it turns to various shades of brown. The ink on the document has a purple tone. Also, as the Harvard report points out, iron gall ink is very acidic and often causes significant deterioration of the paper to which it is applied.
There are no signs of such deterioration on the Carey Document. It found the composition of the ink to closely resemble that of orange shellac, a hitherto unknown mixture. Aspects of the preceding information might tempt one to conclude that the Carey Document was produced in , or thereabouts. The Boston University Museum card suggests that date; Peter Drummey noted that it was a time of some considerable counterfeiting of such documents; the paper may well date to that period; and there is even that part of the Smith's story about the document having been in the Ward family for three generations, by the s.
Quite accidentally, however, I stumbled upon some information that would suggest another date of origin, namely the s. On October 12, , Charles E. Tuttle, a dealer in rare books from Rutland, Vermont, wrote to Howard Corning, Secretary of the Essex Institute of Salem, Massachusetts, to inform him that someone in the Midwest had offered him what he had reason to believe was a rare and valuable document, namely, a death warrant for Elizabeth How.
He enclosed a typewritten copy for Corning's perusal. Three days later, on October 15th, Corning responded: "The thing is a fake from beginning to end.
In a letter to Tuttle dated November 15th, Corning added that the forger knew enough to deal only with small dealers, and to keep out of the East in this case meaning Northeast , where the forgery would be more easily detected. Perhaps Tuttle was not convinced, because on October 22nd, he sent Corning the actual document with the comment: "You will note that it was formerly part of the loan exhibit in the South Carolina Historical Society's collection," by which its history could easily be verified. Subsequent letters would show that Tuttle was referring to a card, once again very similar to that which accompanied the Carey Document, attesting to its authenticity.
In this case, it read:. In a novel variation on the Carey Document, it added, "This is the only shameful delusion in early American history. Skaggs, Curator. Bradley, of Houston, Texas. Corning's prompt response, dated October 25th, was, once again, unequivocal. To begin with, he continued, the wording and writing were entirely different from the Bridget Bishop death warrant. The ink was no match, and the stains on the paper were obviously faked. Just to be certain, however, Corning showed it to the Massachusetts Historical Society and they pronounced it a forgery as well.
In a letter to Frederick Melcher of The Publishers Weekly, Corning wrote that he had received several such death warrants, all quite similar, though employing different names for the condemned. The first he had seen, for Sarah Good, had come to him from Wisconsin in August ; one arrived later from the South, and several from the Midwest. Once again, he noted, the culprit dealt only with small dealers and inexperienced collectors.
Further, he commonly used a hardluck story focused on a sick wife. The passing of fake Salem death warrants, then, was not an isolated event. Frederick M. Hopkins, "Old and Rare Books" columnist, reported that there had been such an increase in the appearance of fakes and forgeries of books and letters that Charles F. Heartman had written an article on the subject for The American Book Collector and that the New York Public Library had started a collection of such items. On November 12, , The Boston Evening Transcript warned its readers that someone was "traversing the Southern and Western States endeavoring to sell some skillfully forged death warrant for female witches of Salem, Massachusetts.
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It was also reported that a person calling himself Bradley had been attempting to sell death warrants to librarians in the Midwest, using a story either of being ill or stranded on his way home to Texas, and on January 28th, notice appeared that the forger had struck in Quincy, Illinois. MacDonald, who was a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, told what at this point is the most complete story that we have of any one of the several related frauds. One rainy Sunday morning in January, MacDonald wrote, a stranger came to his door. He was a tall, slim man, "with sunken cheeks and an expression of sorrow and weariness in his face.
He clutched an old cloth cap and leaned wearily against the wall. He introduced himself as E.
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Newman Bradley, and added that he had been sent to MacDonald by another local amateur collector. He apologized for his appearance, explaining that he had neither washed nor eaten for fifteen hours, and said: "I have a story to tell you. He pointed to a medal he had earned during the war, which he had proudly pinned to his flannel shirt, and produced an official looking paper telling of the brave deed, signed by General John J. Pershing and "some French general.
Then, dropping his voice which, MacDonald wrote, was filled with sadness, and with tears flowing from his eyes, Bradley said: "Here is something that has broken my heart," and he handed MacDonald a telegram from Houston, Texas, addressed to Bradley at a hotel on Twelfth Street in Kansas City. It reported that his wife had just died.
Bradley explained that he had owned an antique shop in Houston in support of which he produced a business card , but that when the Depression hit the business had failed. He sold off what he could, closed the shop, and sought other work. The only job he could find, however, was in Kansas City. His wife was too sick to accompany him, but he loaded a few rare books and documents into his car, to sell in case of an emergency, and drove to Kansas City, only to find that the job had been given to someone else.
So moved was MacDonald by the hardluck story that he was about to offer to help Bradley get back to Houston, when Bradley continued: "I have, out in the car, one of the rarest old documents you ever saw," the death warrant for Elizabeth How. This was, indeed, a coincidence, as only a week before, MacDonald had purchased an old copy of Cotton Mather's The Wonders of the Invisible World , an account of several women accused of witchcraft in New England, among them, Elizabeth How.
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Upon producing the document, Bradley explained that he had found it in an old Bible which was part of an estate he had purchased from a Mississippi plantation five years earlier. The document had been placed between two pieces of glass and bound with tape. The Carey Document and others of the s collection were similarly bound. Producing the "museum card," Bradley added that he had exhibited the document in South Carolina, whereupon the curator, J.
Skaggs, had given him the certificate attesting to its authenticity; that the Essex Institute had declared it genuine; that a "Mr.
The Carey Document
Bradley announced that he wanted to sell the document to get enough money to buy gas and oil to drive home. As he talked he was hurrying off the porch, MacDonald recalled, and "when he reached the walk he broke into a run, leaped into his car, waved a hand at me and away he went, turning the corner on two wheels and so, was out of sight. Upon telling the story to his family, MacDonald's son immediately pointed to the inaccuracies in Bradley's story and proclaimed him an imposter.
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Lindberg, the son noted, for example, had not been in the war, and he had learned to fly in Kansas, where he was a stunt flyer. But MacDonald brushed off such points as merely an attempt on Bradley's part to impress him. The warrant was genuine, he was convinced, and he sent it off to Charles Tuttle to be valued. According to MacDonald, Tuttle's initial letter in response was enthusiastic. MacDonald was ecstatic.
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He promised his still doubtful wife — who had been mildly critical of the money he had spent on his collecting old books and documents — new dresses, diamonds and, even, a trip to Europe. Upon the urging of his daughter, he agreed, as well, to find Bradley and to split the profit with him. Within days, however, MacDonald's euphoria began to dissipate. Another collector phoned to invite MacDonald to see something special he had acquired, which he described as "the biggest find ever turned up in Kansas City. When stories were swapped, it was clear that both had been taken by the same man.
Newman Bradley, by the way, is not listed in any of the Houston city directories from through , and he was never apprehended. The story does not end in the s. In his article on "fakes, forgeries, and frauds," Charles Heartman complained that some of those who had acquired fake documents, and had been told that they were fake, were nevertheless selling them to other unsuspecting people.
Verified or not at the time, they had been packed away and forgotten, only to be rediscovered by subsequent generations. Considerable evidence suggests that the Carey Document is one of several forgeries hawked in the South and Midwest in by an individual known to some as E. Newman Bradley. We may never know how William Ward came to own it, but, most likely, at some point in Bradley's and Ward's paths crossed, and Ward, too, fell prey to what A.
MacDonald called "the hardest hardluck story" ever. Moreover, Ward and Bradley may have met in Nebraska. Randall wrote:. Most likely the university was the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, and the librarian, Gilbert Doane. Unfortunately, Doane has been dead for several years, and he left no record of this encounter.
We may never know if the fraud detected involved the Carey Document, but E.
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