“A man can do a lot of harm with a little acid, pulp, India Ink and a penknife” — Morgan Silver Dollar Coin

Today, the Morgan Silver Dollar Coin remembers when four conspirators became successful criminals when one deposited a forged check on December 17, 1895.

The forgery was so well done that the “mistake” was not detected until the end of month accounting.

From Dickerman’s United States Treasury Counterfeit Detector for September 1903:


Charles Becker the Check Raiser.

On August 10 Charles Becker the noted check forger was released from San Quentin State Prison after serving a seven years’ sentence for the forgery of a $22,000 check on the Crocker-Woolworth National Bank of San Francisco.

He was sentenced in 1899 but his term was reduced to four and a half years by good conduct.

Becker is considered the most dangerous forger living.

It was reported that the American Bankers’ Association would pension Becker on his agreeing to abandon his criminal practices. This has been denied by officers of the Association.

Despite this denial several detectives in San Francisco declare that Becker can command a handsome salary if he will agree not to forge any more bank paper.

When a man is so expert that he can turn out bank bills better than the originals or can raise a check so that only the bank expert with powerful glasses can detect the fraud, they say he is worth bribing to restrain his skill.

The crime for which Becker has just paid by four and a half years in San Quentin, was the raising of a check from $12 to $22,000.

Frank S. Seaver, alias A. H. Dean, was the man who planned the job.

He went out to San Francisco from New York in December, 1895, and with him were Becker, James Cregan of New York, and Joe McCuster.

Dean had about $2,500. He opened an office in San Francisco, deposited most of his money in the Nevada Bank, drew small checks, made new deposits and in a skillful way became known to the bank officers.

Then he went to Woodland, near the state capital, and bought a $12 draft from the Bank of Woodland, drawn on the Crocker-Woolworth Bank of San Francisco.

This draft he brought to San Francisco and it was turned over by Cregan to Becker, who in five days altered the date and raised the amount from $12 to $22,000.

On December 17, Dean deposited this draft at the Nevada Bank to his credit, and on the following day drew a check against it for $22,000 and received the entire amount in cash.

There was no suspicion excited by such a transaction, as Dean was supposed to be a mining man and many such men paid their hands in coin and drew much larger sums to meet the monthly pay roll.

The forgery was only discovered at the end of the month, when the Crocker-Woolworth Bank sent its monthly account to the Woodland bank.

By that time the spoil had been divided among the four men and they had scattered.

Of the four men who took part in the crime, McCuster was acquitted when he was tried. Cregan and Dean turned state’s evidence and were released, and Becker alone received punishment.


The San Francisco Call newspaper of September 26, 1903 announced the upcoming release of Mr. Becker:


Notorious Forger and Check Raiser Who Will Be Released from San Quentin Next Monday After Having Completed Sentence for Fleecing San Francisco Bank.

Prison Gates to Open for Notorious Forger

C. H. Becker who swindled a San Francisco Bank out of twenty thousand dollars by means of a cleverly raised check, will be released from prison Monday.

SAN RAFAEL, Sept. 25.— After having been incarcerated in the State penitentiary at San Quentin for seven prison years Charles H. Becker, who is considered to be one of the cleverest forgers in the world, will, on Monday next, breathe the air of freedom.

Becker will be discharged from San Quentin some time during the morning, but where he will go when he leaves the prison is mere conjecture. He is entitled to a railroad ticket to any part of California. All he wishes, however, is transportation to San Francisco.

The report so freely circulated within the past year that the American Bankers’ Association will take care of Becker and allow him a monthly pension of $300 is still believed by many persons. The noted forger is non-committal on that point, however. He will not affirm or deny the story that overtures have been made to him by the Bankers’ Association.

Becker is about 65 years old. His sojourn in prison-has materially altered his physique, but his brain is as active as it was a quarter of a century ago. During his imprisonment at San Quentin Becker, has not been idle, neither has he been compelled to soil his hands. During Warden Aguirre’s regime Becker used to devote his time to pen sketches and the homes of the prison officials are filled with specimens of his handiwork. Becker was good to his friends and would accommodate them at most any time on any kind of work. Nothing baffled him, from a sketch from life to the alteration of a document. Not more than a few months ago he altered a diploma for a young woman who could not enter college because her name was misspelled on a high school certificate. She wished to enter the University of California, but on the sheepskin the letter “y” appeared instead of “u.” The certificate was entrusted to Becker and within fifteen minutes he had corrected it.

In speaking of the alleged pension by the bankers, Becker said:

Well, the papers have it that I am to receive all the way from $300 a month to $5000 per year. Some people assert that I am going to Chicago to work in one of the large banks, having been engaged to detect forged drafts. That story is absolutely untrue. No such offer has ever been made me. I could do the work all right, but don’t you suppose the bankers would be afraid of me? They would fear that while I was passing on some of the bad paper I might conveniently overlook a large draft.

I am a pretty old man now and want my freedom the balance of my days. Of course, I still believe I could make the bankers “make good” on the pension idea. A man can do a lot of harm with a little acid, pulp, India Ink and a penknife if he knows how and is so inclined. My intention is to quit the business, though.

Charles Becker arrived at San Quentin In 1898. He has been a most exemplary convict and has received all of his credits, thus having to serve only about five years. He was convicted of fleecing a San Francisco bank out of $20,000 by means of a raised check.


The Morgan Silver Dollar Coin shows with an artist’s image of Charles Becker, forger.

Morgan Silver Dollar Coin