How Benjamin Franklin Helped Foil Early American Money Counterfeiters




Franklin, who was a printer, among his other roles, was known for marking his early paper money with images of intricately veined leaves that were nearly impossible for counterfeiters to copy, using a variety of fonts, some available only to him, and intentionally lacing the text with misspellings.

But scientists say Franklin took things a step further to stave off fraudsters. Other distinguishing characteristics of Franklin’s money—the new research revealed through advanced atomic-level imaging methods—were more subtle. He used a unique black ink. His paper glimmered. Blue threads decorated the surface, and finer fibers were woven throughout. 

Researchers detailed the innovations in a paper published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The findings describe previously unknown methods Franklin developed to safeguard printed money notes against counterfeiting.

Author(s): Jo Craven McGinty

Publication Date: 17 July 2023

Publication Site: WSJ