The E-Sylum:  Volume 4, Number 30, July 22, 2001, Article 5


   Darryl Atchison writes: "Here is a rather sketchy query 
   based upon some skimpy details sent to me by Bob Graham 
   (a paper money enthusiast) in Ontario. 

  There was apparently a text written sometimes in the 1890s 
  called "Memoirs of a Great Detective" which featured 
   numerous articles on counterfeiting operations including 
   illustrations of a number of defaced printing plates which 
   had been used to counterfeit notes issued by several 
   Canadian chartered banks (including the Dominion Bank, 
   Ontario Bank,  Canadian Bank of Commerce and the Bank 
   of British North America).  The Canadian banknotes are 
   discussed in Chapter 30,  entitled "Million Dollar Counterfeit 

   The first part of my question, is does anyone have more 
   details on this text?  I believe the author was J. Wilson 
   Murray from Bob's brief notes.  Does anyone know 
   where it was published, who published it, a more accurate 
   date, and the number of pages in the text. 

   The second part of my question is perhaps more interesting. 
   Apparently, this very text was the inspiration/basis for a 
   television series of the 1980s or 1990s.  Bob thinks that 
   the main actor was Douglas Campbell.   Does anyone know 
   the name of the series?  How many episodes were there - 
   over what time period?  And was Douglas Campbell the 
   leading actor?" 

   [Editor's notes:  from internet search engines and various 
   internet bookseller websites (primarily Alibris), I was able 
   to piece together the following information: 

   J. Wilson Murray (1840-1906)  immigrated from Scotland. 
   He became the Head of Detectives of the Canadian Southern 
   Railway and later appointed Detective of the Department of 
   Justice of the province of Ontario. His casebook was first 
   published in 1904 and has long been out of print. 

   The book is Murray's memoir of his career in law enforcement 
   in rural Ontario from 1870 to 1900, "during which time he was 
   effectively the only provincial policeman in the whole of Ontario, 
   aside from the police forces of the larger cities." 

   "During his lifetime Wilson was renowned for his innovative 
   methods of criminal investigation. He was one of the first to 
   realize the importance of footprints, to have clothing and 
   weapons chemically tested, to have autopsies routinely 
   performed on all murder victims." 

   The 1904 book was published by William Heinemann and 
   was titled "Memoirs of a Great Detective: Incidents in the 
   Life of John Wilson Murray" 

   The first Canadian Edition was published in Toronto in 1905 
   and has a fold-out of facsimile bank notes in rear. I assume 
   the 1904 edition has similar fold-out plates. 

   In 1979 Totem books published a paperback edition as a 
   tie-in to a CBS-TV Series starring Douglas Campbell.  I 
   couldn't locate any further information on the series. 

   In 1980 there was a Toronto reprint titled "Further Adventures 
   of the Great Detective. Incidents in the Life of John Wilson 
   Murray"  This is a selection from the original 1904 publication 
   with 40 additional stories. 

   As luck would have it, the text of several chapters of the 
   book, including chapter 30, is available online at the web 
   site for Gaslight, an "Internet discussion list which reviews 
   one story a week from the genres of mystery, adventure 
   and The Weird,  written between 1800 and 1919."  The site 
   is "a volunteer project under the auspices of the English 
   Department at Mount Royal College" of Calgary, Alberta, 
   Canada.  The web address and a couple excerpts follow. 

   "In the months of March, April and May in 1880," says 
   Murray, "Canada was flooded with the most dangerous 
   counterfeit bills ever put in circulation.  Banks took the 
   bogus banknotes over their own counters, and could not 
   tell they were not genuine.  Officials whose signatures were 
   forged could not tell the forged signature from the genuine. 
   Good and bad bills were laid side by side, an experts had 
   to resort to scientific methods to tell which were good and 
   which were bad.  The bills appeared all over Canada.  It is 
   known now that over $1,000,000 of them were sent out." 

   "One of the counterfeits was a United States $5 bill of the 
   Government issue of 1875. It was one of the first to be 
   discovered. It was detected in Washington by accident. 
   An expert in connection with the Treasury Department 
   happened to run across one of the new bills.  He remarked 
   that it was better work and a prettier bill than any he had 
   ever seen. The one fault was the bill was too perfect. The 
   expert took it to the Treasury Department to hunt up the 
   series of numbers, and he found the bill was a counterfeit. 
   Secret Service men were detailed at once. " 

   Ultimately Murray traced and arrested the perpetrator, 
   a man named Edwin Johnson.  "Johnson then told me the 
   whole story. He made the plates in the States.  His 
   daughters forged the signatures.  They had been trained in 
   forging or duplicating signatures since childhood.  They 
   would spend hours a day duplicating a single signature, 
   and would work at the one name for months, writing it 
   countless thousands of times.  Jessie was better on larger 
   handwriting, and Annie was better on smaller handwriting. 
   The boys were  learning to be engravers, and one or two 
   of them were so proficient that the old man spoke of them 
   with pride." ] 

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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