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Feds Take Down Cole-Ulrich Ring
By Fred L. Reed III, Bank Note Reporter
September 22, 2010

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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Part 64

“From the first organization of the Secret Service Division of the Treasury Department, in 1865, until the present time (1879) no event has occurred of such grave importance in maintaining the purity of the circulating medium of the country as the recent arrests, by the officers of that service, of Henry C. Cole and Charles Ulrich,” the New York Times waxed in a very lengthy, somewhat over the top article in its Jan. 29, 1879, issue.(1)

After an extended life of crime, Ulrich had falsified National Currency and Treasury Note plates for Henry C. Cole. According to Ulrich, $480,000 of National Bank Notes were struck off and sold, much of it ($200,000) abroad.(2)

Ulrich was an interesting customer. He was particularly adept at conning women, whom he repeatedly married without seeking divorces (he became a serial polygamist) from his earlier mates. He turned these females into willing accomplices as shovers of his bad bills, evidently believing he enjoyed some kind of marital immunity from their possible testimony against him. Eventually, however, his modus operandus backed-fired on him and in jealous rage “Ulrich’s women” rolled over on him when cornered by detectives in Cincinnati. You would have thought Ulrich would have learned the error of his ways. Ulrich had also been given up by a jilted lover which landed him in the Ohio penitentiary a decade earlier.

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The article was topped by this curious first deck: “Two Remarkable Scamps.” It continued: “These men are, without exception, the most extraordinary criminals in their respective lines of counterfeiting and uttering counterfeits on the currency of the United States that have been known to this continent.” It added, “Nor are they of the lowest class of criminals. On the contrary, they are men of good education…”(3)

Anyone, then or now, who is familiar with yellow journalism—i.e., journalism that exploits, distorts, or exaggerates the news sensationally generally for the purpose of selling newspapers or driving up ratings—knows that the most recent “get” is ALWAYS the MOST important one if you are to believe the spiel of the powers that be. How many times can you eliminate the Jack of Clubs or the King of Hearts, anyway?

Are we to believe that nothing more significant had happened to maintain “the purity of the circulating medium of the country” since Aug. 15, 1723, when the Court of Quarter Sessions, Bristol, Conn. had issued an arrest warrant for note forger Mary Butterworth? What about the much-heralded track record of the Secret Service’s first 13 years recited in exquisite detail in these columns over these many months?

The officious rapture that the Times writer was feeling over the arrests of Ulrich and Cole is not much different from the thrill up his leg that TV commentator Chris Matthews once expressed after hearing a speech in 2008, or even those “excitations” the Beach Boys sang about in “Good Vibrations” in 1966. Sheer emotional poppycock designed to propagandize the hearer. Applaud the federal detective bureau. Elect an Illinois senator. Buy into the surf culture and worship those suntanned California girls.

Propaganda works. America bought into the surf culture big time. It elected the obscure politico. It marched off to San Juan Hill. And if the Times is to be believed patted itself on the back over the arrest of Ulrich and Cole.

This is not to say that arresting Cole and Ulrich 11 days before the Times’ emotional hiccup wasn’t a positive event, of course. The newspaper had jumped on the arrests early on. It trumpeted these busts originally with a multi-deck headline, too: “Two Important Arrests. Noted Counterfeiters in Custody. The Most Expert Engraver in the World—A Sketch of His Criminal Life—How He Was Traced by the Secret Service Detectives—His Accomplice A Well-Known Philadelphia Counterfeiter.”(4)

In more measured terms, however, it called the arrests only “the most important arrests that have fallen to their (i.e., the “Secret Service officers of this district”) care in many years.” The pair was suspected of widely circulating fake $50 National Bank Notes purportedly on several banks from their base in Philadelphia. Ulrich was believed to be the engraver of the note fakes, and Cole the “proprietor,” i.e., the capitalist or backer of the scheme. According to local Rochester, N.Y. collector-historian Gerard Muhl, Cole had been in the coney business for four decades by the time he fell under the Secret Service radar in 1879.(5)

I find particularly interesting local historian Gerard Muhl’s description of the sting that took down Cole. According to that source, “In December 1878 (actually January 1879), Cole visited Ulrich’s home and discussed his plan for a new operation. At Ulrich’s urging, Cole went into great detail. As this story ended, two Secret Service men burst from a closet whence they had overheard everything. Cole was arrested.”(6)

These important arrests came about on the watch of the Secret Service’s fourth chief, James J. Brooks, whom we have described in this series before as the first successful head of the nation’s anti-counterfeiting detective agency. Brooks was a professional Secret Service operative who rose up through the ranks to become head of the division. Brooks’ selection ended the failed regimes of his politically appointed predecessors Wood, Whitley and Washburn, all of whom had utterly failed to curtail the midnight pressmen.(7)

Brooks had been at the helm of the Secret Service for slightly more than two years when the Ulrich and Cole bust went down.(8) Ulrich was apprehended in New Jersey Nov. 30, 1878, however, “he was allowed to stay in his house, carefully watched by a Secret Service officer, and Friday evening [Jan. 17], after seven weeks’ vigil, positive evidence was found against Cole, and he also was arrested, too.(9) Cole was locked up in default of $20,000 bail.

According to Secret Service agent Captain C.R. Curtis, Ulrich had been pardoned from Columbus Penitentiary in Ohio in August 1876, where he was serving a 10-year sentence for counterfeiting a $100 National Bank Note.(10) That fake had been a particularly dangerous note on the First National Bank of Boston, said to have been sold in quantities upwards of a half million dollars.(11)

Officials regarded Ulrich as a dangerous culprit. “He was known to be the most dangerous counterfeiter and skillful engraver in the world. He was able to do by hand, and with accuracy, the work of the best machine.”(12) Therefore, after his release from prison, Ulrich had been constantly tailed by Secret Service operatives until Autumn 1876, when he went missing, and stayed missing until April 1878.

“Search was made for him in every part of the country, but without success, when, in April, 1878, he was accidentally found in this city by an officer of this district and followed to Philadelphia, where he was seen in communication with Henry C. Cole, a well-known and notorious counterfeiter.

“We saw at this time that we had two of the sharpest, shrewdest men known to the business to deal with, and laid our plans accordingly. They were always on the alert, and never met when there was any possibility of their being ‘shadowed.’ They were seldom seen together, and then only in the night, and their business was over in a short time,” Curtis told the newspaper.(13)

Eventually Ulrich relocated to New Jersey, while the Secret Service kept up surveillance. Finally in November 1878, “a descent was made on his house, led by Chief James J. Brooks in person, and we found him at work on the back of a $100 United States Treasury Note.”(14) The fake was said to be excellent. The feds rolled Ulrich, who gave up Cole.(15) Ulrich stated he had been employed by Cole since October 1876, and that Cole was financing the scheme.(16)

Although detectives had Ulrich dead to rights, Chief Brooks decided that arresting him straight away would only be doing half the job. So he determined to use Ulrich so the feds could make a case on Cole, too. Accordingly, they permitted Ulrich to remain unmolested, and continued their surveillance. In mid-January they sprang their trap and pounced on Cole.

Agents described Cole as having been in the counterfeiting business for 35 years past. According the agent Curtis, Cole had “handled more counterfeit money than any man in the United States. He has been repeatedly arrested, but, as a rule, escaped. He has served one term of imprisonment,” the newspaper reported.(17)

The Times was so enamored with its own reporting on the big bust that the newspaper ran the exact same story, same headline and all in the next day’s issue on Jan. 19.(18)

Two days later on Jan. 21, the newspaper announced the arrest of a third member of the Cole-Ulrich gang, Jacob Ott, the previous evening. Once again it was the New York office of the Secret Service that rose to the occasion, this time detective D.H. Gilkinson. Ott, formerly a Cincinnati lithographer and a colleague of Ulrich’s, was the printer for the gang.

Ott had been an honest lithographic printer in Cincinnati when he answered a want ad placed by Charles Ulrich and his partner. After several months honest employment following his release from an Ohio penitentiary for counterfeiting, Ulrich had been lured to Philadelphia by coney promoter Henry C. Cole. Ott then followed Ulrich East and was engaged as the ring’s plate printer.

According to officials, Ott printed all the fake $50s on four banks and $5s on two banks traced to that time to the enterprise located at Philadelphia. Output was said to comprise half a million dollars in National Currency over a two-year period.(19)

Officials also rounded up a host of middlemen and shovers, against whom prosecutions were speedily resolved.(20) Ulrich and Cole were brought up before U.S. Commissioner Keasby at Newark, N.J., and their case referred to a Grand Jury convened at Trenton two weeks later. Ott was examined by U.S. Commissioner Deuel in New York City.

At Ott’s hearing, agents testified, but the principal witness was Ulrich, himself. He described his relationship with the accused since July 1876, and identified notes he’d engraved and Ott had printed that were in evidence. Cole had paid Ott $8,000 in good cash for 17 months work in Philadelphia suburbs, plus lodging and board for Ott and his family. The ring confined itself to small bills like $5s and $50s because “the wholesale dealers could dispose of them better than bills of larger denominations.” “Country people,” Ulrich said, “fight shy of large bills, good or bad.”(21)

On cross examination by Ott’s attorney ex-Judge Dittenhoefer, Ulrich said he had not been promised any consideration by the prosecution for testifying against Ott. “Witness said that he expected to get all the punishment he deserved, and if he did not he should be ‘much surprised.’”(22) Deuel postponed a decision to extradite Ott to Philadelphia for trial.

During the hearing, testimony revealed that the counterfeit ring had made a fatal mistake, no matter the excellence of their skill as engravers and pressman. Certain of the fake $50s bore the engraved facsimile signature of L.E. Chittenden, who had already been replaced before the genuine notes had been printed.(23)

In the Times on Jan. 29, its Washington correspondent penned the lengthy background article that the paper’s headline writer titled innocuously as “Two Remarkable Scamps,” as if these dangerous felons had been engaged in a lark. The tenure of the article is laudatory, almost piously so.

“Charles Ulrich could challenge the skill of any steel-plate engraver upon either side of the Atlantic to cope with him in the higher branches of the engraver’s art,” the writer claimed. “Henry C. Cole…possessed the brains to originate, and the skill, cunning, and nerve to execute the most subtle and ingenious designs for deluging the country with counterfeit issues; and more than this, he had money to carry out his plans.”(24) “These men united made a combination more dangerous to the Government and to the people than had ever before existed in the history of American counterfeiters.”

OK, OK, we got the Ace of Diamonds and the Queen of Clubs again.

This propensity of the American press to idolize villains, especially the non-violent types like counterfeiters, is what the writer of the recent Secret Service exhibition “Funny Money” called “Newspaper reports from the period paint a vivid picture of a culture in which counterfeiters were…admired for their skills in producing and passing counterfeit money.”(25)

According to the Times writer “Both men…made promises to the Government officers to abandon the ways of crime…but neither were contented. Satan plowed with Cole (who took up farming), and he in turn with Ulrich (who promised to turn to legitimate engraving), and the twain disregarding their promises entered into this last and most dangerous combination, which has just ended so disastrously for them.”(26)

The paper said Ulrich’s infamy preceded his immigration to America, claiming particularly that Ulrich had faked bank notes in Prussia, but on the stand under oath Ulrich claimed he’d never counterfeited abroad. It further contended that “Dutch Charlie’s” first transgressions here were in raising tens to hundreds. Arrested the first time in America, he took up billiards at Ludlow Street jail in New York, quickly becoming proficient because of his extraordinary hand-eye coordination. “You are pretty well aware that my eye is geometrically correct,” the reporter quoted Ulrich’s quip.(27)

“Specimens of Ulrich’s skill as an engraver are now in the Treasury Department. Up to the present hours they stand unrivaled in delicacy of touch and matchless beauty of finish, and have received many encomiums from Chief Engraver (George) Cassilear, of the Treasury Department, who stands at the head of his profession.”(28)

Cole also had an attractive “back story,” according to the Times correspondent. “The history of Harry (sic, Henry) Cole is crammed as full of criminal mystery and unhealthy romance as any yellow-covered novel of the period,” the reporter wrote.(29) Cole was not a talented artist like Ulrich. Instead he worked his way up the counterfeiting ladder on the business side of the operation from low-level shover, to mid-level boodle carrier to top-shelf coney capitalist. Like any businessmen, Cole “was compelled to employ engravers and pressmen, go into the markets and purchase the requisite material, select the various kinds of coins and denomination of notes to be counterfeited; and decide upon the safest and best method of placing them in circulation,” the reporter acknowledged.(30)

The reporter recounts Cole’s turning on his employee counterfeit engraver Jack (Joshua) Miner in 1871 “by turning State’s evidence and acting as an aid to the Secret Service officers. According to the account, Cole lured Miner to a secluded location on a dark and stormy night, and paid him $1,500 “good money” for “a number of valuable counterfeit steel plates of the National Currency Notes.” An illustration published in detective Allan Pinkerton’s 1884 narrative Thirty Years a Detective vividly illustrates the detectives apprehending Miner.(31)

The reporter describes Cole’s support system, his wily “wife” Effie, and his son-in-law Schooner. His “unhallowed traffic” was a family business except for hires such as Ulrich. “Cole has placed hundreds of thousands of dollars in counterfeit money upon the market in the course of his nearly 40 years of crime,” the reporter extolled, “and but for the exertions of the Secret Service Office of the Treasury would have fairly vitiated the entire currency of the country,” he added.(32)

Wait a minute. I believe “vitiated” meant the same in 1879 as it means in 2010, i.e., to impair the quality of, debase, make ineffective or invalidate.

However, with the exertions of the federal detectives, local cops, prosecutors, courts, state penal systems, and interpositions of various magistrates at the national and state level, the currency had been vitiated multiple times over, resulting in a headlong, mad dash for additional improved security measures time and again after the fox was already in the darned chicken coop again and again.

Currency recalls equal vitiation to my mind. All those old disgraced series of notes that were replaced that have such hallowed places in we collectors’ assemblages today speak loudly still, in my humble opinion.

l Pick up any note bearing the March 3, 1863, authorization date. Why do they exist? Because the Series 1862 greenbacks were quickly compromised. They had in fact been vitiated. The Act of 1863 specifically authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to issue up to $150 million in the new notes to redeem and retire the earlier issue—the entire issue of the by then only one-year-old, but quiet compromised vitiated notes—authorized Feb. 25, 1862 (see Part 45).

l Pick up a note with an Asahel Eaton patent date, April 28, 1863, on it. Why does it exist? Because the similar looking Legal Tender Notes with the Thomas Sterry Hunt patent date, June 30, 1857, on them had been vitiated, of course (see Parts 40 and 46, etc.).

l Pick up any Rainbow Note. Why do they exist? Because, as we have shown vividly in this series, the Treasury issued an entire new series of notes with improved technology to replace the vitiated original greenbacks. Remember, Series 1869 legal tender Treasury Notes were not a new authorization. They were merely a replacement currency for the compromised and recalled earlier notes, also authorized by the same Act of March 3, 1863, which were in themselves a replacement for the vitiated 1862 greenbacks (see Part 41).

l Pick up a note with the George W. Casilear patent date, Nov. 24, 1868, on it. Why does it exist? Simply put, because the notes issued beforehand without this technology had been vitiated (see Parts 41, 43, and 46).

l Pick up a note with the so-called “blue stain,” representing James M. Wilcox’s localized fiber patent whether of not the date, July 24, 1866, is printed on the note at hand. Why do all these National Bank Notes, Silver Certificates, United States Notes, Refunding Certificates, and Fractional Currency exist? Of course, because their predecessor currencies had been vitiated (see Part 42).

l Pick up any of the Crane patent paper notes, i.e. with two silk threads running lengthwise through the note adopted in 1878. Why do they exist? Because Wilcox had lost his contract to supply the U.S. Treasury paper in large part because his patent paper, the “blue stain,” had been successfully faked and the notes printed on it had become vititated.

We’ve described other expedients here, too, in great detail. And there are yet others we’ve not even touched upon such as bronzing. Do you think the U.S. Treasury was thinking about collectors and Friedberg numbers as it multiplied the types and varieties of notes in circulation? We are not talking about classes of currency here, which had legitimate—yet redundant and overlapping—raison de etre. Were the feds trying to satisfy our collecting instincts and provide myriad examples to feed our accumulating egos? Of course not. The Treasury was trying to find a winning combination to stay a step ahead of the coney rings.

These changes were not merely evolutionary bringing about these newer and hoped-for “improved models” which came about with surprising rapidity in the second half of the 19th century. It was not that the Treasury was tinkering around the edges to provide more lift for its currency balloon. These changes were reactionary. They were revolutionary and undertaken solely because the darn paper balloon had crashed repeatedly.

Currency in circulation was vitiated, It required changing of its every aspect, changing of all its most basic characteristics: different paper, different ink, different engraving methods, different printing methods, and even different printers because the midnight pressmen were trumping the appearance of the country’s new notes at every hand. Illicit coney rings, well staffed, well financed, and well organized were out-manning a poorly staffed, poorly organized federal detective bureau that was supposed to combat this scourge of vitiation.

The vitiated Federal paper money was recalled as we illustrated vividly in Part 49. In fiscal years 1866, 1867 and 1868 (36 calendar months) the U.S. Treasury issued precisely one $10 Legal Tender Note (likely to balance a ledger), while redeeming more than 11 million of those outstanding vitiated Lincoln portrait $10 greenbacks so it could drain the swamp and introduce the “new and improved” $10 Rainbow note with Daniel Webster and Pocahontas.

Rainbows were preyed upon and counterfeited too, but they were a more stern test (see Part 47). So the best of the paper hangers concentrated on the high value Rainbows, but we’ll leave the rest of that tale for another day. These predators also turned to faking high value bonds too, like the 7-30s we’ve discussed at length here, and additional T-notes, which will be detailed in a future chapter. So stay tuned.

The entire course of the federal government’s experiment with providing the country a uniform currency in the two decades from 1861-1880 was shaped by the thrusts and parries, attacks and defenses, of the legitimate and illicit paper mills. Should we expect any different? The same war is still being waged in our own day. Witness the introduction of the Series 1996 and more recent Federal Reserve Notes.

Our Treasury, judiciary, and Secret Service is much more successful in this contest today than it was in their first two decades’ service to this country after the adoption of a nationalized paper currency system in the 19th century. It wasn’t that the federal effort was underfunded to wage this war against the koniackers back then. In the decade from March 3, 1863, to March 3, 1873, the U.S. Congress appropriated one-and-one-quarter million dollars ($1,251,184) to the Treasury to combat counterfeiting of its fiat paper notes (see Part 44). And that’s in 1863-1873 paper dollars worth the equivalent of about 20 times that much, or approximately $25 million, today.(33)

Yet the results were repetitiously dismal. So the Treasury churned leadership of the Secret Service about as regularly as it changed over its paper currency. It turned successively to Hiram Whitley to replace the failed William P. Wood, and Elmer Washburn to replace the failed Hiram Whitley, and in 1876 James J. Brooks to replace the failed Elmer Washburn. What’s that about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

However, James J. Brooks really was a horse of a different stripe. Unlike the failed political lawmen before him, who were relatively clueless on how to effectively stop counterfeiting, he fortunately inherited the “blue stain” technology when he came into office. Improved professionalism, practices, and policies led to busts like the Ulrich-Cole-Ott “get” in late 1878.

Busting career criminals like Ulrich and Cole was indeed a feather in the cap of the federal detective force, but it was a long time in coming. “It is not supposed that Chief Books and the officers acting under him claim that they have done more than their duty in the detection and arrest of such extraordinary criminals as Cole and Ulrich, but when it is known that the former had large means which he was willing to use freely to make good his escape, the position of the officers will be better understood and their labors more highly appreciated by the people.

“The destruction of the combination herein alluded to is worth more to the Government and the people of this country than it would cost to maintain the Secret Service Bureau of the Treasury for a series of years,” the enthusiastic newspaper writer opined.(34)


To be continued…


Here’s How You Can Help

I have agreed in principle to write a sequel for Whitman Publishing to last year’s successful Lincoln book. The first Lincoln book set a pretty high bar, winning “Book of the Year” awards from three numismatic organizations. I am well aware that most sequels fail miserably compared to their original incarnations. For every “Godfather 2” there are a dozen “Blue Brothers 2000s.” But then “Superman 2” and “Rocky 2” were both fine films, and worth the doing.

So I’m committed to doing a second Lincoln book that will live up to the standards and reputation of my original Lincoln book. I still have about 3,000 Lincoln items in my collection not depicted in the first book, so illustrating the sequel will be no problem.

However, as you know if you’ve seen the original Lincoln book, I also employed images of some great stuff from several dozen outside sources, including items from many collector-friends, since nobody can own everything. In many cases I used contributor items even if I owned a comparable piece, just so they could experience some “bragging rights.” They are all recognized in the book, except for a few who wished anonymity.

The new book will have entirely new text and 100 percent new illustrations. I would be grateful if you could help me to do another great Lincoln book.

If you have Lincoln items, of rarity, or exceptional condition, or “oddity,” or personal significance not illustrated in the first book, please consider sharing high-resolution images of your stuff with me for possible use in the new book. In exceptional circumstances professional photography may be arranged. You can contact me at fred@spmc.org but don’t take much time to make up your minds. This ship is about set to sail—and it won’t be any “Titanic II”—I promise.



Another Laurel For “Shades”

I’ve told my editor Bob Van Ryzin and others that “Shades of the Blue and Grey” is the numismatic work for which I take the most pride. I’ve written several books and many other periodical pieces that have brought me some acclaim. Necessarily all these other ventures have been slanted towards giving vent to some particular aspect of my numismatic curiosity. But “Shades” is the primary and only place I can bring all my interests to bear in a significant and ongoing way, and most importantly get quick feedback on my performance—pro and con. I think I understand a little why film actors love the live stage, and the best of them return to it repeatedly in between cashing big paychecks in Hollywood.

This is the 65th column in this series to appear in these pages since October 2004. Although numbered Part 64, it is the 65th segment because Part 10 ran in two parts. Over time, we’ve begun to examine four significant interests of mine in a serious fashion: (1) the history of Confederate currency collecting; (2) the use by Federal officials of Confederate currency as an instrumentality of war; (3) the war on state-chartered bank notes; and (4) the abysmal failure of the central government to curtail fakery of its national currencies once it had wrested the money privilege from the several states.

All these series are ongoing. I don’t know as yet how I feel about any of them definitively, and we’ll return to the first three in due course. We’ve also had a number of Civil War-related “wild cards.” In all we’ve expended pots of ink and rolls of newsprint to the extent of 360 pages in Bank Note Reporter, nearly a quarter million words, hundreds of illustrations, and innumerable footnotes. This has allowed me to bring forward a great many facts and much interpretation not otherwise heretofore registered in the numismatic conversation we share as a hobby.

I am very grateful for the opportunity former editor Dave Harper gave me six years ago to write this free-ranging column. It took him several months to convince me to do it. I am also thankful for the contributions successive editors have brought to this series. Thank you Bank Note Reporter. Writing this column monthly is truly a privilege. It has brought me immeasurable satisfaction hearing from many of my readers over the years, so my thanks to the BNR family also. You are a wonderful and generous tribe.

That said, I am somewhat tremulous to report that this past August at the American Numismatic Association convention in Boston, “Shades” was honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild as the “Best Column” in a numismatic newspaper for the fifth time in its six years’ existence. So thanks to my peers too at NLG, the scope and excellence of your work inspires me constantly.



A Personal Note

As always, I welcome feedback from BNR readers. We cover a lot of ground in this column, and it’s surprising what sparks the interest of individuals. Questions, comments, cheers or jeers are welcome. You can contact me at my website www.fredwritesright.com, which also contains a summary listing of all columns in this series, or at P.O. Box 118162, Carrollton, TX 75011-8162. If you write via snail mail and wish a reply, please include a self-addressed stamped envelope, but please be aware that if your subject is of interest generally it may be addressed in a future column instead.



End Notes

1. “Two Remarkable Scamps. Henry Cole and Charles Ulrich. The Counterfeiters Recently Captured by the United States Officers…,” New York Times, Jan. 29, 1879. Note, we have discussed Dutch Charley Ulrich several times in these columns. Ulrich was born in Prussia c. 1836. He learned steel-plate engraving from his father in Danzig, (Westphalia) and immigrated to the U.S. c. 1853. Ulrich “fell in with a party of Englishmen, who were recruiting in New York for the British army, then preparing for war with Russia,” according to Allan Pinkerton’s Thirty Years A Detective, New York: G.W. Carleton, 1884, p. 594. Ulrich spent time as a draughtsman in a Royal Rifle Brigade during the Crimean War. According to his own account, he was present for the famous cavalry charge at Balaklava, immortalized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s 1870 narrative poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” According to magician Harry Houdini “Ulrich won the distinction of having produced the most dangerous Bank of England notes ever made;” see, Harry Houdini, The Right Way to Do Wrong: An Expose of Successful Criminals, Boston: published privately by Harry Houdini, 1906, p. 87. In New York Ulrich engaged in legitimate engraving, but quickly turned to fake bank note plates, was arrested and sent to Sing Sing in 1858 for five years. In 1861 he was pardoned. Ulrich spent two years in the Union Army. He returned to engraving at Maiden Lane and Nassau Street, was believed by some federal officials to have faked the famous 7-30 Treasury Note plates, as related earlier in this series. Ulrich was indicted in June 1867 for counterfeiting, along with Charles O. Brockway; see “United States Circuit Court - Southern District. Before Judge Shipman,” New York Times, June 11, 1867. He was re-arrested by Secret Service Chief Col. William P. Wood in Cincinnati in 1868, after breaking out of jails in New York and Toronto. Ulrich pled guilty to counterfeiting National Currency in Cincinnati June 16, 1868, and was sentenced to 12 years, but he was pardoned after eight years. When he got out he returned to his life of crime, the subject of the current chapter.
2. “The Great Counterfeiter. Sentence of Charles Ulrich in Cincinnati. His Latest Attempt to Escape Jail, New York Times, Jan. 21, 1868; “A Counterfeiter Arraigned. Testimony of Charles Ulrich before Commissioner Deuel. The Matter of Extradition to be Considered,” New York Times, Jan. 31, 1879. A detailed discussion of the Cole-Ulrich operations is found in Allan Pinkerton, Thirty Years a Detective, New York: G.W. Carleton & Co, 1884, pp. 506 ff.
3. Ibid.
4.“Two Important Arrests. Noted Counterfeiters in Custody. The Most Expert Engraver in the World – A Sketch of His Criminal Life – How He Was Traced by the Secret Service Detectives – His Accomplice A Well-Known Philadelphia Counterfeiter,” New York Times, Jan. 18, 1879.
5. Gerard Muhl, “Counterfeiting: A Rochester Way to Wealth,” The Crooked Lake Review, Spring, 2002, www.crookedlakereview.com/articles/ 101_135/123spring2002/123muhl.html. Born in Batavia, N.Y. in 1821, Cole “began printing and passing notes in the 1840s. He was arrested for counterfeiting in the mid-1850s and spent a short time in jail. He next moved to New York City and then to Philadelphia where he resumed his illegal operations until tracked down by the newly formed (not so newly-formed by this time) Secret Service in 1879;” for an additional, lengthy, and quite interesting survey of Cole’s illicit activities see Gerard Muhl, “Batavia’s Richest Man,” RNA News, June 2006, Rochester Numismatic Association, pp. 4-5.
6. Muhl, loc cit, p. 5.
7. James Brooks was born in England in 1825, came to the U.S. as a youth, and took up carriage manufacturing in New Jersey. A cavalry officer during the Civil War, he became a tough and incorruptible IRS revenue agent following, enjoying great success and being wounded four times. Chief Elmer Washburn hired Brooks at the Secret Service in October 1874. It was one of Washburn’s better moves. Brooks was assigned to New York in early 1875, and transferred to Chicago that summer; David R. Johnson, Illegal Tender: Counterfeiting and the Secret Service in Nineteenth Century America, Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995, p. 97.
8. Ex-IRS revenuer and Secret Service operative James J. Brooks was at least the acting chief of the bureau by Oct. 26, 1876, see Thomas J. Craughwell, Stealing Lincoln’s Body, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007, p. 92.
9. New York Times, Jan. 18, 1879.
10. “One Hundreds,” New York Times, Nov. 14, 1877; a subsequent report in the New York Times states that Ulrich’s sentence in Ohio had been for 12 years; he had also been incarcerated previously in New York’s Sing Sing Prison; see “The Counterfeiting Gang. Another Important Arrest. The Last Member of the Fraternity in Custody – Jacob Ott, a Lithograph Printer, Arrested – The Antecedents of Ott, Ulrich, and Cole,” New York Times, Jan. 21, 1879.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid.
14. Ibid.
15. Note, Charles Frederick Ulrich was the poster child proving that there is no honor among thieves. We have already covered how he turned in fellow-counterfeiters Joshua Miner and Charles O. Brockway, albeit briefly, in Parts 55, 58 and 62; and see especially “A Forger’s Gang Caught. Charles O. Brockway and His Men Outwitted…, New York Times, Aug. 17, 1880.
16. Late in his life Ulrich would become a federal informer and bring down the great “King of Counterfeiters” William E. Brockway also, but more on that in a future column, see “Ulrich Tells His Story. The Man Who Betrayed Counterfeiter Brockway Testifies. His Work for Government Officers. The Court Will Not Allow Him to Answer Any Question That Will Incriminate Himself,” New York Times, Feb. 20, 1896.
17. Ibid. Cole was born c. 1814. He owned a large farm near Philadelphia, and was a sporting man fond of horse racing. Cole was arrested in 1861 for passing bogus bank notes in New York City, “General City News. Arrest of a Notorious Counterfeiter,” New York Times, Dec. 14, 1861. Cole beat the rap, but subsequently was convicted of counterfeiting; he was sentenced to Clinton, N.Y. Penitentiary. After being pardoned by New York Governor Hoffman in 1871, he was rearrested several years later for passing $5,000 in bogus bank notes, but he turned on Joshua Miner, and the government dropped additional prosecution of Cole. Note, Secret Service agent Kennoch testified at the counterfeiting trial of George Albert Mason, see Chapter 63, that both Miner and Cole had been kept shackled overnight in Secret Service custody; see “Law Reports. The Mason Counterfeiting Case…,” New York Times, April 14, 1875.
18.“Two Important Arrests. Noted Counterfeiters in Custody. The Most Expert Engraver in the World – A Sketch of His Criminal Life – How He Was Traced by the Secret Service Detectives – His Accomplice A Well-Known Philadelphia Counterfeiter,” New York Times, Jan. 19, 1879.
19. “The German Counterfeit Bills,” New York Times, June 14, 1878; New York Times, Jan. 21, 1897, op cit.; $200,000 of the fake National Currency was shipped off to Hamburg, Germany where it was foisted off on emigrants awaiting passage to the United States, and later to Italy, too, see George Washington Walling, Recollections of a New York Chief of Police, New York: Caxton Book Concern, 1887, p. 513.
20.See for example, “A Seller of Counterfeit Notes,” New York Times, Oct. 5, 1877; “A New Counterfeit $50 Note,” New York Times, Oct. 12, 1877; “Committed for Passing Counterfeits,” New York Times, Oct. 28, 1877.
21. New York Times, Jan. 31, 1879, op cit.
22. Ibid.
23. New York Times, Nov. 6, 1877. This error represents an inexplicable lack of attention to detail, and is similar to the erroneous green tint ink date on fakes pointed out here several times earlier. It would seem that BNR reader Joseph Boling’s comment to the author recently when I was searching for a “reason” for that malaprops would apply here also. Commenting in an e-mail to the present author, Boling speculated: “You asked why a counterfeiter would put an incorrect date on his product. Many of my counterfeit notes have no patent date at all. The date is inconspicuous, and could be overlooked. As for putting it on, but botching the content—your guess is as good as mine. Counterfeiters are not known for their acumen—in modern series, impossible serial blocks are common. Such errors can be a combination of not paying attention (to what’s on the genuine notes), laziness (in preparing plates), and plain mistakes—or even copying some other counterfeiter’s already-error-filled product;” Joseph Boling to the author, Aug. 2, 2010.
24. New York Times, Jan. 29, 1879, op cit.
25.http://numismatics.org/wikiuploads/NewsEvents/ FunnyMoneyPressRelease.pdf.
26. New York Times, Jan. 29, 1879.
27. Ibid.
28.Ibid; George Washington Casilear, it might be interjected at this point, stands in the first rank of America’s money men in the view of this author also, although he gets something of a short shrift in the writings of many authors. One of the first employees hired by the new Treasury currency bureau in 1862, Casilear designed the 2nd issue Fractional Currency, and subsequently additional notes. He was also intimately involved in the struggle to secure the United States currency from the predations of the midnight pressmen. His seven anti-counterfeiting currency patents included his invention for printing colored serial numbers against a fine line guilloche to foil tampering, dated Nov. 24, 1868. This invention marked a turning point in the central government’s war against the currency fakers. As chief engraver at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Casilear’s testimony had been the determining factor in the government’s winning its lawsuit regarding the fake 7-30 Treasury notes. Casilear identified the fake plate in evidence as having produced the fake bonds also in evidence. Casilear’s testimony was influential in the jury finding the contested $1,000 7-30s fake in United States v. Jay Cooke, et al. saving the government considerable expense and embarrassment. Casilear also succeeded in having his name “G.W. Casilear” imprinted on United States currency, an as yet unfathomable coup.
29. Ibid.
30. Ibid.
31. Pinkerton, op cit, p. 595.
32. New York Times, Jan. 29, 1879.
33. I used the calculator at www.measuringworth.com and got the following results using the CPI,

Consumer Price Index, as the comparative scale:


Year Appropriation Today’s $


FY 1863 26,184 462,000

FY 1864 100,000 1,410,000

FY 1866 200,000 2,790,000

FY 1867 150,000 2,240,000

FY 1868 175,000 2,720,000

FY 1869 100,000 1,620,000

FY 1870 125,000 2,120,000

FY 1871 125,000 2,260,000

FY 1872 125,000 2,260,000

FY 1873 125,000 2,310,000

34. New York Times, Jan. 29, 1879.



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