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Notre Dame researchers uncover how Benjamin Franklin thwarted early counterfeiters

At the University of Notre Dame, a research team delved into Benjamin Franklin’s printing techniques, which involved the use of watermarks, colored threads and imprints of natural objects like leaves. These methods were employed to create paper bills that were highly resistant to forgery, making it exceedingly difficult for criminals to produce counterfeit copies. Using advanced scanning technology, the research team examined Franklin’s techniques in greater detail, gaining insights into the effectiveness of his methods in thwarting potential criminal efforts. This research sheds new light on Franklin’s contribution to addressing the issue of counterfeiting during his time.

CBN News reports:

Benjamin Franklin was an inventor, publisher, scientist, diplomat, and U.S. founding father. Now thanks to a team at the University of Notre Dame, we know how he worked to combat a big problem in his day – the constant threat of counterfeiting money.

Franklin was an early innovator of printing techniques that used colored threads, watermarks, and imprints of natural objects such as leaves to make it far harder for others to create knockoffs of his paper bills.

Franklin succeeded in thwarting would-be criminal efforts with his early printing techniques, 126 years before President Abraham Lincoln created the U.S. Secret Service to suppress widespread counterfeiting following the Civil War.

A research team at the University of Notre Dame used advanced scanning that reveal some of Franklin’s methods in greater detail.

The team’s research was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The data was gathered with techniques such as spectroscopy and fluorescence tests, which use light to identify elements such as carbon, calcium, and potassium in test samples.

Lead author Khachatur Manukyan, a Notre Dame associate professor of physics, said the intent was to learn more about the materials used by Franklin and his network of affiliated printers and how they served to distinguish their bills from cheaper copies.

“The goal was to decode what type of material they used,” Manukyan said in an interview. “And then we found some very interesting differences between this money and other printers.”

Read the full article here.

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