Two men reading

How to catch a forger in 1885

The Corporate Archives is the repository for preserving BMO’s heritage through records and artefacts representing over 200 years of operations across North America and abroad. It has some truly unique items in its possession, and in honor of International Archives Day, we are excited to share one of the more interesting items preserved in the collection.

The Archives house a small collection of wanted posters, which were commissioned by the bank in the 19th and 20th centuries in order to bring forgers, counterfeiters, and thieves to justice. Some posters were distributed by the police, while others were issued by Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency. The descriptions paired with the drawn likenesses on the posters were vivid and highly detailed in order to maximize chances of the accused being recognized and, ultimately, apprehended.

In the case of James Robinson, who deposited a forged note at the bank’s St. Johns branch, the poster’s description leaves no stone unturned/ It details his unique physical attributes (“has a very bad scar, two inches long or more, probably three or four inches long, or about the shape and size of forefinger, on the neck, just under right jaw”), as well as to his speech and overall disposition (“speaks rather slowly, and usually in a low tone; manner cool and collected”).

Stay tuned for more heritage content from our collection!

Image: James Robinson’s wanted post for bank forgery, 1885.