Behold the International Ink Library Created by the U.S. Secret Service: Features A Collection of 12,000 Ink Samples

Late though it may be in the age of print, we still envi­sion ran­som or oth­er threat­en­ing notes in the same way we have for gen­er­a­tions, with their demands incon­gru­ous­ly spelled out with indi­vid­ual let­ters, each one a dif­fer­ent size and font, tak­en from the pages of news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines. This clas­sic cut-and-paste method of ran­som note con­struc­tion pre­sum­ably emerged as means of evad­ing minds like that of Trista Gins­berg, a doc­u­ment ana­lyst spe­cial­iz­ing in hand­writ­ing at the Secret Ser­vice. She appears in the Great Big Sto­ry above, which comes to focus on one facil­i­ty at the Ser­vice’s head­quar­ters in par­tic­u­lar: the Inter­na­tion­al Ink Library.

“The Secret Ser­vice has the largest ink library in the world,” says the video’s nar­ra­tor. Its more than 12,000 sam­ples of dif­fer­ent inks include “pens, bot­tled ink, and print­er car­tridges.” These come in handy when, say, “some­one writes a threat­en­ing let­ter to the pres­i­dent.”

A doc­u­ment ana­lyst like Iri­na Geiman sam­ples the let­ter’s ink, and then, by com­par­ing it to the inks in the library, “she can fig­ure out what kind of ink was used, and, hope­ful­ly, it can help solve the case.” Geiman also explains a less dra­mat­ic type of case that comes across her desk rather more often: at-home inkjet coun­ter­feit­ing of $20 bills.

Though that may not be the high­est exam­ple of the coun­ter­feit­er’s art, the art itself moti­vat­ed the cre­ation of the Secret Ser­vice in 1865 as a branch of the U.S. Trea­sury Depart­ment. “Fol­low­ing the Civ­il War,” says the Secret Ser­vice’s FAQ, “it was esti­mat­ed that one-third to one-half of the cur­ren­cy in cir­cu­la­tion was coun­ter­feit.” It was in 1901, after the McKin­ley assas­si­na­tion, that “the Secret Ser­vice was first tasked with its sec­ond mis­sion: the pro­tec­tion of the pres­i­dent.” Hence the cul­tur­al cur­ren­cy of the image of the would-be pres­i­dent assas­sin evad­ing gov­ern­men­tal pur­suit while labo­ri­ous­ly assem­bling his mis­sives one let­ter at a time — sure­ly rea­son enough for the Secret Ser­vice to have put togeth­er a top-secret Inter­na­tion­al Glue Library.

via Messy Nessy

Relat­ed con­tent:

How Ink is Made: The Process Revealed in a Mouth-Water­ing Video

Books Made with Dis­ap­pear­ing Ink Strate­gi­cal­ly Fade Away

Anato­my of a Fake: Forgery Experts Reveal 5 Ways To Spot a Fake Paint­ing by Jack­son Pol­lock (or Any Oth­er Artist)

Read the CIA’s Sim­ple Sab­o­tage Field Man­u­al: A Time­less Guide to Sub­vert­ing Any Orga­ni­za­tion with “Pur­pose­ful Stu­pid­i­ty” (1944)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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