Handwriting Analysis

January 23 is National Handwriting Day in the United States. Writing by hand is an important skill that can help sharpen the mind, and every person has a style that is unique to him. Throughout our history, postal inspectors have often used handwriting analysis to investigate crimes and take down criminals.


As early as the third century, "protocols for the determination of forgery" were established, and handwriting was frequently used as a valid source or evidence. In 1887, the Ohio Supreme Court "recognized the importance of handwriting as a means of identifying a person." Beginning early in the 18th century, postal inspectors became experts in the field of handwriting analysis. This was especially appropriate since nearly every aspect of an inspector's role included reading and investigating suspects' letters, signatures, and ultimately their handwriting.

Handwriting analysis became an essential part of an inspector's job throughout the 18th and 20th centuries. When the Postal Inspection Service Forensic Lab opened in 1940, Handwriting and Documents Analysis was one of the original units.

Historic Cases and People

In 1927, Inspectors were able to find the missing DeAutremont brother, Hugh, for a train robbery that resulted in the death of four workers. He was discovered in Philippines, under an alias, and enlisted in the U.S. Army . Inspectors located him by comparing his prior letter to the handwriting on his enlistments papers.

Herbert Graham, an inspector in the 1930s, was an expert handwriting analyst. In one instance, he took down a massive swindle called the "Big Store" in Nevada. Tricking the ring leaders into providing a writing sample, he spent the next 10 years building a case, using their handwriting as key evidence.

In 1939, James V.P. Conway became a vital part of the postal inspection forensics team. he spent years perfecting the skill and utilizing it in his investigations Spending many years as an administrator for the Postal Inspection Service, he also served as forensic document examiner for the larger portion of his career.

Handwriting & Document Analysis Today

Today, handwriting and document analysis remain a vital aspect of the Postal Inspection Service's mission. Our forensic experts can analyze indentations, seats, watermarks, ink, and printed materials. The Handwriting and Document Analysis Unit still covers about 30% of the Forensic Lab's caseloads. Most commonly, this analysis is used to investigate threats made to public officials and citizens, as well as fraud and identify theft schemes.

The lab assesses these writings to look for inconsistencies and unusual traits of a person's natural handwriting. Their findings and expertise and valued for gathering evidence to solve mail-related crime. In Fiscal Year 2023, the Postal Inspection Service Forensic Lab examined over 1 million items of evidence and identified over 2,000 suspects.


Explore the history of the United States Postal Inspection Service.