Lawyer Became Counterfeiter

W. B. Schwartz of Indianapolis, Inventor of Visible Typewriter

His fortune dissipated in an effect to perfect a typewriter which he had invented, and driven to desperation by the need of money to support an insane wife and two grown daughters, William B. Schwartz, a prominent attorney of Indianapolis, Ind., resorted to counterfeiting when his practice failed to bring in a sufficient revenue and now he is in the United States penitentiary to serve four years for counterfeiting. He is 47 years old. He arrived Friday morning with a bunch of convicts from Indianapolis, Ind. Schwartz was arrested last May and put up a pitiful pleas to obtain his freedom, but failed.

The product of Schwartz’s mold consisted chiefly of 50-cent pieces and they were the nearest perfect of any that ever came under the notice of the secret service men in Indiana. For over a year the spurious coins had worried the United States officers, both on account of their being difficult of detection and the trouble in ascertaining their source.

It was by mere chance that suspicion was directed toward Schwartz, bue [but] even then it was a year before the officers were able to obtain convicting evidence against the lawyer. In the meantime, while he had not grown reckless in putting the coins into circulation, the fear of detection had grown less and less, so that, when the officers arrested him in his office as he was bending over his desk engrossed in some legal work, the surprise was so great he gave a shriek, like a wild animal at bay.

His arrest was the culmination of all his woes, and for a moment Schwartz seemed on the verge of losing his reason. When told quietly that indisputable evidence had been obtained against him, there was little difficulty in getting the man to admit his guilt.

Coins in His Office.

A search of his office revealed a number of counterfeit coins, which it was almost impossible to distinguish from genuine. Schwartz had a method of taking away the “newness” by the aid of an electric battery. This he had fitted up at his office and he had just “finished” a run a short time before he was arrested. It was found later that he kept his molds, which were of his own workmanship, at his home where he cast the coins to be finished up at his office.

It is believed that Schwartz did not market his product in Indianapolis, but that he had dealings with large gangs of counterfeiters in other parts of the country.

At one time Schwartz was well-to-do, owned considerable property, had a good law practice and was well known in a wide circle of acquaintances. Then he became interested in typewriters. He conceived the idea of a “visible” machine and, after long labor and much expense, took out a patent and made an effort to market the product. He then found that the machine had many imperfections and drawbacks and he set about removing them. He was of a mechanical turn of mind and spent much time in his workshop. It was while thus engaged that the foundation was laid for his counterfeiting. In making patents for his typewriter he learned the art of making molds and one day one of his workmen jokingly remarked how easy it would be to make molds for counterfeiting coins. The workman showed him just how it could be done and they talked about it for a few minutes and then returned to the work in hand.

His Troubles Grew.

The typewriter business did not prosper, and about this time Schwartz’s wife became mentally deranged. He employed the best physicians he could find and sent her to sanitariums in an endeavor to cure her, and this expense, together with the losses he had sustained on his typewriter and the failure of his practice through inattention, made it necessary for him to give up his home. Still further pressed, he was forced to sell his patent, and it was not long until he did not know from one day’s end to another where the next day’s meals were coming from. It was then he turned to counterfeiting.

Schwartz’s wife is in an asylum and his daughters are crushed by the disgrace and shock of their father’s exposure. One of them said that had they known of his dire need for money they would have helped him in some way, but that he had always provided for them without complaint and that though they knew he had lost heavily in investments, they were not acquainted with his real need. – Leavenworth (Kan.) Times


“Lawyer Became Counterfeiter; In United States Prison,” Commercial Stamp Trade Journal 16 (January 1907): 7-8; digital images, Google ( : accessed 23 April 2014).


7 thoughts on “Lawyer Became Counterfeiter

  1. davidmadison1942

    I am flabbergasted that you, a private citizen, sitting along at your computer in California, can come up with SO MUCH stuff. And it is amazing that there are so many resources.

    Hats off to you for spending your time on such worthwhile endeavors. You’re building a solid foundation for a great career when the kids are on their own.

  2. Virginia Allain

    What a marvelous family history find. I’m curious how you discovered this. Did you use sites like Moncavo, Fold3, newspaper databases or actual visits to the state archives?
    Not that I hope any of my ancestors fell afoul of the law, but it certainly gives you information that you would never know otherwise about his life.

    1. Genealogy Lady Post author

      Hi Virginia,
      The above article is one of the first things I found. I used Google to find this article. I also have a subscription to Newspaper Archives. They are currently the only company that has the small town Indiana papers for the area that my family lived. I also used Chronicling America for the Indianapolis papers. After I had discovered the basics about the case, I contacted to National Archives. The branch in Kansas City has an online database of the federal prisoners at Leavenworth. I contacted them for the prison file. Then I narrowed down which National Archives branch had the Federal Court records for Indiana. I also found some records at the Indiana State Archives for a couple court cases which I haven’t talked about yet. I also have some volunteers at the Clay County (Indiana) Genealogical Library searching at the county courthouse to see if they can find any records regarding the insanity case for William’s wife. Sadly the mental hospital records are only available to close family members and I haven’t tried hard to get those, although I have contacted the Indiana State archives and they have confirmed there are records.
      I have not been to any of the archives in person but used email correspondence to order the records. I don’t use Mocavo, only Ancestry and Family Search, mainly. I do have a Fold3 account but did not find anything there in this case. I have used the Rutherford B. Hayes online obituary index to find the Obituaries for several of William’s siblings in Ohio.


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