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Washington forgeries, facsimiles, and bookplates collection

 Collection — Shelf: D:7
Identifier: WFC

Scope and Contents

The collection of Washington forgeries and bookplates from the 19th and 20th centuries measures 1 linear foot. Found within the collection are forged Washington documents from notorious forgers Robert Spring, Joseph Cosey, and Charles Weisberg, as well as unidentified forgeries. The collection also contains bookplates – originals, restrikes, and spurious copies – from the Washington family and correspondence related to the sale of forgeries.


  • Majority of material found within 1863-1999


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research during scheduled appointments. Researchers must complete the Washington Library’s Special Collections and Archives Registration Form before access is provided. The library reserves the right to restrict access to certain items for preservation purposes.

Biographical / Historical

Cosey, Joseph (1887-1950): Joseph Cosey, born Martin Coneely, was active as a forger between 1929 and into the 1940s. He forged documents of famous American historical and literary figures like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, and Edgar Allen Poe, often using old paper and period writing instruments to make the documents look authentic.

Spring, Robert (1813-1876): Robert Spring was born in England but moved to Philadelphia around 1858. He is most noted as a forger of George Washington signatures, letters, and receipts. Spring developed his own recipe for antiquated ink and often used sheets of paper cut from old books. After his first arrest in 1858, he moved to Canada and posed as an impoverished widow selling family documents. Spring was arrested a final time in 1869 and died in a Philadelphia charity hospital in 1876.

Washington, William Lanier (1865-1933): William Lanier Washington, a descendant of George Washington’s older half-brother Augustine, sold off Washington relics and memorabilia at auctions in the early 1900s. While most of the early sales were of authentic relics, William Lanier later sold fake relics with Washington family crests attached to them in partnership with noted Washingtoniana collector Henry Woodhouse.

Weisberg, Charles (-1945): Charles Weisberg, nicknamed “The Baron,” was active as a forger from the 1930s until his death in 1945, at Pennsylvania’s Lewisburg Prison. Although he is remembered as one of the greatest forgers of Abraham Lincoln documents, Weisberg also forged George Washington letters and surveys of Mount Vernon.

Woodhouse, Henry (1884–1970): Born Mario Terenzio Enrico Casalegno in Turin, Italy, Woodhouse moved to Troy, New York, in 1904. He gained fame as an aviation writer, publisher, and business investor and was an avid collector of George Washington artifacts. Woodhouse sold Washington relics of questionable authenticity through his New York gallery in partnership with Washington descendant William Lanier Washington.


1 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

The collection is assembled from gifts and purchases made between 1887-2018. Materials are periodically added to the collection as they are acquired.

Related Materials

The Library of Congress holds a collection of Washington forgeries in the George Washington papers, 1592-1943.

A Finding Aid to the Washington Forgeries, Facsmiles, and Bookplates Collection, 1863-1945.
by Katherine Hoarn, Special Collections Librarian
February 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections at The George Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon Repository

PO Box 3600
Mount Vernon VA 22121